Futurist in Paris: The Future of Law, Dentons

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Change can be scary, especially if you’re unprepared, however, with the right insights and experts around you, and if you know where to look, it can also present you with boundless new opportunities.

 

With over 8,000 lawyers, in over 140 locations in 52 countries Dentons is the world’s largest law firm and it was a privilege to be asked by Jay Connelly, their Global Chief Talent Officer, to travel to sunny Paris on a Tuesday and present to their senior executive team at a small chic café around the corner from their head offices near the L’Arc De Triomphe.

 

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As the inter-connectedness between different industries continues to increase, and the borders between them all continue to erode, it’s inevitable that increasingly the events and changes in one industry will have a downstream impact, whether it’s directly or indirectly, on another. And as the rate of global change continues to accelerate it can be argued that the legal profession, the protector and defender that sits at the heart of every industry, now finds itself at very nexus of change, faced with an almost limitless number of new opportunities – because with changes come new paradigms, risks and realities.

Sometimes though seeing all those opportunities can be difficult – a perfect example of not being able to see the wood for the trees, and trying to figure out precisely what the impact of all these changes mean for your organisation, or industry, and then figuring out the best way to navigate them can be at best an onerous task.

 

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It was therefore with great delight that I was asked to bring my “A Game” and, in Jay’s words “freak” out Dentons’ senior executive team who, while they were aware of some of the changes taking place in the wider world, it’s fair to say they had only just stuck their heads above the proverbial parapet.

In a nut shell my job was to, on a scale of one to ten where ten leaves everyone completely freaking out about the new world we’re entering into and one is paint a picture of cute cuddly kittens, turn the dial up to eight, and as the clock hit lunchtime the long table in the back of the café was thronging.

Over the course of the next one and a half hours we discussed all of the changes facing every industry – the very same industries that Dentons’ serves – to shine a light on everything from the impact of autonomous cybersecurity platforms and vertical farms all the way through to the impact of virtual reality on retail and the future of transportation, and much, much more in between.

 

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Dentons is no stranger to change, for example, their NextLaw Labs is currently working with ROSS Intelligence, an IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence (AI) protégé that’s helping law firms automate their front and back offices. In Dentons case they’re currently using the platform to automate the work of paralegals and reduce the amount of time, and cost, that’s involved in researching individual cases and clients.

That said though, when it comes to recognising the tsunami of the change that’s taking place outside of their industry it’s fair to say that they, like many other organisations, are aware, obviously, that the world is changing, but are less aware about the depth, rate or voracity of that change.

Today we have over 170 emerging technologies, everything from AI and Blockchain to 3D Bioprinting, Gene Editing, Nanotech, Quantum Computing and VR, to name just a few, heading our way, and as these technologies are combined to create tomorrows new products and services their impact on every industry will be total and irreversible. And from Dentons perspective all of this is a good thing.

 

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After all, think about how just AI, for example, is being used to help build the first generation of autonomous vehicles – not just cars, but aircraft, cargo ships, semi-trucks and trains – what are the legal ramifications if those new platforms harm people or property, malfunction or get hacked? Meanwhile, skipping industries, in the healthcare space what are the legal ramifications if a piece of genetically engineered, 3D bioprinted heart tissue malfunctions, or degrades and fails early?

While these are just two of millions of potential examples of change, and you can find many more across this site, every one of them has some form of legal ramification. However, at a more basic level many of these new technologies and products will force us to update or re-write the regulations and introduce new laws and legislation, and that’s Dentons opportunity. For example, if the European Union votes to give robots rights, something they’re debating next year, then how does that change employment law?

In a world that is full of change, and where today is the slowest we will all ever move again it’s a wonderful time to be a lawyer, and now I can confidently say that Dentons are one of the most clued up law firms out there.

Good luck guys, go and conquer.

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