LM Feature: Kevin Lee | Campbell Law School
Campbell Law School’s innovative approach to legal education is preparing students for the changing landscape of the industry
Campbell Law School is boldly riding the wave of transition and facing the rise of legal technology and innovation head on with exciting new course offerings and partnerships that ensure their students are fully equipped to take on what lies ahead in law practice and legal technology.
“Once again, Campbell shows that it excels at preparing its students for the practice,” says Dan Zureich, President and CEO of Lawyers Mutual.
Kevin Lee, law professor and inaugural chair of the NCBA’s committee on the future of law, is helping lead the charge. We had a chance to talk to Kevin about the exciting course offerings coming to Campbell Law in the spring and why it’s so important for the profession to embrace the changes in legal technology.
LM: Campbell Law is very forward-thinking in its approach to legal education. Why do you feel educating students in the area of technology is just as important as the core law school curriculum?
KL: There are several reasons why law is changing dramatically, and legal education needs to keep up. First, we are already seeing how the new technology is decreasing the demand for licensed lawyers even while the demand for legal services is increasing. Paraprofessionals aided by computers can do more and more of the routine tasks that lawyers do. Like tax-prep software changed the tax services industry. You still need tax accountants, but not as many. There are many areas of law like that. Anyone who fills out a form for a living is vulnerable to finding themselves competing with a machine.
Second, law is changing at a more fundamental level. Computers let us see patterns in data that can’t be seen by unaided human cognition. This is true about the law, which is just data too. That means that the law can be understood differently because the structures of social systems that are reflected in the law can be mapped and modeled. That means some legal processes can be automated, some can be predicted, and some can be done away with all together. For example, traffic court turns out to be fairly easy to model. More complex judicial decisions can be predicted with some specified degree of accuracy. And some social organizations can be automated. There are now organizations that sort of self-assemble from parts interacting together in on-line systems of distributed ledgers called blockchains. These systems, called distributed autonomous organizations, challenge the way we think about business entities and the duties that people owe each other in them. The foundational concepts shift. Back in the 80s and 90s, we called this a paradigm shift, the name given by the historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, to drastic shifts in science, like from Newtonian mechanics to Einstein’s theory of space-time.
What I want to do is educate lawyers for the future in which legal services will be provided by an increasingly varied number of means. Traditional law firms will survive, of course, but to a growing degree, a variety of service providers and support providers will come to dominate the market for new law school grads. The data is already showing significant movement of recent grads away from traditional law careers towards areas like compliance, legal operations, and legal technology with job titles like “legal engineer” and “legal knowledge manager.” These new jobs blend core legal knowledge with quantitative skills, management skills, negotiation skills, and design skills.
Crucially, too, there are new challenges to moral and political integrity of society. We need to educate lawyers today for a future that is full of autonomous decision making with real-world consequences. We already have AI systems in government and industry which will make decisions that profoundly affect our lives and our society. New AI techniques and quantum computing, which is just around the corner, will empower these systems beyond what we can imagine. Lawyers need to understand the moral and political challenges and possibilities that these new technologies pose because they will be more pervasive and more impactful than anything that’s come before. And, it’s not just computers. It’s also bioengineering and nanotech. We need to prepare students for a radically different world that’s coming soon. It’s exciting.
LM: In addition to being a professor at Campbell Law, you were also the inaugural chair of the North Carolina Bar Association’s committee on the future of the law. Can you tell us about the work you did with this committee?
KL: Well, being first is always a lot of work. I wanted to use the year that I chaired the committee to develop a report that could guide the work of the committee in the future. There are a lot of competing demands in bar associations when it comes to technology. Some people want to rush along change, some want to protect the lawyers' practice areas from competition, some want to promote their own careers, and others just want to feel the thrill of seeing the new technology. So, I tried to take all of that into account as servant leader. We drafted a report that broke the technology into several different themes and had leaders in North Carolina explain what’s going on in language that was clear and plain. I wanted a report that could be read and appreciated by all members of the bar, and one that would set some direction and guidance for the future. I think we did that.
We also helped organize speakers for the annual meeting, which featured AI experts from around the country. We helped to bring in some leading figures in the legal tech industry to give talks, and there was a really fun demonstration of virtual reality.
LM: Can you tell us a little about the Legal Hackers club and the formation of the Campbell Law chapter?
KL: Campbell Legal Hackers is a chapter of over 80 loosely affiliated Legal Hackers clubs around the world. Legal Hackers started in 2012 in Brooklyn, New York, as a group of people who get together to try to improve the law. They want to make it fairer and more accessible. I think it is grassroots advocacy at its best. Coders and activists and lawyers working together to make the law into something that benefits everyone.
Campbell Alumnus, Tom Brooke, who is a real thought leader, founded North Carolina Legal Hackers, which was the predecessor to the Campbell Legal Hackers group. Tom is a long-time coder and a real estate lawyer. Tom had the vision for Legal Hackers and was involved early. We worked together to found a Raleigh area group, and then moved it into the law school so the students could get more involved. It’s just in its second year, but it’s a growing influence on campus. We have ambitions of using the club as a forum for developing Access to Justice projects. Legal Hackers is about making the law better for everyone, and we can do that by finding ways to engineer solutions that bring legal services to underserved people.
LM: What is the annual Computational Law and Blockchain Festival and what is Campbell’s involvement with this event?
KL: The CL + B Festival is a day-long event that the Legal Hackers organized through all of the global clubs. Basically a live feed from around the world of presentations and demos from all the Legal Hackers from places like Nigeria, Brussels, Moscow, Ukraine, Madrid, and Raleigh. We focused our event on AI and had speakers ranging from a theoretical physicist to AI developers. It was loads of fun with about thirty to forty guests, and even a couple of representatives from Silicon Valley venture capital showed up!
This year we are planning something really special, but I can’t give out any details yet. Watch for it in March.
LM: We were excited to hear about the “Design Thinking in Law” course that will be available to your students in the spring. Can you tell us about the course and Campbell’s partnership with N.C. State?
KL: I am very honored to work with Tsai Lu Liu, the Department Head of Graphic and Industrial Design at NC State’s College of Design. Design thinking in law is a relatively new field. Lawyers are finding that the skills that are taught in design are exceptionally important to their careers as they find the interpersonal and creative skills to be their most valuable assets. Lawyers need to know how to interact with diverse people, to understand their needs and how they experience their lives. From Professor Liu, I’ve learned that design thinking is human-centered. It’s about empathy and imagining the needs of others. It’s about learning to observe and care for others. I think it could change the profession, which is too often indifferent to others and lacking in genuine compassion. This fits so well with what we want to do at Campbell. It helps us develop lawyers who are dedicated, professional and compassionate citizens who are committed to the common good. What could be more natural for Campbell University, which at its core is committed to the belief that we should love one another.
LM: Last fall we had the opportunity to interview Ashley Campbell and learn more about the awesome work conducted by law students at the Blanchard Community Law Clinic. I understand that Campbell Law students are also working on the development of an app that will be a major help for those seeking legal help from the Clinic. Tell us about the Neota Logic partnership and the exciting app the students are developing.
KL: Tom Brooke taught a class in Programming for Lawyers. Tom is a great coder and visionary who took over as the chair of the Bar Association’s Future of Law Committee this year. Tom contacted Neota Logic, which has an industry-leading “drag-and-drop” AI development platform for expert systems. Tom got Neota logic to give his class access to their amazing development platform, and he contacted Ashley Campbell to ask about a project they could work on. Ashley suggested that expunction law would make a good project, and she helped the students understand the logical relations involved in the analysis. Tom and the good folks at Neota Logic helped the students build the app based on that logical structure. It seems to work quite well. I think it is amazing that Tom could take a group of students with little or no coding experience and turn out a working app in only one semester. It was a great class. I am very hopeful that we can build on the success and develop some new ways to deliver legal services to the community.
LM: Tell us about the courses that you are offering the Campbell Law students.
KL: I teach Computational Law, Business Associations, and Jurisprudence. Each class takes on an aspect of the future of law. Computational law is a subfield of legal informatics, which studies the informational structure of law. Computational law studies how law is computational. In the class we approach these questions through legal philosophy, which I think is unique, but extremely productive. We examine the relation between conceptual foundations of network theory, systems dynamics, and complexity and the foundations of legal philosophy. Then we look at applications of AI in Law and the blockchain in law. Finally, we look at what the new technologies are doing to the economics of the profession.
In Business Associations, I take a hard look at the foundational concepts of fiduciary law. This year I’ll be including a section on the fiduciary obligations of the new Distributed Autonomous Organizations (DAO), which are blockchain-based entities. We also will look at some of the recent issues on tokenization and the SEC. I think it fits in the class seamlessly, and that it furthers the students understanding of the basics when they can stretch their minds to comprehend the new developments. It’s time for this.
At heart, I am an ethicist. I teach a few jurisprudence classes. One is a rather standard march through the plethora of theories about the nature of law that developed in the nineteenth and twentieth century. For a few years now, I have taught a class that draws from classical readings of the Western intellectual tradition that stimulate reflection on the moral questions (if not answers) that have contributed to the development of law in the ancient to early modern period. I like to think that an encounter with the Great Books gives students a sense of the intellectual debates about human nature, society, law, and the meaning of it all, with a sense that now they too are a part of that debate. And, our civilization is built on a long encounter with great questions and the struggle to find adequate answers to them. I think this is essential for students today who need to have a sense of the changes that are occurring in society and a sense of the intellectual resources that are available for confronting them. We are turning a page in human history, but the book of human history has many pages that have already been turned. We need to learn from the past.
This fall, I hope to offer a new class on Law, Ethics, and Technology. It will introduce some concepts in philosophical ethics and then apply them to current and emerging ethical questions in AI (like moral responsibility for robot agents, ethical issues with AI bias, etc.) and selected topics in transhumanism and nanotechnology. The emphasis will be on developing resources for thinking about living responsibly with these new technologies of the information revolution.
LM: Professor Lee could not talk about the work and accomplishments of the school without mentioning one of the founding pillars of Campbell, Dr. Stanley McQuade, who passed away recently.
KL: “Dr. McQuade was a leader in his time. He was one of the first people I knew who thought seriously about the relation among law and science and religion. He was a lawyer, medical doctor, and preacher. So, it was a personal undertaking for him. I like to think that the work we are doing is part of his legacy—carrying on the vision of teaching students to be well-rounded citizen-lawyers who are committed to serving by taking on the responsibilities of understanding and guiding their communities through the lean times and the bounty that will come. Hopefully, we will honor the very best of that tradition”.
Professor Lee teaches Business Associations, International Business Transactions, International Trade Law, Public International Law, Comparative Law: Japan, Jurisprudence, Computational Law. His research and writing at the intersection of law, technology, philosophy, theology, and ethics make him an authority in several emerging areas of law. He writes on the philosophy of information and the ethics technology as it applies to law, with a particular emphasis on information technology and contemporary analytic jurisprudence.
He holds advanced degrees in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Colgate University and the University of Chicago. He was born in Washington DC and raised in western New York. After graduating with honors from New York Law School, he clerked for the Hon. Herbert Hutton, US District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and practiced law for the Japanese law firm, Braun Moriya Hoashi and Kubota. He was recently named one of the Fastcase 50 leading innovators in law.