Back in November, a group of people gathered in Hong Kong to brainstorm on using block chain technology in legal transactions. They discussed ethereum and cybersecurity, before debating the benefits and dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
These weren’t computer programmers looking to create a new start up or cryptocurrency speculators – they were Clifford Chance lawyers, from trainees to partners, who were taking part in a full-day Digital Awareness Course run by Collective Campus, an Australian education and innovation consultancy.
Technology is Transforming Business
With the infiltration of technology into every aspect of our lives and businesses, every client is a technology company in some way. Technology is disrupting entire industries and impacts the way companies provide products and services, operate their business, design processes and systems, and collect and store data.
Jason Chan, a Corporate associate in the Hong Kong office who advises on cryptocurrency and blockchain issues, said, “Cryptocurrency is an excellent example of how technology can transform businesses. The technology underlying Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) provides a new model for entrepreneurs to implement their business solutions. Legal issues around ICOs are constantly developing and it is important for legal advisors not only to be kept up to speed but to have a forward-looking vision to best advise their clients.” Disputes will also increasingly have a technological aspect. For example, smart contracts may test the application of traditional legal principles on, among others, contract formation and enforceability.
Bringing Tech Awareness to all Lawyers
Lawyers need to have a basic understanding of key current technologies to advise their clients effectively. While Clifford Chance has a global Tech Team made up of experts and thought leaders in specific technologies, it is also focused on developing an understanding of legal tech issues for all of its lawyers.
To further this goal, Clifford Chance launched the Tech Academy in April. The Tech Academy’s online resources include basic summaries and webinars on the latest technology trends such as AI, Blockchain and Cybercrime. Original content is supplemented with links to relevant TED Talks, Youtube clips, articles and research papers so that lawyers can easily deepen their understanding on hot topics. In the first two weeks, the Tech Academy had over 3,500 meaningful hits. Jonathan Lit, a newly qualified M&A associate in the Singapore office, said, “The Tech Academy provided a much-needed crash course on blockchain technology that helped to put the deal mechanics of a recent initial coin offering into perspective.”
The Tech Academy also plans to roll out a Digital Awareness course in 8 countries around the world, with an aim at reaching 680 lawyers and business services professionals. In Asia Pacific, the course has been piloted in Sydney, Singapore and Hong Kong and will be delivered in Beijing and Shanghai later this year.
Going from Student to Teacher
Engaging in and educating themselves on technology provides opportunities for young lawyers to develop their expertise and share their knowledge.
Chizoba Ikwueke is a trainee who has worked on several tech projects at Clifford Chance, including a report distributed at Davos 2018 on the main trends in technology and the Citi Tech 4 Integrity Challenge, a global initiative intended to promote integrity and efficiency in the public and private sector. Leveraging these experiences, Chizoba produced a webinar for Tech Academy that introduces key tech concepts and said this of her experience: “Contributing to the Tech Academy was an invaluable experience and opportunity to not only consolidate my understanding of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, but also to express my views on how the technology is shaping legal practice to a wider audience across the firm.”
Clifford Chance encourages and empowers associates to initiate and implement Tech initiatives. For example, the Hong Kong office runs regular associate led internal seminars on Tech topics targeting junior lawyer audience. The Hong Kong office also hosted the first associate led local Clifford Chance Innovation Challenge where junior staff presented innovative solutions and ideas for the firm. Bryan Koo, a Corporate partner of the Hong Kong office, said, “As a leading global law firm, we need to constantly innovate and make the necessary changes to our business to provide best delivery for clients. To succeed, involvement of junior staff is essential.”
Leveraging Relationships to Build Knowledge
Clifford Chance is collaborating with R3, an enterprise blockchain software firm which works with a network of over 200 banks, financial institutions, regulators, trade associations, professional services firms and technology companies to develop Corda, its blockchain platform designed specifically for businesses. The collaboration includes the development of legal architecture to marry legal principles and techniques with blockchain technology and advising on the first live securities lending transaction settled using R3’s Corda blockchain platform.
With this collaboration, Clifford Chance lawyers will gain all access to R3’s webinars, newsletters, research materials and presentations. This will help them to build their knowledge and awareness on cutting-edge technology applications and issues.
Check out Talking Tech
If you’re interested in getting up to speed on the latest legal trends in in the technology sector, check out Talking Tech by Clifford Chance: https://talkingtech.cliffordchance.com.
On Talking Tech, you will find comprehensive original articles and podcasts on a range of current tech issues like “Facebook, data misuse and why it matters.” and “Artificial intelligence and the future for legal services.”
About the Authors
Rocky Mui is a Senior Associate at Clifford Chance, Hong Kong. He specialises in fund establishment, authorisation of funds, licensing and regulatory advice, PRC investment programs, cross-border mergers & acquisitions and general corporate related work. Rocky is an active member of Clifford Chance’s global Tech group and strategy committee, covering in particular legal and regulatory advice relating to blockchain, cryptocurrencies, digital tokens and initial coin offerings.
Lijun Chui is a Senior Associate at Clifford Chance Asia, Singapore. She specialises in commercial dispute resolution and contentious regulatory and investigation matters. She is also part of Clifford Chance’s global Tech Group covering cyber-security, e-commerce, personal data protection and Fintech.
Naomi Herman is the Regional Training Manager for Asia Pacific at Clifford Chance where she coordinates legal technical training across eight offices. Prior to this, she was a Capital Markets lawyer and ran her own training company that focused on effective communication for lawyers and business people. Naomi is a Harvard Law graduate and a former adjunct professor at Singapore Management University Law School.