Guest Post By Alex Crowley and Mona Kalantar

Over 120 attendees engaged in a vibrant discussion about the future of law and technology at Northwestern University’s first public meeting of its Law and Technology Initiative on September 5, 2019. Attendees included academics and students in computer science and law and lawyers and allied professionals from

This is a draft abstract for a talk that I gave to the Northwestern University Computer Science faculty on April 22, 2019.

The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence presents many opportunities to improve law and society. At the same time, AI presents risks and potential harms. From a Law and Computational Technologies perspective, these opportunities

Algorithms have a substantial impact on everything happening around us. Most everyone would agree that the impact of algorithms, computational technologies, and artificial intelligence on everyday life, institutions, and society will only grow, and rapidly. Yet most law students and lawyers lack the foundational knowledge to generally explain how these technologies work, much less assess them.

One way to address this is to teach law students about artificial intelligence and computational technologies. I’m teaching several courses in this arena at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law this year, beginning with “Artificial Intelligence and Legal Reasoning” this fall.

Each class meeting includes discussion about the effectiveness of these technologies, in the proper context of the status quo, and related ethical questions. Additionally, we will spend two full class meetings discussing technical assessment (recall, precision, F1 score, etc.) and broader questions about the use of algorithms, computational technologies, and artificial intelligence in legal-services delivery and society (transparency, explainability, auditability, provenance, bias, fairness, etc.).

I had the opportunity to introduce these topics during multiple talks this summer, beginning with “Demystifying and Assessing Artificial Intelligence” at the launch of the LawAhead Hub think tank at IE Law School in Madrid. The event attracted a variety of leaders, primarily from international law firms and the legal departments of major corporations.


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How can we better train law students and lawyers for the future? Indiana University Law Professor Bill Henderson has been working on this problem for a long time. In 2017, Bill joined forces with Bill Mooz, an experienced lawyer and former general counsel who in 2014 established and led the Tech Lawyer Accelerator (TLA) program at the University of Colorado Law School.

In November 2017 at a Forum on Legal Evolution event hosted by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Henderson and Mooz presented their vision for expanding the successful TLA program. Shortly after that meeting, they invited me to join them as a co-founder of a nonprofit, the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP).
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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.
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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

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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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