By Stephen Rynkiewicz
When his law firm enlisted then-litigator Daniel W. Linna Jr. for a presentation on evaluating potential trial outcomes, he presented his Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn peers with a hypothetical case—a teaching approach he used later as an adjunct at the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law.
On slide 21, he presented a decision tree: a chart with branches to show the progress of a class action through summary judgment motion, verdict and award. Linna went on to show how to assign a percentage likelihood to each potential outcome, including low-, medium- and high-value awards.
“That was my introduction to his budding interest in legal innovation,” says real estate lawyer Carl W. Herstein, Honigman’s chief value partner, who works on legal project management, alternative fee structures and matters relating to the cost-efficient practice of law. “I think it is fair to say that in his litigation work [Linna] developed an interest in analytics and the value of tools such as decision tree analysis to help both lawyers and clients understand risk and potential outcomes in terms of probability analysis. From seeds like this, his interest in legal innovation blossomed in his academic career.”
Linna took the improbable step of moving from equity partner at Honigman, where he represented General Motors and other corporations, to full-time engagements at MSU Law as assistant dean for career development and professor in residence, as well as director of its LegalRnD innovation institute. This fall he is leaving Michigan State for a year as visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.
“I saw the potential for improving access to legal services,” says Linna, 47. “At too many schools, the law school is essentially an island unto itself. There are so many opportunities for law schools to work with industry practitioners like I’ve been doing at Michigan State and just as many opportunities, if not more, to work with the computer science department, the business school and so on.”
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