Professor John McGinnis Moderated Panel Discussion on Legal Technology

April 05, 2016

“We are talking here about one of the most important phenomena for law going forward. The rise of computation is the most important fact of our time,” said John McGinnis, the George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law. “How are we to think about this?”

McGinnis moderated a panel entitled, “The Current Practice and Future Promise of Legal Technology,” at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law on March 28, 2016. The discussion explored how disruptive technologies are changing legal practice and the way legal services are delivered.

McGinnis was joined by legal futurist and professor Daniel Martin Katz from the Chicago Kent College of Law; Kyla Moran, Offering Manager for Risk, Regulatory, and Compliance Solutions at IBM Watson; and David Cambria, global director of operations for law, compliance, and government relations for the Archer Daniels Midland Company.

Katz, whose scholarship focuses on integrating law with computation, mathematics, and technology, discussed emerging work on prediction and predictive analytics.

“There are three ways to predict anything: experts, crowds, and algorithms,” Katz said. “The goal for our time is to try to blend these streams together. For most problems, ensembles outperform any single stream.”

The goal of this work is to create better tools for legal decision making.

Picking up on the theme of combining approaches to create better tools, Moran described the emerging age of cognitive computing. She discussed IBM’s CEO Ginny Rommety’s assertion that in the future every decision we make is going to be informed by one of these cognitive systems.

“That’s not saying they will be made by these systems,” she said. “Informed is really the key word here.”

The goal is to use cognitive computing to help lawyers with the data they currently deal with, as well as “the invisible wall of data that will be important. It will have an impact on your day to day activities, on how law is practiced.”

Cambria’s work focuses on using technology to make the Archer Daniels Midland Company’s legal operations more efficient. He reflected on the fact that despite considerable investments in technology and systems, companies still aren’t fully leveraging the power of technology.

“IT systems of the past focused on records and systems,” he said. “They didn’t focus on how the users would interact with that technology. And if you foist systems on users without consideration for how they are going to interact with them, really what that leads to is failed IT.”

But, he said, “Change is coming. Our executives and our stockholders are demanding [that we] really drive the change around cost and efficiency in the delivery of legal services.”

Following these presentations, McGinnis moderated a robust question and answer session. View a video recording of the panel discussion or listen to an audio file.