COMP_SCI 397, 497: Innovation Lab: Building Technologies for the Law

Quarter Offered

Winter : Tu 2:30-5:30 ; Hammond


  • Winter course is called: CS + X INNOVATION LAB: Building Technologies for the Law (Design and Development)
  • Spring course is called: CS + X INNOVATION LAB: Building Technologies for the Law (Getting to the Product)
  • This course is combined with BUSCOM 722-1 and is held in Room LM204 on the Chicago Campus

This is a two quarter class in which CS students will work on teams with Law School students to designed, develop and test innovative products in the legal space. The first quarter will be focused on ideation, design and prototyping. The focus of the second quarter will be the development and hardening of the solution. There will be final presentations associated with each of the two phases of the work.

The Innovation Lab will expose its students to the innovation process, focusing on the legal, business, technical, teamwork, design, presentation, and other related skills involved in that process. Students will experience each of the steps required to succeed in this space and will gain understanding of:  identifying a need, creating a technology-based solution for that need, prototyping that solution, and addressing the legal protections and business planning issues involved in bringing that solution to market. In addition to an experiential, hands-on learning opportunity, students in the Innovation Lab will develop legal subject matter expertise, by focusing their work in a particular sub-specialty area of law, and working with an academic advisor to research and understand unmet needs in that area.

This course will take a cross-disciplinary approach to understanding entrepreneurial thinking, innovation and the decision-making process, and the role of technology in problem-solving. A wide range of guest speakers, including substantive legal experts, lawyers, and experts from a variety of business and technology settings will address the class. At the conclusion of the course, students will present their idea in a business plan competition-style format.

The first quarter is aimd at product/project design and early stage development. The outcome of that quarter is focused on a design, use cases, market argument and prototype. The second quarter is aimd at the development of the product into a hardened piece of technology. Three weeks in the work will be presented as a product pitch that will give the CS students external guidance as to features and priorities. The remaining time during this quarter will be focused on development.

  • This course fulfills the Technical Elective & Project Course requirement.

COURSE INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Kristian Hammond, Neal Sales-Griffin (, Leslie A Oster (, Esther S Barron (

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Students in this class will experience the process of innovation from idea to solution and beyond.  Through this exposure, we hope students will: 

  • Become more observant about problems in the world
  • Understand the entrepreneurial process and the role that they can play in it
  • Learn about how law, lawyers, and those with legal knowledge can productively advance entrepreneurship
  • Develop subject matter expertise in a particular area of the law
  • Develop teamwork skills that will allow them to thrive in collaborative settings
  • Become more comfortable with technology so that they can more readily connect technology solutions with real-world problems
  • Develop an entrepreneurial mindset that will be useful in any setting
  • Develop a can-do attitude and become more proactive about solving problems
  • Work in teams to design and develop innovative technology-based solutions

TEAMWORK: Collaborative and productive teamwork is an essential part of this class, and we will have numerous opportunities to reflect on best teamwork practices.  The Director of Northwestern’s Center on Negotiation and Mediation, Professor Lynn Cohn, will guide the class through this aspect of the course.

Most classes will include time for team meetings. In addition, teams will meet outside of class to advance their ongoing work and prepare team assignments.