New technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and smart contracts have become more and more integrated into the business world, bringing opportunities for legal departments to streamline their operations and become more efficient.
At the same time, as the digital transformation takes hold in many companies, the threat of data breaches is a growing concern. At panel discussions during the Global Women's Leadership Summit, general counsel discussed the benefits and consequences of implementing new technology into the work of the legal department and the role of in-house counsel in preventing and responding to cyber threats.
While general counsel are not actively bringing in revenue to their organization, they have a responsibility to save money wherever possible – and developing a technical skill set is one way to ensure the department becomes more efficient and cost-conscious, panelists said.
However, all lawyers are governed by ethics rules, as well as regulatory frameworks, meaning GCs also have a duty to not become overly dependent on artificial intelligence, known as AI, and to ensure the legal advice they provide is accurate. While they can be useful tools, AI and other technologies should not take precedence over human insight.
While technology is not a "magic wand" that will automatically make the legal department run more smoothly, if implemented effectively, it can help free up lawyers' time so that they are able to take on more substantive legal work. By applying AI and other technologies to mundane in-house work, GCs can put more effort into high-level work without being as burdened by low-level but necessary tasks.
A cyberattack is like any other risk, panelists said – there is a chance it could happen at any time. However, by planning in advance, legal departments can help reduce the harm caused. Panelists advised thinking of the in-house legal team as the "connector" to other parts of the company. By forming relationships with other departments, from IT to marketing, GCs can be seen as allies rather than obstructionists in preparing for and dealing with the aftermath of a breach. In-house counsel should also make sure the company's board understands that its role in the event of a data breach is to support the legal department, the brand and firm management.
One of the most difficult parts of recovering from an attack is figuring out what information was affected by the breach and what was not. Depending on the relevant regulation, it is important to realize that companies may be required to report that millions of records were involved in a breach, simply because they cannot prove they were not affected.