In July I had the honor of teaching for the inaugural Legal Technology and Operations summer program at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany. The program attracted 33 students from all over the globe: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Estonia, Egypt, Germany, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and Ukraine. About 75% of the students were professionals taking leave to participate in the program, including two judges and more than a half dozen from major international law firms (all lawyers, with a couple now in operations roles).

The program began with my course, “Computational Law and Rules-Based Automation,” one of six 13.25-hour courses in the program. Classes met from 9 to 5 nearly every day, with several supplemental lectures in the evenings plus a study trip to Frankfurt the first weekend. Given this packed schedule, I worried that the students might not have sufficient time for outside reading and the team projects that I’d planned. But those concerns were quickly alleviated. The students were incredibly engaged throughout the course and delivered outstanding projects.

Team 1 – Validity of anti-compete clauses in employment contracts

Leading off the program, I started my course with an introduction to overarching concepts (e.g., the changing legal landscape; people, process, and data before technology). Next, I provided an overview of artificial intelligence, including rules- versus data-driven systems. (Assigned reading included Computational Law: The Cop in the Backseat, by Michael Genesereth, Codex – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics.) From there, we jumped into an exercise that required each student to build an interactive question and answer system in QnA Markup that would guide a user to a determination of whether the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to the user. To get the students started, I provided them with a couple of flowcharts of this GDPR analysis published by international law firms.

Team 1 – Validity of anti-compete clauses in employment contracts

I’ve had great success using QnA Markup in my Institute for the Future of Law Practice, University of Michigan Law School, and Michigan State LegalRnD courses. (I’ll share more about 2017-18 LegalRnD projects in another post.) David Colarusso, Director of the Legal Innovation and Technology Lab at Suffolk University Law School, developed QnA and makes it freely available. QnA is easy to learn, but powerful enough to prototype solutions to challenging problems. I use it to introduce computational thinking, conditional logic, basic programming principles, document automation, and expert systems. Building a QnA expert system requires a firm grasp of the current process for delivering services and deep knowledge of the applicable substantive law. Therefore, this hands-on, team-based approach is not only an excellent way to learn about legal technology and contributing to an interdisciplinary team, it is also a great way to really learn the intricacies of the underlying substantive law.

Team 4 – Paths to Divorce

After the students completed this introductory QnA exercise, I put them into initial teams of four to brainstorm legal-services delivery problems that are good candidates for expert system and document automation solutions. It quickly became apparent that I had an enthusiastic, highly engaged group. They generated 17 excellent potential use cases in a range of jurisdictions. After each student ranked their interest in the use cases, I assigned them eight teams, which tackled the following challenges:

Team 5 - NDA Assembly
Team 5 – NDA Assembly
Team Number Topic Description
1 Validity of anti-compete clauses in employment contracts

Employers want to prevent departing employees from disclosing valuable know how or other sensitive commercial information to potential competitors. For that they include non-compete clauses in employment contracts. The law and court decisions have set parameters that define when those non-compete clauses are valid or not.

We propose a system that helps departing employees understand whether not complying with the clause puts them at risk of a lawsuit.

4 Family law Paths to divorce: a decision tree on whether a couple qualifies for divorce by public notary, marriage office or court depending on the spouses’ context.
5 NDA NDA template selection and prepopulation
7 Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG) In international contracts on the sale of goods, the CISG is oftentimes to be applied (lots of rules in the convention) if parties do not explicitly exclude it (e.g. “This contract is governed by the law of Germany under exclusion of the CISG” (if they leave out the last part of this sentence, the CISG will be applied in court even though it just says “law of Germany”)). This will often lead to a situation in which lawyers don’t know which law is applicable to the contract. This presents problems because hardly anyone is well-versed in the provisions of the CISG. The idea would be to create a tool that helps with determining whether the CISG is applicable in this case.
11 Financial Regulation / ICO Is my token a financial instrument under EU-Law?
12 Consumer Rights As a consumer, can I return the good I bought?
13 GDPR – Data Privacy Creating GDPR compliant privacy notices.
15 GDPR – Data Privacy Assessing compliance of privacy notices for businesses

During the balance of this first class, the teams began work on their one-week sprint to build a working prototype of a QnA expert system with document automation, which they would present as a team to the class the following Monday. Ideally the students would have had more training in project management and process improvement at this point. For a jump start, I introduced lean startup principles and the Improvement Kata and had them read the “Amazon press release” “working backwards” approach to product development. I asked the students to use the Amazon approach as a framework to focus their work and as a guide for their initial team presentation of their use case during our next class meeting.

During part of the second and third classes, the students worked on their projects and also engaged with other teams for “user testing” and feedback. Students also completed assignments outside of class on other topics, including JavaScript, Bitcoin, blockchain, and smart contracts, which provided fodder for wide-ranging in-class discussions about the future of legal-services delivery, access to legal services, and the rule of law around the globe.

Team 7 – Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG)

As busy as we kept the students with my class, other classes, evening lectures, and activities, requiring a team project presented a challenge. And the students squarely met that challenge, delivering excellent prototypes and presentations during our final class meeting.

It was exhilarating to be a part of the Bucerius program. These students and many others around the world have embraced legal innovation and technology and are actively working to improve legal-services delivery, justice systems, and society. I cannot wait to see the big things that they do in the future!

Team 7 – Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG)

 

Team 7 – Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG)

 

Team 11 – Financial Regulation & ICOs

 

Team 11 – Financial Regulation & ICOs

 

Team 12 – Consumer rights to return goods

 

Team 13 – GDPR Privacy Notice Assembly

 

Team 13 – GDPR Privacy Notice Assembly

 

Team 13 – GDPR Privacy Notice Assembly

 

Team 15 – Assessing compliance of GDPR notices

 

Team15 – GDPR – PNPClick

 

I am thrilled to share that I’ve joined Northwestern Pritzker School of Law as a Visiting Professor of Law for the 2018-19 academic year. I’m very excited to have this opportunity to contribute to Northwestern Law’s many initiatives to continuously improve the value of the education delivered to its students and prepare its students to have an impact in our society.

Northwestern Law’s Strategic Plan, “Leading Law,” recognizes that law schools are “educating lawyers for a profession that is undergoing enormous change.” The Strategic Plan says that Northwestern Law  “accept[s] the changing, dynamic profession not with resignation, but with excitement.” This excitement stems from the opportunity for Northwestern Law “to leverage our competitive advantages, to expand our impact and our reputation.” What are these competitive advantages?

  1. Northwestern Law is a place of innovation.
  2. Northwestern Law is student-centered.
  3. Northwestern Law is interdisciplinary.

I share this excitement about meeting the challenges of our changing profession. In the future, today’s law students will improve legal services-delivery, expand access to legal services, expand the rule of law, and contribute to multidisciplinary teams solving society’s “wicked” problems. We must innovate and think big, especially in law school. (I developed these thoughts a bit more in an Above the Law interview, alt.legal: Law Schools Can, Should, And Must Teach Innovation.)

Interdisciplinary opportunities at Northwestern Law include working with talented law faculty with PhDs and expertise in many domains and well-established relationships with other Northwestern schools. I’ve already benefited greatly from initial meetings and discussions about interdisciplinary research and classes. These opportunities are reflected in the classes that I will teach:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Legal Reasoning (Fall 2018; JD students)
  • Innovation Lab (Spring 2019; JD, Master of Science in Law, and Computer Science students; co-teaching with Law Professor David L. Schwarz and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Kristian J. Hammond)
  • Law of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (Spring 2019; JD students)
  • Assessing AI and Computational Technologies (Spring 2019; Master of Science in Law students)
  • Assessing AI and Computational Technologies (Spring 2019; San Francisco Immersion Program; JD and Kellogg School of Management students)

My connection to Northwestern Law began several years ago with an introduction to Alyson Carrel, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law. Alyson was very generous with her time and answered all of my questions during my early days of teaching Negotiation at the University of Michigan Law School, while I was still practicing at Honigman. Several of my Michigan Law classes completed negotiation simulations with Alyson’s Northwestern Law students.

Later, Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez appointed Alyson as the new Assistant Dean of Law and Technology at Northwestern Law. Since then, my interactions with Alyson have focused on improving legal-services delivery, technology, and legal education. While at Michigan State, I greatly appreciated and benefited from opportunities to collaborate with and the support provided by Alyson and Dean Rodriguez. They also see the enormous opportunities for collaboration and interdisciplinary work to generate both individual and collective value for law schools, the legal profession, the emerging legal industry, and society at large.

In addition to my work at Northwestern Law, I remain an affiliated faculty member at CodeX – the Stanford Center for Legal InformaticsI am also working on updates to the Legal Services Innovation Index. In future posts, I plan to write about these projects and complete a wrap-up post about LegalRnD projects completed during my final year at Michigan State. (Most have known about my move to Northwestern Law for awhile, including from a March 1, 2018 Dean Rodriguez tweet and March 15, 2018 Northwestern Law tweet.)

Now that I’ll be living in Chicago, I look forward to more frequent meetings of the Chicago Legal Innovation meetup as well. We’ve had strong attendance at meetings by Northwestern Law students in the past, and I look forward to seeing many more Northwestern Law students at future meetings!

Just as other academic units across universities collaborate with industry partners on research and development projects, law schools can do the same. The timing has never been better. Many lawyers have accepted that they need to engage in innovation projects to improve legal-service delivery. At the same time, law schools continue to add experiential courses as required by the ABA and a few have launched legal innovation and technology programs. These developments have produced many opportunities for law schools, practitioners, and experts from other disciplines to work together to improve legal services.

Conducting research and development that leads to legal-service delivery innovations is one of our foundational goals at MSU Law’s LegalRnD. This goal fits well with our other foundational goals: training 21st Century, T-shaped lawyers and engaging with industry partners to identify needs and problems, work toward solutions, and test, improve, and implement solutions. Continue Reading Law Schools as Labs for Legal-Services Innovation and Research & Development: Examples at LegalRnD

Christy Burke
Christy Burke

Christy Burke recently wrote in Legal IT Today about the small group of law schools that have incorporated legal innovation and technology into their curriculum. In this guest post, Christy highlights law schools embracing opportunities to expand experiential learning opportunities, collaborate with practitioners, and incorporate experiential work into classes.


Law schools are now responsible for providing at least six credit hours of experiential learning for their students, according to the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools 2016-2017. The ABA defines an experiential course as “a simulation course, a law clinic, or a field placement.” Law schools around the country have interpreted this requirement in diverse ways, injecting creativity into their curricula and attracting intrigued students and faculty in the best case scenarios.

Several schools have forged connections with other departments at their own institutions, other law schools, government agencies and courts, law firms, and corporations to go far beyond a “simulation” approach to experiential learning. By allowing law students to work on actual deals, participate in development of technology, and take courses in other areas such as business, engineering and entrepreneurism, these law schools are differentiating themselves from more resistant, steeped-in-tradition institutions. Continue Reading Guest Post: Law Schools and Law Students Both Benefit from Hands-on Experiential Learning Programs

The ABA Center for Innovation shared its mission and launched its website last evening at the Chicago Legal Innovation meetup at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. “We must try new things,” said Geoffrey Burkhart, the Center’s Deputy Director.

The access to justice “crisis” has been known for decades; it is no longer news, Burkhart said. It is well known that public defenders are stretched very thin and far too many lack access to civil legal services. Burkhart voiced concern that we’ve become numb to the word “crisis.” He urged lawyers to take action and “try new things.” On the present course, Burkhart said, “lawyers are squandering a gift.” Continue Reading ABA Innovation Center Urges Lawyers to Try New Things, Identifies Innovative Law Schools

Is the legal industry evolving fast enough to create demand for #LegalTech- and innovation-trained law students? Yes, is the short answer. In fact, current demand exceeds the supply of law graduates trained in legal innovation and technology. I base this conclusion on both my experiences at LegalRnD at Michigan State Law and the information in Roy Strom’s July 20, 2016 article in the The American Lawyer: “Law Schools’ Tech-Training Conundrum: If We Teach Them, Will They Get Jobs?” (subscription required).

Gary Gonzaelz talks to MSU Law LegalRnD students about his internship at Elevate Services.
Gary Gonzaelz talks to MSU Law LegalRnD students about his internship at Elevate Services.

Employers across the legal industry have had a difficult time finding law students and lawyers trained in legal innovation and technology. Joe Otterstetter, managing counsel and associate general counsel for the nearly 500-employee 3M legal department, says in the article that these skills are so rare right now that they’re incredibly demanded. He says that as more firms and legal departments get a sense for the value law grads trained in innovation and technology can deliver, demand for them will increase. In the future, he said that he expects to hire law grads trained in process management or legal analytics.

Law firms have also found a short supply of law grads with legal innovation and technology skills. AmLaw 100 law firm Baker Donelson has hired law grads with these skills, partner William Painter says in the article. Many of the 25 people that Baker Donelson employs in areas like knowledge management and process management are lawyers. Painter sharply criticizes law schools, saying they have been “for the most part . . . woefully inadequate” and “asleep at the switch” while the skills law students need to succeed in the legal industry have been changing.

Samir Patel talks about how learning blockchain technology and engaging on social media helped him land a summer position with Eris Industries.
Samir Patel talks about how learning blockchain technology and engaging on social media helped him land a summer position with Eris Industries.

Legal startups, legal aid organizations, and other legal-service providers are also looking for innovative and tech-savvy law graduates. Nina Kilbride, Head of Legal Engineering at Eris Industries, which develops blockchain and smart-contract solutions, says in the article that Eris struggles to find talented, tech-focused lawyers. She says there are not enough law schools teaching students skills to solve legal problems using technology. Continue Reading No Conundrum, #LegalTech and Innovation Training Helping Law Grads Get Jobs