Real change in the industry will happen with commitment and discipline, not just good ideas. In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Monica Bay talks to Dan Linna about how lawyers should think about technology and innovation. He shares his experience demystifying technology for students and what lawyers should think about when they approach the idea of innovation.
Daniel W. Linna Jr. is a visiting professor of law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. His teaching and research focus on innovation and technology.
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Law Technology Now
Harnessing Innovation for the Legal Industry
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Bob Ambrogi: Hello. I am Bob Ambrogi.
Monica Bay: And I am Monica Bay.
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Monica Bay: Tune in every month as we explore the new legal technology and the people behind the tech.
Bob Ambrogi: …here on Law Technology Now.
Monica Bay: Hi. Welcome to Law Technology Now. I am Monica Bay. Our guest today is Dan Linna. Welcome.
Daniel Linna: Thank you.
Monica Bay: You are more than welcome.
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Dan, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Daniel Linna: Sure, Monica. I am a visiting professor of law right now at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law here in Chicago. I’m also affiliated faculty at CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics. And I am a co-founder and co-director of the Institute for the Future of Law Practice.
Monica Bay: And tell us a little bit more about all of those.
Daniel Linna: Sure. Well, here at Northwestern I’m teaching Innovation and Technology classes, really excited to be here. Northwestern has a history of doing things at the intersection of law, business and technology, and I’m teaching a few classes that fit in with that. A class on Artificial Intelligence and Legal Reasoning this fall semester; the next semester I’ll be teaching a interdisciplinary class with — I’ll be co-teaching with another law professor David Schwartz and then a Computer Science professor Chris Hammond, on Innovation Lab, but we’re going to have law students and also Computer Science and Master of Science and Law students in that class and then teaching a class, Assessing AI and Computational Technologies. I’ll be teaching two versions of that class, one of which is out in the Northwestern San Francisco Immersion Program, and that’s a class for business school students and law students. And then I’ll be teaching a version here at Northwestern for the Master of Science and Law students of the Assessing AI and Computational Technologies class, and then a JD class, Law of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
Monica Bay: Now for some of the people who aren’t really familiar with some of these things, tell people what AI is.
Daniel Linna: Sure. Well, I tend to use a broad definition of Artificial Intelligence and just thinking about how can we mechanize human problem-solving, and so we start in this AI and Legal Reasoning class that I’m teaching.
Well, first of all, I have a great textbook. Kevin Ashley, he’s a law professor at Pittsburgh wrote a book ‘Artificial Intelligence and Legal Analytics’, and so we kind of walk students through understanding how we can create rules-based systems to provide answers to legal questions but also how we can use data and machine learning, natural language processing to retrieve information but also answer legal questions.
Monica Bay: And tell us just a little bit more, if you don’t mind, on your Chicago stuff and tell us a little bit more about computational technologies.
Daniel Linna: Sure. Well, the way I have structured this Assessing Artificial Intelligence and Computational Technologies class is that we’re going to create a framework for thinking about demystifying the technology and in couple of technologies we really focus on in those classes are Artificial Intelligence, again machine learning, natural language processing, deep learning, but also blockchain and smart contracts, and getting students to think to learn the technology to understand what it is all about, but also to think about how it can be used in business, how businesses are using it, but also in the practice of delivering legal services and then to think about the law around these technologies as well.
Monica Bay: Can you talk a little bit more about that especially about big law?
Daniel Linna: Sure. Yeah, and one of the things that I’ve been doing in all the teaching that I’ve been doing is, is getting law students to think about innovation, but really defining what that means and getting to think about how they’re going to use a combination of people, process, data and technology to improve the delivery of legal services and why we ought to be focused on that, number one, is to improve the access to legal services for everyone, but even in large law firms and corporate legal departments lawyers are focused on thinking about how they improve the value delivered to clients.
And so it’s an important skill for the lawyers to even in these big law firms to understand how technology is being used to make legal service delivery not just more efficient but to improve the quality, to help clients get better outcomes, and we’re seeing a lot of technologies being used for that and I want to train lawyers, law students to understand the technology, to really understand how it’s being used so that they can assess it.
And, we can look at e-discovery for an example where it’s pretty common you would talk about precision, recall and F1 statistics and we can do that for other legal service delivery methods as well to evaluate them technically like that, but also to be able to ask the right questions about how are these systems built, what data is being used, where might there be bias in these systems?
And that’s another reason why learning these skills is really important because as lawyers we’re seeing algorithms used and in data use now everywhere in society and I would like to see more lawyers involved in the discussions about how do we build these systems, how do we assess them, how do we make sure they’re transparent and auditable? There’s a lot of opportunity for lawyers and I think if we train lawyers to be part of that conversation, lawyers can in fact add a lot of value.
Monica Bay: Can you say what the smaller firms and the midsize firms might be able to be helpful for that, and are there any other ones that are really hot right now?
Daniel Linna: I mean, I think this is really changing the way all lawyers will go about delivering legal services, and it’s a broad area when you think about legal technology. It can be all the way from practice management systems to using machine learning and natural language processing to really understand a corpus of contracts, for example.
So, I think that it is important that we think about kind of like the problems that are being solved in big law, the problems that are being solved in the consumer market, the problems that are being solved in the legal aid market.
At the end of the day though I really do think, and this is one of the things in the classes I’ve been trying to do, is to get us to recognize some of the differences but also really understand that a lot of the work that’s being done here can help us really improve legal service delivery across the board.
Monica Bay: And one last thing on this because I could talk all day on this one, what about the small firms, what are the things that might be really helpful for them?
Daniel Linna: Yeah, I think one of the dangers in this whole space is generalizing too much about how any group, and it’s good, I’m glad you’re pushing me on this to think about small, medium and large law firms. I think the delivery of services in a small law firm market, if you think about generally serving consumers it’s changing, right? And you look at LegalZoom, you look at the way legal aid organizations like Michigan Legal Help and Illinois Legal Aid online are delivering services with expert systems to their clients, I think you can learn a lot from that.
But we’ve also seen lawyers who are serving smaller groups to figure out kind of how to provide more information and make it easier for their clients to give them information that they need to help them, engage in self-help where they need it, and it turns out that a lot of the host clients they will come to the lawyer then, they want help solving these different problems.
So, I think there’s a lot of opportunity around it and it really shouldn’t be focused too much on technology. I mean, there’s some great technologies, practice management systems, tools for document automation and things like that, but I think it’s really important to think about the people and process part of it, what problems do we solve, why do people come to us, how can we provide greater value in helping them solve these problems, how do we become more data-driven. There’s a lot of opportunities for all law firms large, medium and small to really think about, well, how do I differentiate myself as providing great value to the clients I serve?
Monica Bay: Well, I promise that we would get off that topic. We are going to take a quick break to hear a message from our sponsor.
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Monica Bay: And we are back. Boy, you had a lucky summer. Tell us the wonderful places and things you got to do this summer.
Daniel Linna: Yeah. Well, first of all really it started here at Northwestern in Chicago with the launch of the Institute for the Future of Law Practice, and this is something that it started with the Technology Lawyer Accelerator Program that Bill Mooz built at Colorado about four years ago.
Monica Bay: Who is he?
Daniel Linna: Bill Mooz is — he has been a longtime lawyer and he was a general counsel. He was a lawyer in large law firms and then he was hired as a scholar in residence at Colorado to put together this program really to help better prepare lawyers to — I mean, it was initially really focused on working as a lawyer inside of a technology company on their corporate legal team and that program Bill Henderson, at the University of Indiana, got involved in that, started sending some of his students to that program, and they announced last fall that they really wanted to scale that, and I was fortunate to get involved with them and the three of us co-founded then the launch of the Institute for the Future of Law Practice.
And we ran bootcamps in Colorado and at Northwestern last summer in May, and those were three weeks of training and then there was an advanced track that Bill ran with another couple weeks of training. We had 40 students who went through the program, students from Northwestern Colorado, Indiana, Osgoode Hall in Toronto and Michigan State, and then they went off to internships, and the real focus is on internships and corporate legal departments and Cisco one of our founding sponsors took on several students not just for ten-week but for seven-month internships. We also kind of done those without the support of Elevate Services and Chapman & Cutler as founding sponsors, but then those students went on to internships, some of them went into the corporate legal department, some went to legal-tech companies, and I am really excited about that program.
It’s really focused on preparing lawyers to be better lawyers and I’ve had great feedback from some of my northwestern students who talked about getting this experience as arising too well after just one year of law school, really gave them a way to differentiate themselves. When they went to on-campus interviews they were talking to these large law firms who are figuring out like how do we innovate, how do we provide greater value to our clients and here are law students, when you are at a law school, because they went through this Institute for the Future of Law Practice Program able to talk about all the things they learn in a bootcamp and the things that they were doing in their internships.
So, I think that I’m really excited about this program for students at places like Michigan State. We had few of our Michigan State students in there and that’s where I formerly was, but also for law schools like Northwestern, I think it really provides a way to add on to this great education already getting to help them differentiate and prepare them for the future of law practice.
Monica Bay: Was there a second one, do I remember that correctly or was that part of the whole thing?
Dan Linna: Well, I also this summer, then after that I was in Madrid at IE Law School and at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg which just amazing experiences, and at IE they are really doing some innovative things. I was one of the speakers at the launch of their innovation farm where they are working on projects and they have people with process expertise and they have law firms and legal department is doing projects, technology projects, but then I also spoke at the first meeting of their law head hub which aims to be a think-tank, and that was a real honor.
I gave a talk about demystifying Artificial Intelligence and assessing it and that was just a portion of the period and then I facilitated discussion. We had leaders from large law firms and corporate legal departments in Madrid and that was really exciting because we got to engage the people in the audience to really have a great conversation and it was really a place for — I mean there were leaders from Bank Santander, from Microsoft, 12:46 all in the same room kind of talking about the pace of change and digitization and innovation and how do we do things not only to better provide solutions to the businesses who need it, but also to make sure that we are properly harnessing these technologies in society and generally and really making sure we offer our value as lawyers to others who are working on solving these problems.
Monica Bay: Well, you sure had a good summer for sure, but moving on again, both of us were at the startup bootcamp for lawyers. Tell us a little bit about it and how wonderful Jay was.
Dan Linna: Yeah, it is a real pleasure to work with Jay Mandal and I have gotten to know him well through CodeX and this program at CodeX is startup bootcamp for lawyers, and a matter of fact, he came to Michigan as well this last semester back in the spring and did a mini version of this startup bootcamp for lawyers for my students at Michigan State and at the University of Michigan Law School where I was teaching a Legal Tech and Innovation class. But it’s a really great idea, I mean, putting lawyers kind of in this startup atmosphere and getting them to kind of think about if they were a startup and how they might generate solutions to problems and spot opportunities.
Getting them to really just think about how like startups think, and I love it for two reasons; one, it’s so great to get them to understand startup culture, but it’s also really gives them some awareness of kind of the problem-solving methodologies in this space and thinking about kind of the basic scientific method and Improvement Kata, Design, Thinking and it’s so energetic and the students come together and it really shows them how much it can accomplish in a really short period of time with a great process that really engages everyone on the team and helps you keep iterating towards improving your product and solving a challenging problem.
Monica Bay: Yeah, it was a lot of fun and it was right after the CodeX FutureLaw, so it was a very, very intense week. It was just great.
Moving on, what should law firms learn from law schools?
Dan Linna: Yeah, I think there’s a lot that we can learn together and I’ve really been trying to develop this idea of law schools as labs and last semester at Michigan State we had Perkins Coie, Davis Wright Tremaine, Akerman and Michigan Legal Help working in one of my classes, I had 23 students and we used ThinkSmart and Neota Logic to build solutions to problems that they contributed.
So I think that really helped the law firms. They learned a lot while working with us, working with our students, and we kind of went through this iterative process of building things that we could learn as we are going on, but I think that’s an example and I am really excited about the Innovation Lab I am doing here at Northwestern with Computer Science professor Chris Hammond and my colleague in the law school, David Schwartz, where we will have Computer Science students in the class and we will be working on problems from law firms, legal departments, and legal aid all in the same space.
So, I hope the law firms and legal aid corporate legal departments will learn about the process we are using to innovate, but I — we also want to use that process to generate substantive knowledge. So we can all learn and it advanced a profession.
Monica Bay: Yeah, I agree with you, especially because some of the law schools are just the same old way they always were in, that I think creates a lot of the same problems for the lawyers and everything else, so I agree with you on that.
Here’s a fun one, 2020 is coming up very fast, what do you see or want in 2030 and 2040?
Dan Linna: Well, what I would say that we need right now is greater discipline and leadership, those two things. So, we need discipline to get much more disciplined and we have to commit to systematic innovation not jumping the solutions and then we need leadership that identifies the clear challenges that we are tackling and to hold us accountable for achieving our mission.
So I think we need to embrace these challenges, access to legal services, lack of gender diversity in the profession, bias and discrimination in our justice systems, and I think we are generally working on these problems, kind of like you might say, oh, well, I want to lose weight, but when you have these vague goals it almost never works, and I think we have to set clear goals where we want to be.
Like, for example, solving the access to legal services crisis within ten years and then get disciplined and Larry Keeley wrote this great book, ‘Ten Types of Innovation’ where he talks about innovation almost never fails due to lack of creativity, it’s almost always because of a lack of discipline, and we are not demonstrating that discipline in the legal industry. So, if we want to solve challenging problems we have to get more disciplined and part of the way is to use the scientific method the Improvement Kata, Lean Thinking, Design Thinking, it really comes down to where are we trying to go, what’s the big challenge we try not to solve or what’s our mission, vision, where are we now and then we all have ideas whether it’s ABS or Artificial Intelligence or design thinking that’s going to solve these problems, but we are making assumptions or jumping to conclusions, these are hypotheses. We have to test these ideas.
And so, if we have that kind of a disciplined systematic framework for innovation if we are moving forward and we hold ourselves accountable, well, we can detest these ideas, we can have metrics and so we understand what’s working and we can start making progress, and that’s what I’d love to see is that we demonstrate that discipline and that leadership now so that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we will have really made progress, and it’ll be transparent, we can see what kind of progress we are making as we go and we can hold ourselves accountable for making that progress.
Monica Bay: Well, my next question is one that I do and I would say 80% of the ones I do, and it’s a little bit what you just were talking about, but I’ll ask you again. 80% of Americans can neither find a lawyer or afford a lawyer, what can be done about that and how do we break through it?
Dan Linna: Yeah, I think it’s just that we have got to get committed to solving the problem is a big part of it. That’s that leadership and discipline that I just talked about in the last question. I think there are a lot of people who care about this and who want to make a difference, but I think the next step is we just have to set some clear goals. I have to have a mission and a vision and have the discipline and leadership to keep working on the problem and chipping away to solve it.
All the resources we have in this profession and in this country and we can’t solve this problem, absolutely, we can, are we committed to it, are we committed to solving it, how do we set some goals that we really hold ourselves accountable for making progress to do that? It’s going to take time, but if we are making incremental progress, if we are doing things like Lean Startup, Improvement Kata, Thinking where we are testing our ideas, measuring outcomes, and we have the right metrics then we can make a lot of progress towards solving these problems including the access to legal services crisis.
Monica Bay: Very good as always. My last big question for you is, congratulations on the 2018 Legal Rebel, that’s American Bar Association’s ABA Journal. Tell me about it I am so — I think that’s so much fun and it’s so positive too, tell us about your experience there.
Dan Linna: Well, it’s nice to be recognized. I think more importantly, telling new stories helps us all understand how the legal industry is changing. So, that to me is the key, is just to see that for a long time even just five years ago a lot of folks would tell me, oh, these are fads and things aren’t changing but I think we see a lot more evidence that things are changing and we see many more lawyers getting engaged and changing. So I was happy to receive that award.
I’ve got the picture taken here in Chicago, but I made sure that I got it taken with Lake Michigan in the background.
Monica Bay: That’s great!
Dan Linna: I wanted to make sure my ties to Michigan were represented there. Although, I love being here in Chicago.
Monica Bay: That’s great. Before you leave, please tell us how our listeners can reach you?
Dan Linna: On Twitter @DanLinna, that’s the best place to reach me. If you’re not on Twitter, there’s a real great conversation about these topics going on; otherwise, [email protected].
Monica Bay: Dan, thank you so much.
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