Faculty voice:

Daniel Martin Katz: Legal Rebel

Oct. 1, 2014

Daniel Martin Katz is an associate professor of law in MSU’s College of Law and is known as a rebel in the legal world.  He believes that many of today's law students and practicing lawyers need hard, tech-savvy skills. He applies an innovative polytechnic approach to teaching law, meshing litigation knowledge with emerging software and other efficiency enhancing technologies to create lawyers for today's challenging legal job market.

From a young age, I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer. Both of my parents are public defenders in Phoenix, Arizona, and work mostly defending juveniles so I guess you can say it’s in my blood.

Before I went to law school I knew that the legal profession was headed for a change. I think even my parents acknowledge that now. What I saw was a profession full of people that didn’t even want to engage one another—they were comfortable with the ways things were. I knew this needed to change.

Some call me a “legal rebel” because I want to reinvent law, but I believe the changes I am proposing are quite modest. In my opinion, 600 years of status quo is long enough. It’s time for law to join the rest of the world. Lawyers are far behind their peers when it comes to adopting and using technology. But technologies such as legal informatics, analytics and data mining are tools we can use to make law better, more accessible, accurate and efficient.

Part of reinventing law is changing the legal curriculum. Here at MSU, we provide law students the opportunity to learn polytechnic skills to prepare them to lead the way into the future. Skills in science, math and technology, combined with good judgment and legal knowledge, are part of the repertoire of the future lawyer. These skills will give my students a competitive advantage and the chance to seize opportunities. One has to embrace change or watch opportunities pass by.

There is no doubt that we need to reinvent law and I am working toward that end. If challenging legal orthodoxy makes me a legal rebel, then so be it. As writer William Gibson said, “the future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed.” At MSU, we are on the proper side of this distribution.

Watch a video of Katz discussing the this topic on The ReInvent Law Channel.

Photo by Kurt Stepnitz