Victoria Lee, global co-chair of DLA Piper's Technology sector, will moderate a panel at the Summit that will discuss the implementation of new technology in global legal platforms and the challenges general counsel face when considering how they can best support their business clients through the use of technology.
Three key issues she plans to address with panelists are blockchain, artificial intelligence and the digitization of corporate enterprise through smart contracts and similar tools.
Blockchain technology creates a digitized public ledger that records transactions, allowing for faster payments and a high level of transparency and security. With myriad potential applications, it allows companies in many different industries, from supply chain to real estate, to fundamentally alter their business models with the goal of improving performance. Although the technology is still new, companies have been applying it to solve their business problems in a variety of ways, raising concerns from in-house counsel.
"One of the issues we're going to be talking about is how in-house counsel implement new technology like blockchain into their businesses, and what the role of the general counsel is in assessing and encouraging companies to look at new technologies. Can innovative technologies like blockchain make business more efficient and cost effective?" Lee said. "Lawyers are often viewed as G&A expenses – we don't make money for the business, but if we can help the business deploy technologies like blockchain or AI, we could save money, and by saving money, we're making money."
Artificial intelligence has been implemented in many sectors by organizations looking to better serve their clients or customers. For some companies, such as those in the life sciences or financial industries, the use of AI may prompt concerns over privacy, forcing the organizations to consider the regulatory implications of gathering and using sensitive medical or financial data. For in-house counsel, implementing AI in the legal department may mean a delicate balancing act between investment in technology and investment in employees.
"How do general counsel navigate the potential of AI eliminating jobs?" Lee said. "If you're an in-house counsel, how do you balance the desire to innovate and be more efficient with AI with the risk of shrinking your legal department and bringing about retention and promotion issues?"
Improving upon the paper-based aspects of operations with digital tools like smart contracts and electronic signatures and records can lead to more efficient, accessible and transparent collection and storage of data for many companies. For lawyers, the repercussions of corporate digitization could be widespread − certain tasks traditionally delegated to attorneys could well be eliminated entirely, and counsel would need to develop significant new skills.
"Some people think lawyers should learn how to code, because that's really what smart contracts are all about. Are the days of writing contracts the old-fashioned way going to go the way of the dinosaur?" Lee asked. "As general counsel, what's our obligation to keep lawyers trained?"
The panel will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 17.