An Interview with Professor Samuel Dahan: Accessing Justice through Data Science
Queen’s Pre-Law Society (QPLS) is proud to present our third and final installment of the World of Law series. On the last Monday in the past few months, QPLS has released articles featuring experts in different legal careers to educate the public on the facets of various legal professions. Please fill in the attached form at the end of the article if you have any feedback for this series or if you would like to hear about a specific legal field in the future.
This month, we have the honour of featuring Professor Samuel Dahan, a National Scholar and Assistant Professor of Law at Queen’s University. Professor Dahan is also the founder and Director of the Conflict Analytics Lab (CAL), a research-based consortium concerned with the application of artificial intelligence and data science to dispute resolution.
As the world enters an era of technological innovation, digitalization, and big data, the practice of law will not be untouched. It is becoming increasingly paramount to understand the role of emerging technologies as industries are being fundamentally disrupted and perpetually changed by such developments. Professor Dahan’s career, experiences, and insights offer an incredibly valuable perspective on the legal world. His career speaks to the malleability and utility of a legal education while his work at CAL is evidence of the evolution of legal services as it intertwines with innovations in data science.
“...data science will render legal analysis scalable as lawyers can quickly peruse hundreds, thousands or even millions of legal texts that would take months to read.”
1. What is the Conflict Analytics Lab?
The Conflict Analytics Lab (CAL) is a consortium interested in data science and conflict resolution. The first of its kind, it has gathered a group of first-rate lawyers and data scientists interested in making negotiation and dispute resolution more data-driven as well as improving access to justice.
2. Can you tell us about your early career in law and what led you to create CAL?
My first law job was at White and Case Paris, in the competition law department. I very much enjoyed the experience but I was more interested in policy work. Thus, I started a Ph.D. at Cambridge along with an advisory position at the EU Commission. I was part of the EU negotiation team in Eastern Europe during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. In collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the EU Commission was providing last-resort financial aid to indebted countries like Greece and Latvia. In return for the financing, we negotiated structural reforms in order to encourage economic recovery. A few years later, I clerked for the French Supreme Court and later on, I took a position as a Cabinet Member for the European Court of Justice. This is where I became interested in data science and law. I realized that the number of cases and legal documents I had to process was absolutely unrealistic and it was affecting the quality of my job. I started looking at how statistical tools could improve research efficiency and consistency of the case law. I quickly realized this project was a full-time job. This is why I decided to take a full-time academic position at Queen’s and Cornell in order to focus entirely on this project.
3. How do you see the use of data analytics in legal services transforming the practice and/or nature of law?
The amount of data lawyers that have to process every day has become unmanageable. I believe data science will render legal analysis scalable as lawyers can quickly peruse hundreds, thousands or even millions of legal texts that would take months to read. Legal information thereby not only becomes more accessible, but legal services can be provided more efficiently and effectively helping to close the access-to-justice gap.
4. Is there a role for new technologies to improve access to justice?
On that note, CAL recently launched MyOpenCourt, a free AI-powered platform that helps Canadians answer basic legal questions related to employment law and connect them to a pro bono lawyer. I am humbled to be one of the 3 principal investigators behind this platform. We use thousands of legal texts and past cases to predict court decisions. Our tools can predict (i) the employment relationship (employee vs. contractor) and (ii) the termination compensation workers may be entitled to. Our platform has already helped thousands of Canadians who recently lost their jobs. In addition, this work was extensively covered in the media, including Global News, the Morning Show, CBC Listen, TVOntario, and the Lawyer’s Daily.
To learn more about the Conflict Analytics Lab, please visit https://conflictanalytics.queenslaw.ca/.
To access MyOpenCourt, please visit https://myopencourt.org/.
About Professor Samuel Dahan
MA (Sorbonne-Ecole Normale Supérieure Ulm)
Samuel Dahan is a National Scholar and Assistant Professor of Law and at Queen’s University, as well as a lawyer and mediator. He is cross-appointed to both the Smith School of Business and Cornell University Law School, and is an affiliate faculty member of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Dahan is the founder and Director of the Conflict Analytics Lab, a global consortium (Queen’s-McGill-Columbia-HEC) concerned with the application of data science and artificial intelligence to dispute resolution and law. He is also the founder and developer of MyOpenCourt, a platform that improves access to justice through predictive dispute resolution research. Samuel Dahan was a référendaire (legal secretary) at the Court of Justice of the European Union and clerked for the Conseil d’Etat (French Administrative Supreme Court). During the financial crisis of 2008-2009, he served as an advisor to the EU’s Chief Negotiator for the financial assistance program in Latvia. He also worked as an associate for White & Case and Essec-Irene, leading firms specializing in dispute resolution (2010-2014).
Dahan holds a doctorate in law from the University of Cambridge and studied law and dispute resolution at Harvard Law School; the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS-Ulm); the Sorbonne Law School; Leuven University in Belgium; and the University of Nice. He was a bronze medalist at the French and UK championships in kickboxing and Taekwondo.
Areas of Expertise and Research:
• Dispute Resolution (Negotiation, Mediation and Arbitration)
• Law and Technology (AI, machine learning applied to law)
• Labour and Employment Law (EU and Canada)
• European Union Law (Competition and Labour)
Authors: Cindy Lin, Co-President and Daniel Wolfe, Co-President