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Conference Season Part One: It’s LIT

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Suffolk Law School’s Legal Innovation and Technology Lab (LITLab). This year’s LITLab conference, which coincided with the Lab’s tenth anniversary, showcased another year of exceptional achievements in building software, training students, and supporting government and non-profit initiatives which serve the public.

The conference started with an address by Suffolk Law School Dean Andy Perlman, who reflected on how much has changed in the Lab’s ten years, noting the continuity of innovation in legal services and the access to justice goals such innovation supports.  LITLab Director David Colarusso and Practitioner-in-Residence Quinten Steenhuis designated the first presentation session as a showcase for the people they called the “hidden stars” of the lab — the students who engage in hands-on technology innovation projects as part of their clinical work serving clients. Each of the presentations showed completed work that arose from a challenge to providing service. Tools developed by students included tools that automated the assembly of documents to help clients with needs ranging from tribal court participation to FOIA requests to uncontested divorce to housing voucher discrimination.   

The presentation on secrets to collaborating at scale was another standout. Sheriece M. Perry, Director of Court Services and Law Libraries for the Massachusetts Trial Court’s Office of Court Management, Matt Newsted of Illinois Legal Aid, Rochelle Hahn, Director of the Massachusetts Legal Aid Websites Project, and Amanda Brown, founder and executive director of Lagniappe Law Lab, a new legal aid technology nonprofit serving Louisiana’s justice community, shared hard-won wisdom about identifying problems, building support, trying out ideas, bringing them to fruition, gathering feedback and then going through the process again. 

Throughout the presentations, the topic of new AI-based tools arose frequently. Refreshingly, the projects presented had all given careful thought to the exact capabilities of the tools they were using and how to align these capabilities with their goals. One tool from the Lab was a plugin to some of the form fields that enables users to ask a question in their own words or request a simple explanation or summary of a set of rules or instructions.  

There were also some memorable quotes from the presentations – some favorites included:

  • – “If ChatGPT had existed 10 years ago and you’d asked it for a list of oxymorons, “Legal Innovation” would have been on the list.” (Dean Andy Perlman, Suffolk Law School) 
  • – “Humans are bad at guessing about what other humans want and need.” (Daniel Yi, Senior Counsel for Legal Innovation, Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice). 
  • – “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (African proverb quoted by Sheriece Perry, Director of Court Services and Law Libraries for the Massachusetts Trial Court’s Office of Court Management).

We look forward to seeing where they go next. 

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