Published on November 12, 2020 by Morgan Black
This fall, Samford University Cumberland School of Law’s externships program partnered with Smarter Reality LLC and Frank Coppersmith ’94 to offer an innovative new externship opportunity for its students. The experience allowed three student participants to virtually learn more about the intricate combination of law and the use of artificial intelligence (A.I.).
The goal of the externship was for the students to understand the rapidly changing laws related to the commercial and personal use of drones and A.I. chatbots. Students researched the rules behind drone use on or near U.S. Government (USG) facilities including military installations, as well as federal and state drone laws. They also conducted interviews with small business owners, researched chatbot technology, and implemented the question and framework in the selected chatbot technology.
Coppersmith said, “I was thrilled to have a chance to work with law students from Cumberland. A.I. is rapidly transforming the practice of law, and students will need to know not only how to apply the law, but also how to transform it into content usable by future A.I. technology. The students did an amazing job developing a broad understanding of drone law and then turning that into a working chatbot, one form of consumer friendly A.I. I'm hopeful that the externship provided a grounding on these timely concepts and helped to get them ready for future legal practice where technology and the law are closely connected.”
Here, each student shares their experience about participating in the externship:
During my work on the drone chatbot project, I was exposed to new venues of law and regulation I had not even thought about before. The focus on drone law and A.I. was enlightening and revealed just how truly uncharted the territory was. While I cannot speak for anyone except myself, when I had previously thought of drones, I only thought of either “Hunter Killers” or recreational drones, nothing in between. While yes, these military grade drones are highly regulated and not allowed in private hands, it was the thousands of designs of drones in between that really caught my eye. Whether it was concerning the recreational use of drones, whether they can have a camera, how much they can weigh, how fast they could fly, or otherwise, it was truly interesting to see the uses many had for drones. As a group we eventually steered our focus towards not just recreational users, but small business owners as well. Here, the possibilities for expanded drone use was not just fascinating, but also uncharted as well. There was a lot out there that no one had talked about yet and it was exciting and eye-opening to talk to some of the few who had. I loved my experience and would love to do additional work like this! It was challenging and teaching, but even more importantly, it was rewarding for all of us when we got to see the chatbot finally come to life as a result of our work.
Externing with Smarter Reality was empowering in so many ways. Drone law changes rapidly, so not having a background in technology did not stop me from seizing this opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom attorney Coppersmith gave us to determine a target audience, conduct interviews, create questions, and research local drone laws and various chatbot software. We chose to target small businesses who use drones for facility inspections and promotional purposes. I was able to interview some friends that own and/or work for small businesses to gauge proper questions. It is truly a great feeling to create something new from your own research; however, it is a greater feeling when your creation can be used to benefit others. I am so grateful for this opportunity!
I feel very fortunate that I was able to participate in this externship with Smarter Reality. Very few law school courses prepare you to take a statute and make it digestible for a layperson. In this case, we had to make FAA statutes digestible for an A.I., a chatbot, which is more difficult because the A.I. essentially knows nothing at first. It’s also very satisfying to point at this chatbot and say, “we made this.” This was a very unique opportunity to explore A.I. and learn skills that will help me in the future, and I am so appreciative of the experience.
Smarter Reality LLC is a software company in Austin, Texas, led by Frank Coppersmith ’94. The company is an expert developer of customer applications with demanding user experience and business requirements, providing entrepreneurs and innovative business leaders with custom software for mobile, web, SAAS and artificial intelligence. Clients range from entrepreneurs and small businesses to Fortune 100 companies and the U.S. Government. Coppersmith, founder and chief executive officer, is a graduate of The Citadel where he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, and a graduate of Samford University Cumberland School of Law. He also has a Master of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an active U.S. Air Force reservist, serving as the senior reserve attorney to the director of the operations and international law directorate at Headquarters Air Force.
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.