5 Questions for Dan Linna: Demystifying Artificial Intelligence

Topics: American Bar Association, Artificial Intelligence, Efficiency, Government, Legal Innovation, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts, Q&A Interviews


Daniel W. Linna, Jr. sits comfortably, as he says, at “the intersection of law, business and technology” — he is a visiting professor of law at Chicago’s Northwestern Pritzker School of Law; vice-chair of the American Bar Association’s Business Law’s Legal Analytics Committee; and he is an Affiliated Faculty at Stanford Law School’s CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics.

Before joining academia, Linna was an equity partner at the law firm Honigman. On Sept. 1, Linna was chosen as a 2018 “Legal Rebel” by the ABA Journal.

We asked Linna five questions about the new endeavor:

1. You are now a Visiting Professor of Law at Northwestern. What will you be doing there?

Dan Linna: I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to Northwestern’s work at the intersection of law, business and technology. This fall, I’m teaching “Artificial Intelligence and Legal Reasoning.” We want to demystify artificial intelligence, from rules-driven approaches to natural language processing and machine learning. We will also complete hands-on projects, such as building an expert system.

The goal is for law students to better understand these technologies so they can seize opportunities to improve both the law and legal services delivery — and access for everyone, from the impoverished, to consumers, small businesses, and corporations.

This spring, I’ll co-teach an “Innovation Lab” with Northwestern professors David Schwartz (law) and Kristian Hammond (electrical engineering and computer science). We will work on legal services problems submitted by law firms, corporate legal departments, and legal aid organizations. We’ll also work with students from the Master of Science in Law and Computer Science programs.

I also will teach a Northwestern class at the San Francisco Immersion Program, “Assessing Artificial Intelligence and Computational Technologies.” It’s open to law and business school students participating in the S.F. program. Finally, I will teach “Law of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics”, which is about law and regulation for AI and robotics.

2. Were you surprised to be named a 2018 “Legal Rebel” by the ABA Journal?

Surprised and honored! Data and technology have begun to transform business and law, and the pace of change will only accelerate. Already, how many of today’s important questions concern data and technology?

Law students trained in innovation, data analytics, and technology will be better prepared to lead their organizations, the legal industry, and society into the future. I want lawyers to seize the opportunities to contribute to a brighter future!

Dan Linna

3. Tell us about your talks at IE Law School in Madrid and your summer class in “Computation Law and Rules-Based Automation” at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg.

I was invited to speak at the IE Law School for the launch of the “Innovation Farm” and the LawAhead Hub. I talked about demystifying artificial intelligence and assessing opportunities to use AI to improve access to law and legal services. At Bucerius, I taught “Computational Law and Rules-Driven Automation” as a component of its Legal Technology and Operations summer program.

It was energizing to work with colleagues, students, and practitioners in Madrid and Hamburg. It’s very exciting to see all that is happening with legal innovation and technology around the world.

People are eager to make the most of “people, process, data, and technology” not only to improve legal services delivery and access, but also to preserve and expand the rule of law.

4. What do you see as the most important problems facing the legal community? How can we address the challenges?

We address challenges through leadership and an unwavering commitment to solving the problems. The preamble to the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct enumerates many responsibilities of lawyers for the quality of justice — improving the law, legal services, access, and the administration of justice. Strengthening legal education. Furthering the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law, the justice system, and constitutional democracy.

As a profession, we can do better to satisfy our obligations as lawyers. The opportunity to do so ought to excite us. I dare say that nearly all of us began law school believing that we were to become part of something bigger than our own careers. Our actions each day, no matter our place in the profession — from law schools to the highest courts — have an impact on our ability to fulfill our obligations as lawyers.

If we were unwavering and abundantly clear in our commitment to solving these problems, I have no doubt that we would make significant progress very quickly.

5. The year 2020 is less than two years away. What can we expect?

To paraphrase Bill Gates, we overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. What if we look ahead 20 years, when today’s law students will be in the middle of their careers? Do we think future lawyers will work mostly as they do today, or do we expect it will be very different?

My expectation is that the students trained today in scientific approaches to problem solving, data analytics, and technology will excel early in their careers and be leaders in their organizations and our profession 20 years from now.