How Daniel Katz is working to Reinvent the Law

November 14, 2013

Katz_Dan_2011For decades the Legal industry remained largely unchanged.  Even when new technologies were adopted, they have not always heralded dynamic shifts in the underlying nature of the business of law.  But many observers believe that the time is now ripe for a paradigm shift in the legal industry, or that this disruption may already be underway.

I recently had an opportunity to have a conversation with Professor Daniel Martin Katz.  As you may know, Prof. Katz is a leading author and speaker on the integration of law and technology and is shaping the way many people think about the future of the legal industry. He shared some of his insights on the dynamic nature of the legal industry and how he is preparing law students to thrive in this new environment.

I began by asking Prof Katz if there was a fundamental tension between the traditional view of the attorney-client relationship and the data-driven decision making.

It is important to understand that the future is that humans plus machines are better than humans OR machines.  We want to marry human intelligence and machine intelligence in a way that is much more powerful when combined, than each thing individually.  The post-script to MoneyBall is that both the scouts and the statistical approaches have something to add.  The question properly posed is what ensemble of the two approaches put together, what mixture of the two approaches is best at solving the problem how best to assemble your baseball team. 

It has to be some ensemble of the two things put together. So having NO data driving your decision making is not great, at one extreme.  But having only drive decisions is probably equally not the way to go, how does one mix those together. That is the proper way to think about this. I’ve written an article on this called quantitative legal prediction that is all about this.

What area of legal practice do you think is most amenable to a more data-centric approach and are there are aspects that will be aspects to which it will be particularly difficult to apply a more analytical framework?

One obvious place where this has begun is in the area of billing, because what you are measuring there is much more concrete. If you’re just asking how long does it take a person to complete a task, or asking how much does somebody cost, those are more concrete units.

The harder thing to assess is how good did somebody actually do, how good of a brief is this, How good a of a deposition is this…  That is a lot harder to assess, maybe impossible to assess. 

There is a set of things that may not be possible to assess, but the set of things that is possible to assess, is far less than the maximum group of those things at this moment, we are far from it.

One of the law school courses you teach is Entrepreneurial Lawyering, could you tell me more about that?

What entrepreneurship in law school historically looks like, and this is a perfectly fine thing, is lawyers working for entrepreneurs, helping them form a business and protect their IP.  We are interested in lawyers as entrepreneurs. In other words, applying the entrepreneurial mindset to everything they do, whether that means starting a business or building your own personal brand.

  I like the Reed Hoffman book The Start-Up of You and that’s what we want our students to think of, not being passive with respect to their future, taking control of it. 

The course is about building a hypothetical business in the legal space and by implication students are learning about the economics of the industry and understanding how they would insert themselves into the market. By implication, it teaches them how that market works.  We are trying to teach the business of law, by through this lens of how you would be an entrepreneur in the law.

For more insights from Professor Daniel Martin Katz, take a look at his blog Computational Legal Studies.