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.

Continue Reading Training Lawyers to Assess Artificial Intelligence and Computational Technologies

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). Continue Reading Hire Tomorrow’s Lawyers Today! Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Hire an Institute for the Future of Law Practice Intern!

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. Continue Reading Hands-On Learning: Bucerius Law School Computational Law and Rules-Driven Automation Course – #LegalTechBucerius

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