Justin “Jay” Evans is a third-year at Michigan State University College of Law where he is learning to use his scientific expertise and diverse work experience to advise clients on the cutting edge, through the use of innovative technology to make legal work more effective and efficient by optimizing the latest best practices.
What first sparked your interest in legal technology and legal innovation?
Interestingly, in my prior life I was a scientist, so the idea of technology and innovation are words I hold dear to me. I’ve found that legal technology is similar to science, as lawyers are beginning to use data analytics to make quantitative legal predictions to inform their decisions. I remember being told as a 1L that soon we will be able to customize our arguments to each judge based on analytics that have been performed on previous cases that the judges have presided over. I thought the future of legal tech was one that intersected with all of my courses and kept me intellectually stimulated.
Additionally, what completely sold me on legal tech was attending my first Legal Tech Chicago Conference. The day before the conference, Dan Linna and Dan Katz put on a series of #LegalTech & Innovation Talks at Skadden LLP, and it was amazing. I felt as if I got a sample of all of the things that were occurring in the legal tech space, but at a level in which I could understand. The next several days continued to feed my curiosity. I left the conference wanting to be a law school blogger on the topics that I had learned.
Tell me a little more about your work in the area of blockchain. Much has been written about it, but at the same time so much remains misunderstood.
I have an interest in using technology to increase access to medicine, so the idea of blockchain excites me. One of the most serious problems in pharmacology is drug counterfeiting. US businesses lose up to $200 billion annually because of drug counterfeiting. Blockchain technology can be used to create transparency in the medical supply chain, restoring trust between suppliers and purchasers. As the number of patients increases, health care providers have to manage tons of health data on a regular basis along with those collecting patient data from multiple testing sites for clinical trial. As the volume of data increases, providers will need a platform to manage data securely. When information is recorded and encrypted, it becomes impossible to change or remove. This concept is important as hospitals are becoming one of the number targets for hackers as they can sell medical records for as much as $30 to $1,000 dollars a person.
My goal is to be one of the forerunners for the uses of blockchain technology in the healthcare space. I’ve seen and read so many articles and law reviews that cover the technology generally or its use in fields like fintech, but often I do not see discussions around its use in the health field. I try to get the discussion going by planting seeds for potential developers that may make these tools for the field.
What are your thoughts on law school and where things stand in terms of their approach to the topics of legal tech and/or innovating within the law?
I like what I’m seeing from law schools like Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Suffolk University, University of Miami, Stanford Law, and Vanderbilt University because I think they not only teach the theory of legal technology but they also immerse their students in the legal technology.
Dan Linna, who heads Northwestern’s legal tech program used to lead my law school’s, MSU College of Law, Legal RnD program. When Dan Linna taught at MSU Law, he not only trained our students on Neota Logic, ThinkSmart, and other smart systems, but he also required for us to build one. I’ve written about the experience on my blog, but in short, my group was tasked with developing a smart system that would streamline the cease and deceit process for an in-house attorney. We worked closely with Jeffrey Sharer and surveyed in-house attorneys on their current process and tried to remove some of the road blocks with our smart system. This was an amazing opportunity to learn about how if – then logic can be used for processes. I’ve also read that Columbia’s Law School has used similar systems to train its students to develop document automation software to address the legal needs of New York City tenants and low-wage workers in South America.
Dan Linna also held a seminar at the University of Michigan for students and attorneys to learn to code smart contracts from Houman B. Shadab, a founder of the Accord Project and professor of law at New York Law University School. I think law schools that push for those types of opportunities are truly preparing their students to practice as 21st century attorneys.
How do you see legal tech connecting with your interest in the healthcare field?
This is a good question. I have an interest in using the skills that I have developed in law school to help drive innovation for the biotechnology industry, whether that be via patent prosecution or assisting business attorneys in M&A deals involving intellectual property rights. I find that areas of law require individuals that not only understand the underlining technology but who also understand the potential implications that may arise.
Innovation in the biotechnology space is experiencing a fast progression with development of new and more efficient healthcare record systems, wearable devices, and medical examination systems implementing artificial intelligence, cryptography.
I want to make sure that when tools like artificial intelligence, which will be transformative in medicine and intellectual property, are available that I have an understanding of their usefulness. I want to be the one in the room that sees its potential and can help IT properly implement the tools for the need of the firm or companies that we represent. I know many attorneys are quick to write off technological tools because the fear that it will replace them or from a lack of understanding. I think that these tools can be used to help streamline legal matters, such as maintaining patient information in accordance with the GDPR or HIPPA requirements.
For a lawyer or a law student wanting to get a flavor of legal tech, how would you advise them?
I think the best way to get a flavor of the legal tech field is to attend conferences like Relativity, ABA legal tech, New York’s Legal Tech Week, and other reputable tech conferences, where you can meet other interested individuals and discuss these topics. I find that you will not only meet leaders in the field but that they are willing to provide you with literature and opportunities to learn. There are also meetups in places like Chicago that will help immerse you, attorney or student, into various legal tech topics.