I had the pleasure of having a wide-ranging conversation with Professor Daniel Martin Katz. Professor Katz is a leader in the legal innovation and legal analytics space. He also is a leader in training lawyers to operate with 21st-century technology and systems and, to that point, is a strong proponent of teaching law from a multidisciplinary perspective, incorporating science, math, and technology into the teaching of law.
What was the spark that led you to do what you do now?
I always felt a sense of discomfort in law school. That is, we were taught stuff that has been taught the same way for quite some time, but it seemed to me that there were other things not being taught or not being addressed the way that they should be in order to prepare lawyers to practice law.
How do you teach folks about math or data analysis?
I think that that is the wrong place to start from. You start with what is needed for people to do their job. You start with asking what they think they need to know to do their job and go from there. You start with getting them to understand what it is that they want to do and then how they can do what it is that they want to do.
You are currently teaching a course on blockchain. How is that course proceeding?
Well, it is challenging in that there are no books out there on this stuff, there is no set curriculum, and, frankly, there aren’t even a lot of courses on the topic. So, given all that, the course is going well. It is fun to teach blockchain, but at the same time, it is challenging.
Lawyers seem to fear data and math. Do you agree?
I actually don’t think that they are pretending. I do think that they are truly afraid of math and data. But, to be a lawyer, you need to be whatever it is you need to be. That is to say, you need to be able to attain the skills required to do your job and give your client what your client wants. Lawyers can do math, they just fear it and they need to face that fear and overcome it if they want to practice law in the 21st century.
What is your take on law schools better-preparing students to practice? Some say it is also on the students to demand more of their law schools. Do you agree?
Law schools have taught certain things, the teaching of which hasn’t changed in ten years, 20 years, even 50 years. They do a good job of teaching those basic standard subjects. Take torts, for example. Yet, schools have a difficult time teaching law from a multi-disciplinary perspective, teaching those skills that supplement your legal abilities, teaching design thinking, analytics, project management. These are things which have not been taught before. The 21st-century lawyer needs to have this kind of polytechnic background. Being a lawyer is about being far more than just a substantive expert. To use but one example, smart contracts will start to have a big impact on how lawyers practice. Instead of knowing simply how to write, then, lawyers will also need to know how to read code.
What is your view of legal tech and people’s tendency to get seduced by shiny new tech?
It is important to know what your client is expecting from you. Tech may be one of the tools, but you need to know what your goal is before you simply apply a tool to a process. In other words, you need to understand the problem that you are trying to solve and the process by which you seek to solve that problem before deciding upon a solution.