It was great to be “back in law school” this past Friday to attend the “AI and Law: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Artificial Intelligence Symposium” at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law that was produced by its Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property in Chicago.

This terrific event was spearheaded by Northwestern Law Professor Dan Linna – who is an incredible legal educator. Professor Linna is also one of the foremost legal experts regarding AI and the law. He’s highly respected, his classes prepare his law students for the practical realities of the “real world,” and I have had the good fortune to learn from him.

Professor Linna and his team put together an outstanding agenda for this event as the conference attendees were treated with valuable insights from various leaders across legal academia.

As an in-house lawyer, I really enjoy attending these law school events on important topics like AI as it provides me with an opportunity to escape my own personal and professional “echo chamber” and to learn from legal leaders who are at the cutting edge of important issues in the AI area.

After introductions by Northwestern Law Dean Hari Osofsky and Professor Linna, University of Colorado Law Professor Harry Surden kicked off the event with a keynote entitled “Advances in Artificial Intelligence and Law: ChatGPT, Large Language Models (LLMs), and Legal Practice.”

Professor Surden’s talk provided an overview of Gen AI and he shared some thoughtful observations about GenAI and GPT-4 in the slides below. For example, he talked about how these tools are reasonably good – but you need to proceed with caution. He said that GPT-4 is akin to “a very good 3rd year law student” and that interesting comparison made good sense to me. Professor Surden also warned that these current GenAI tools have various limitations and struggle with certain scenarios like the following: “complex legal reasoning,” non-standard scenarios that are out of distribution,” “complex legal reasoning,” “hard cases of subjective judgment,” and “complete accuracy and reliability.”

The next speakers were Professor Sabine Brunswicker and Professor J.J. Prescott who spoke about using AI tools for delivering legal services. Professor Brunswicker talked about using AI chatbots, the role of empathy with chatbots and that empathetic chatbots may be more helpful to users (and I did not know that chatbots could actually be empathetic – but I guess they can be programmed accordingly). Here’s an interesting slide from Professor Brunswicker’s talk:

Professor Prescott explored the ability to AI tools to improve access to justice for citizens – especially given the significant expense of lawyers nowadays. There is a perspective that some of these tools may be viewed as a form of “second-class justice” for potential litigants – however, these tools are better than having no advice whatsoever from lawyers. There was also a discussion that there are plenty of opportunities for tech/AI to explain things to others, to make a litigant feel that she/he was actually heard and that chatbots helps lower the effort for people to actually find things when compared to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) type of documents. Also, as we have seen in our current tech world, some folks rather use/work with apps versus engaging with humans. Likewise, not everyone may want to engage with a human lawyer. There was also an interesting point posed by an Illinois state judge in the audience about the ability for AI tools to free up time for judges and courts to perform more important tasks for citizens.

The next set of speakers addressed AI regulation and privacy issues. Professor Bryan Choi shared his thoughts as depicted in the slide below that AI regulations are often premised on standards of care and that it may make sense to have a set of “vertical” standards based on key areas like data, learning and testing.

Professor April Dawson shared her thoughts regarding the topic of “Constitutional AI and Algorithmic Adjudication.” Based on a poll of attendees, it seemed like the audience trusted AI adjudication much less than traditional human decision-making in legal contexts. Professor Dawson wrapped up her talk with this terrific slide below where she concluded with these 3 key observations: (1) change/disruption is here; (2) lawyers need to understand this transformative AI technology; and (3) legal education needs to better educate law students. In fact, I think this slide nicely summarized the major takeaways from the conference.

While the next speaker was Professor Charlotte Tschider, I missed Professor Tschider’s talk as I needed to attended a work conference call.

After a lunch break, there was another keynote presentation. This keynote was delivered by Professor Pamela Samuelson on the important topic of the intersection of copyright law and AI, and it was appropriately entitled “Generative AI Meets Copyright.” Professor Samuelson delivered a very insightful presentation on this very important topic.

The final speakers provided their unique perspectives regarding AI and intellectual property. As an in-house lawyer, I appreciated Professor Nicole Morris’s practical suggestion below to avoid a situation similar to which happened to Samsung last year where some of their employees accidentally leaked company trade secret information to ChatGPT.

I’m really glad I invested the time to attend this excellent event as I learned a lot and I was able to network with so many smart lawyers, legal professionals and law students. The law students who have the ability to learn from the outstanding law professors who spoke at this event are super lucky!

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Photo of Dennis Garcia Dennis Garcia

Dennis Garcia is an Assistant General Counsel for Microsoft Corporation based in Chicago. He practices at the intersection of law, technology and business. Prior to joining Microsoft, Dennis worked as an in-house counsel for Accenture and IBM.

Dennis received his B.A. in Political…

Dennis Garcia is an Assistant General Counsel for Microsoft Corporation based in Chicago. He practices at the intersection of law, technology and business. Prior to joining Microsoft, Dennis worked as an in-house counsel for Accenture and IBM.

Dennis received his B.A. in Political Science from Binghamton University and his J.D. from Columbia Law School. He is admitted to practice in New York, Connecticut and Illinois (House Counsel). Dennis is a Fellow of Information Privacy, a Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States and a Certified Information Privacy Technologist with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Please follow Dennis on Twitter @DennisCGarcia and on his It’s AI All the Time Blog.