Tuesday, November 7, 2023
I am proud to be presenting (alongside a stellar group of business law folks) at this symposium and honoring my friend and our wonderful colleague Jill Fisch. More information, including information on how to register to attend (if you are in the neighborhood) can be found here.
Monday, October 9, 2023
The Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) is soliciting proposals for its 2024 annual meeting (to be held at the Harbor Beach Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from July 21-July 27, 2024). After last year's meeting, folks suggested to me it could be time again to have a teaching panel at SEALS in 2024. Specifically, the suggestion was made that a group be put together to talk about teaching numeracy to business-inclined students. I am happy to organize it.
Please let me know if you want to join in on this discussion group. I am looking for at least nine folks to join me. Email me or leave a comment here if you would like to join in.
Monday, October 2, 2023
I am pleased to report that Connecting the Threads is back for another year--our seventh! As readers will recall, this annual symposium features the work of your Business Law Prof Blog editors (sometimes with coauthors), with commentary from Tennessee Law faculty members and students. Every year, my colleagues and I offer up a variety of presentation topics covering developing theory, policy, doctrine, pedagogy, and practice trends in various areas of business law.
This year’s panels include:
“Algorithms to Advocacy: How Emerging Technologies Impact Legal Practice and Ethics”
Marcia Narine Weldon
“The Road and Corporate Purpose”
William P. Murray and J. Haskell Murray
“Is the SEC Proposing a ‘Loaded Questions’ Climate Disclosure Regime?”
John P. Anderson
“Business Lawyer Leadership: Valuing Relationships”
“Metals Derivatives Markets and the Energy Transition”
Colleen Baker and James Coleman
If you are in the Knoxville area, please come join us on Friday for the day. The program runs from 8:30 am (registration) to 3:00 pm. Registration for CLE credit can be accessed here.
Sunday, October 1, 2023
RWU Law looks forward to the next installment of the Integrating Doctrine & Diversity Speaker Series:
HOW DOES DIVERSITY, EQUITY, INCLUSION AND BELONGING PEDAGOGY FIT IN BUSINESS ISSUES AND FINANCIAL AFFAIRS CLASSES? LEADING WITH DEIB IN WILLS, TRUSTS, ESTATES, INSURANCE, CONTRACTS, AND TAXATION LAW CLASSES
Wednesday, October 4 | 2:00 – 3:00 PM EST
Zoom Webinar Registration here.
Details about the Featured Speakers & Program here.
Friday, August 18, 2023
Emory's Center for Transactional Law and Practice has extended the deadline for proposal submissions for the 8th Biennial Conference on the Teaching of Transactional Law and Skills, scheduled for October 6-7, 2023. Quoting from the email message from Sue Payne, Katherine Koops, and Kelli Pittman:
We know that mid-August is a busy time. Therefore, by popular demand, we are extending the deadline for submitting a proposal through August 31st. Submit your proposal here.
We are also extending the deadline for you to nominate a colleague or yourself for the Tina L. Stark Award for Teaching Excellence through August 31st. Submit your nominations here.
I know many of you have valuable things to offer at this conference, which always is among my favorites. I have picked up wonderful ideas for my teaching--things I do not hear in other conferences. I hope you will submit a proposal and attend.
Friday, July 28, 2023
Greetings from SEALS, where I've just left a packed room of law professors grappling with some thorny issues related to ChatGPT4, Claude 2, Copilot, and other forms of generative AI. I don't have answers to the questions below and some are well above my pay grade, but I am taking them into account as I prepare to teach courses in transactional skills; compliance, corporate governance, and sustainability; and ethics and technology this Fall.
In no particular order, here are some of the questions/points raised during the three-hour session. I'll have more thoughts on using AI in the classroom in a future post.
- AI detectors that schools rely on have high false positives for nonnative speakers and neurodivergent students and they are easy to evade. How can you reliably ensure that students aren't using AI tools such as ChatGPT if you've prohibited it?
- If we allow the use of AI in classrooms, how do we change how we assess students?
- If our goal is to teach the mastery of legal skills, what are the legal skills we should teach related to the use of AI? How will our students learn critical thinking skills if they can rely on generative AI?
- How should we keep up with the rapid pace of change?
- How will adjuncts use AI with our students if they are already integrating it into their practice? Alternatively, will adjuncts see the use of AI as cheating?
- If students use papers as writing samples, should there be attestations indicating that they are AI free? Same question for journals/law reviews.
- Can clinicians and others use generative AI to help with access to justice? If so, how can we ensure that the information is reliable and not a hallucination??
- How should schools assess faculty coming up for promotion and tenure? Will junior faculty feel pressured to rely on AI to be more productive?
- Can generative AI be helpful with students with disabilities and neurodivergent students? AI tools can help with creating study schedules, note taking (organizing by topic), time management, summarizing large articles, staying on task, academic support tool, ascertaining how long will tasks take, planning meals and more. If a policy prohibits the use of generative AI in the classroom, should its use be a reasonable accommodation?
- Do we as faculty members have the growth mindset to deal with this change? Or will we teach the way we always do, which may do a disservice to our students. How do we prepare our students to deal with generative AI in practice?
- Do you need a uniform policy or should each professor have their own policy? Should the default policy be that students cannot use it for work that gets academic credit unless the professor has specifically opted in?
- Should we embrace AI especially for students who can’t write? Is using ChatGPT any different from using a calculator? Is it any different from asking a partner for a template so you don't have to start from scratch?
- Should we use more in-class exams? Should they be closed book? Do we need more oral presentations? How might this affect space planning at exam time?
- Should class participation count for more than it already does?
- If you're not familiar with generative AI tools, where should you start?
How many of these questions have you asked yourself, your colleagues, or your dean? If you have some best practices or thoughts, please share them in the comments.
July 28, 2023 in Compliance, Conferences, Contracts, Corporate Finance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Ethics, Law Firms, Law Reviews, Law School, Lawyering, Marcia Narine Weldon, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, July 7, 2023
Depending on who you talk to, you get some pretty extreme perspectives on generative AI. In a former life, I used to have oversight of the lobbying and PAC money for a multinational company. As we all know, companies never ask to be regulated. So when an industry begs for regulation, you know something is up.
Two weeks ago, I presented the keynote speech to the alumni of AESE, Portugal’s oldest business school, on the topic of my research on business, human rights, and technology with a special focus on AI. If you're attending Connecting the Threads in October, you'll hear some of what I discussed.
I may have overprepared, but given the C-Suite audience, that’s better than the alternative. For me that meant spending almost 100 hours reading books, articles, white papers, and watching videos by data scientists, lawyers, ethicists, government officials, CEOs, and software engineers.
Because I wanted the audience to really think about their role in our future, I spent quite a bit of time on the doom and gloom scenarios, which the Portuguese press highlighted. I cited the talk by the creators of the Social Dilemma, who warned about the dangers of social media algorithms and who are now raising the alarms about AI's potential existential threat to humanity in a talk called the AI Dilemma.
I used statistics from the Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum on potential job displacement and from Yale's Jeffrey Sonnenfeld on what CEOs think and are planning for. Of the 119 CEOs from companies like Walmart, Coca-Cola, Xerox and Zoom, 34% of CEOs said AI could potentially destroy humanity in ten years, 8% said that it could happen in five years, and 58% said that could never happen and they are “not worried.” 42% said the doom and gloom is overstated, while 58% said it was not. I told the audience about deepfakes where AI can now mimic someone's voice in three seconds.
But in reality, there's also a lot of hope. For the past two days I've been up at zero dark thirty to watch the live stream of the AI For Good Global Summit in Geneva. The recordings are available on YouTube. While there was a more decidedly upbeat tone from these presenters, there was still some tamping down of the enthusiasm.
Fun random facts? People have been using algorithms to make music since the 60s. While many are worried about the intellectual property implications for AI and the arts, AI use was celebrated at the summit. Half of humanity's working satellites belong to Elon Musk. And a task force of 120 organizations is bringing the hammer down on illegal deforestation in Brazil using geospatial AI. They've already netted 2 billion in penalties.
For additional perspective, for two of the first guests on my new podcast, I've interviewed lawyer and mediator, Mitch Jackson, an AI enthusiast, and tech veteran, Stephanie Sylvestre, who's been working with OpenAI for years and developed her own AI product somehow managing to garner one million dollars worth of free services for her startup, Avatar Buddy. Links to their episodes are here (and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast).
If you’re in business or advising business, could you answer the following questions I asked the audience of executives and government officials in Portugal?
- How are you integrating human rights considerations into your company's strategy and decision-making processes, particularly concerning the deployment and use of new technologies?
- Can you describe how your company's corporate governance structure accounts for human rights and ethical considerations, particularly with regards to the use and impact of emerging technologies?
- How are you planning to navigate the tension between increasing automation in your business operations and the potential for job displacement among your workforce?
- How does your company approach balancing the need for innovation and competitive advantage with the potential societal and human rights impact of technologies like facial recognition and surveillance?
- In what ways is your company actively taking steps to ensure that your supply chain, especially for tech components, is free from forced labor or other human rights abuses?
- As data becomes more valuable, how is your company ensuring ethical data collection and usage practices? Are these practices in line with both domestic and international human rights and privacy standards?
- What steps are you taking to ensure digital accessibility and inclusivity, thereby avoiding the risk of creating or enhancing digital divides?
- How is your company taking into account the potential environmental impacts of your technology, including e-waste and energy consumption, and what steps are being taken to mitigate these risks while promoting sustainable development?
- What financial incentives do you have in place to do the ”right thing” even if it’s much less profitable? What penalties do you have in place for the “wrong” behavior?
- Will governments come together to regulate or will the fate of humanity lie in the hands of A few large companies?
Luckily, we had cocktails right after I asked those questions.
Are you using generative AI like ChatGPT4 or another source in your business 0r practice? If you teach, are you integrating it into the classroom? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
July 7, 2023 in Business School, Conferences, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Human Rights, Intellectual Property, Lawyering, Legislation, Management, Marcia Narine Weldon, Science, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 29, 2023
8th Biennial Conference on the Teaching of Transactional Law and Skills
PREPARING FUTURE LAWYERS TO DRAFT CONTRACTS, DO DEALS, AND TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS
October 6-7, 2023 | Atlanta, GA
Call for Proposals and Nominations for
Call for Proposals
Emory’s Center for Transactional Law and Practice is delighted to open the Call for Proposals for its eighth biennial conference on the teaching of transactional law and skills. We welcome your proposals related to our theme – “Preparing Future Lawyers to Draft Contracts, Do Deals, and Take Care of Business.”
By design, our theme is broad. We see it as encompassing everything from how to teach the nuts-and-bolts of contract drafting through how to help students understand and advance a deal. In addition, we would like to know what you are doing to familiarize students with business and finance. On a more abstract level, consider leading a discussion about how to define the core values and guiding principles foundational to a successful transactional law practice. Or reporting your success encouraging students to engage in self-reflection about their professional identities as deal lawyers.
Each session will be 60 minutes long. Given this time limitation, each session will be limited to one or two presenters who have submitted one proposal on a single topic. In other words, we will not split a session between two proposals or create panels, as we have done in the past. As a result, and in the interest of assuring that each presenter gets an opportunity to shine, we will likely accept fewer proposals.
We will begin accepting proposals on Thursday, June 15, 2023. A link to the submission portal will be provided on June 15th. The deadline is 5:00 p.m. EST on August 15th.
As in prior years, some of the conference presentations and related materials will be published in Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law, a publication of the Clayton Center for Entrepreneurial Law of The University of Tennessee, a cosponsor of the conference.
Conference Location and Schedule
Hosted by Emory University School of Law, all of the Conference proceedings and meals – including the optional Friday night dinner – will take place at the newly-renovated Emory Conference Center Hotel.
Join us at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday evening, October 5, for a welcome reception in the Hotel bar. The conference sessions will begin on Friday, October 6, at 9:00 a.m., and end on Saturday, October 7, at 2:00 p.m.
On Friday evening, we invite you to attend an optional dinner at the Hotel. As part of the festivities at the dinner, we will announce the winner of the 2023 Tina L. Stark Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Transactional Law and Skills.
Call for Nominations – Tina L. Stark Teaching Excellence Award
Emory’s Center for Transactional Law and Practice is delighted to open its Call for Nominations for the 2023 Tina L. Stark Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Transactional Law and Skills. Think about nominating yourself or someone else to honor their work as a transactional law and skills educator. For more information about the Award, review the announcement here.
We will begin accepting nominations on Thursday, June 15, 2023. A link to the nomination submission portal will be provided on June 15th. The nomination deadline is 5:00 p.m. EST on August 15th.
Registration for Conference/Optional Tina L. Stark Award Dinner
Both attendees and presenters must register for the Conference and pay the appropriate registration fee: $250 (general); $200 (adjunct professor and new professor). Note: A new professor is someone in their first three years of teaching.
The registration fee includes drink sat the welcome reception on Thursday; breakfast, snacks, and lunch on Friday; and breakfast, snacks, and lunch on Saturday. You may attend the optional Friday evening dinner at an additional cost of $60 per person.
Registration for the Conference and the optional dinner event will open June 15th.
Travel Arrangements and Hotel Accommodations
Attendees and presenters are responsible for their own travel arrangements and hotel accommodations. Special hotel rates for conference participants at the Emory Conference Center Hotel are$173 per night.
To make a reservation at the special conference rate, call the Emory Conference Center Hotel at 800.933.6679 and mention “The Emory Law Transactional Conference.” Note: The Hotel’s special conference rate expires at the end of the day on Wednesday, September 13, 2023.
We look forward to seeing you in October!
Sue Payne | Executive Director
Katherine Koops | Assistant Director
Kelli Pittman | Program Coordinator
Wednesday, June 28, 2023
As part of or an adjunct to the National Business Law Scholars Conference, we often host a mentoring workshop designed for individuals considering entering the academy and those who have recently landed an academic position. This year, we will hold a virtual workshop on Wednesday, July 5th from 4:30 to 5:30 EDT. The session will be a panel focusing on entering and navigating the academy and becoming a scholar. The event is intended for scholars beginning their careers in business law and business-law related fields.
Participants should RSVP as soon as possible to Eric Chaffee ([email protected]). Even if you are at a later point in your career, you may know individuals who may be interested in this event. Please feel free to let them know about it and offer them Eric's contact information.
Monday, June 12, 2023
If you happen to be traveling in the region of Knoxville, Tennessee on Thursday or Friday, feel free to stop by and catch all or part of this year's National Business Law Scholars Conference, hosted by the Clayton Center for Entrepreneurial Law at The University of Tennessee College of Law. The final schedule will be posted on the conference website within the next day, but I can tell you now that we start at 8:15 am for breakfast on Thursday (9:15 am for the program) and run through a 5:30 pm reception, and we start at at 8:00 am for breakfast on Friday (8:45 am for the program) and run until 3:30 pm. We have, as usual, a number of engaging plenary programs, but the conference mostly consists of scholarly paper panels. As always, the schedule has been produced by the incomparable Eric Chaffee (who is moving to Case Western Law this summer). He is amazing.
The morning plenaries (which start the conference proceedings each day) focus on entrepreneurship, a topic of focus for and strength of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and The University of Tennessee College of Law, working through our Transactional Law Clinic. Thursday's morning plenary panel focuses on the engagement of law schools with university and community venture activity. Friday's morning plenary session features an interview with two lawyer entrepreneurs who will help us explore our ability, as business law professors, to help prepare our students for entrepreneurship.
The third plenary session (Thursday, just after lunch) is an author-meets-readers program on Adam Pritchard's recently released book, A HISTORY OF SECURITIES LAW IN THE SUPREME COURT (Oxford University Press 2023). Adam previewed aspects of the book in a presentation at the Neel Corporate Governance Center last fall. We are in for a real treat! UT Law is so pleased to be able to host this session at the conference. Adam has been a regular National Business Law Scholars Conference attendee and frequently offers constructive comments on other business law scholars' works at the conference.
I look forward to seeing many of you later in the week! We are so glad to have everyone at UT Law in person this year for the conference.
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Earlier tonight, I had the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to--in some small way--let a teacher-mentor know how much she means to me and has meant to my career. Specifically, I had the privilege of presenting an award to the amazing woman who taught me in the foundational law courses that I have needed most in my careers as a practitioner and an instructor. That amazing woman is NYU's Professor Helen Scott. The award was a surprise, making things all the more fun.
I know some BLPB readers also are Helen's former students. Others are fans of hers for other reasons. For all, I am copying in below the tribute I offered in conveying the award to Helen at the 2023 Impact Investment Legal Working Group & Grunin Center Annual Conference hosted at my alma mater, NYU Law. Feel free to add your tributes in the comments. I promise to pass them on.
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Commitment; sustained commitment.
Sometimes, there is someone who impacts your life deeply by merely "being there" in important ways at key times. Helen Scott is one of those people in my life. I do hope many of you are similarly blessed.
We all know Helen is retiring this year--a scary thought for some of us. It was 41 years ago that both of us began our NYU journeys. In 1982, I started my path here as a law student and she as a law professor. Kismet, in some sense, I suppose. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to say a few words about her here before she saunters off into retirement.
I took both Corporations and Securities Regulation with Helen. By the time I found myself in her classroom as a second-year law student, I already had been working for about six months as a law clerk in the corporate finance group of a midtown firm—a job I kept until graduation. But it was in Helen's courses that everything came together for me. She made both courses truly engaging and tied them into the reality of law practice as much as possible.
Her unflagging dedication to teaching was obvious. Among other things, she was one of the only tenure-track professors during my law school career here at NYU Law who brought actual documents into the classroom and classroom discussions. She also brought interoffice envelopes filled with candy into class at the end of the semester, flinging the contents up the aisles of the classroom for all to grab.
Her obligations to her students—even back then, in her early years of teaching—extended to activities outside the classroom. She would go to lunch with small groups of interested students. Members of my study group were interested! We considered the expense of joining her for lunch at the Washington Square Diner (an affordability issue for at least some of us back then) an investment. Those lunches were above and beyond the call of academic duty. They cemented my desire to do what Helen had done, to become what my husband refers to as her “Mini Me.” But Helen's support for me and my career did not stop there.
I was married in August 1985, a few months after graduation and about a month after taking the bar exam. Helen and Ira were there to support me and my husband. As Helen knows, their wonderful wedding gift of a down comforter kept us warm over many years! We had it re-stuffed and re-sewn before we finally gave up on it.
In the years to follow, there were touch-base visits during several of Ira's board meetings in Boston (Where I was practicing at the time)—times to discuss lawyering and family. Helen and Ira's children are a few years older than ours, but close enough in age where she could share quality information. During one visit, she bought my children ice cream at Quincy Market. She was their hero!
When I told Helen I wanted to teach law, she offered encouragement, but also “tough love.” She even critiqued the structure and content of my job talk . . . over the telephone! For those in academia, you will know why that is so appreciated and so difficult.
But this story is not just about Helen and me. Helen has similarly impacted many others—I suspect both law and business students—in their lives and careers. I have had the pleasure of working with a number of NYU Law fellows through and outside the Grunin Center who echo in similar fashion, but in different ways, the strength of Helen's devotion to building their knowledge bases and fostering their continued professional development. I aspire to have the same kind of impact with my law and business students.
You may wonder where all this is going . . . .
In recognition of Helen’s extraordinary, sustained commitment to NYU Law, the Grunin Center, and her students (including me), I am delighted and honored to be able to present Helen with the inaugural Grunin Center Sustained Commitment Award. Helen’s career exemplifies sustained commitment. I know you will agree that she is truly deserving of this honor.
Thursday, April 27, 2023
As I recently announced, tomorrow is the last day that we will be accepting submissions for the National Business Law Scholars Conference, June 15-16 at The University of Tennessee College of Law. We need to start scheduling the sessions for the conference next week. The substantive requirements for submission include a paper title, a brief abstract, and a few key words.
Information about the conference, including related notes on transportation and accommodations and more information about submissions, can be found here. We look forward to seeing many of you in Knoxville in June! Please contact me or Eric Chaffee with questions.
Monday, April 17, 2023
I am looking forward to welcoming many of you to Knoxville for the National Business Law Scholars Conference on June 15th and 16th! We have a great group already registered for the conference. The papers being presented span a wide range of interesting business law topics, as has been the custom.
Several folks indicated they were a bit jammed for time to make the April 7 deadline for submissions. After consulting with our master scheduler, Eric Chaffee, we have determined to leave submissions open until April 28th. We are in the process of changing the conference website to update the submission deadline, but the submission link (which generates an email to Eric) is still open.
In the coming weeks, the conference website will be updated to include information on lodging (we have arrangements with several local hotels) and transportation. In addition to Knoxville's local airport, McGee-Tyson (TYS), flights are available to a number of local airports (Nashville, Chattanooga, and Tri-Cities) at which one can rent a car and from which one can drive to Knoxville. The State of Tennessee is beautiful and fun. I would be delighted to offer touring advice to anyone who would like to take some vacation time around the conference.
With the extended submission date, we hope that a few more of you will be in a position to submit work to present at the conference. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or Eric for any desired guidance in that regard, especially if you have never submitted to the conference before. We are happy to help.
Monday, March 27, 2023
Last Friday, I had the privilege of speaking, with other colleagues, at the 2023 Stetson Law Review Symposium on "Elon Musk and the Law." (See the flyer on the program, below.) This symposium grew out of a discussion group I organized at the 2022 Southeastern Association of Law Schools Conference. I posted about it here back in May of last year.
I could not have been happier with the way the symposium worked out. The Stetson Law students, faculty, and administration were well organized, kind, and fun--a total pleasure to work with. And I got excellent questions and feedback on my early draft paper, Representing Elon Musk, which focuses attention on the lawyer-client relationship under the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct. I look forward to seeing the final published proceedings in two forthcoming books of the Stetson Law Review.
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Monday, March 20, 2023
ComplianceNet 2023 will be hosted by American University's Washington College of Law in Washington, DC on June 21-23, 2023. It will have an anti-corruption theme, though papers on all topics related to compliance will be welcome. We are currently accepting panel or paper submissions, with an extended deadline of Friday, March 31, 2023.
ComplianceNet seeks to bring together scholars from a range of different disciplines to study the interaction between rules (broadly defined) and individual, group, or organizational behavior. The first five meetings have been highly successful, bringing together academics from business, criminology, economics, law, political science, psychology and sociology, among other fields. See the ComplianceNet website at www.compliancenet.org for more details about the organization’s structure and goals.
Friday, March 17, 2023
I am honored to be speaking later today on ESG, blockchains, and corporate governance at this symposium at Wake Forest University School of Law. This practitioner-centered symposium promises to offer significant information useful to my teaching and scholarship. My fellow speakers hail from law firms and other organizations across the United States. I am excited to share and learn!
Monday, February 20, 2023
For those of you who may have been wondering about Emory Law's biennial Conference on the Teaching of Transactional Law and Skills, I have posted current information below. I am pleased to see that our business law journal, Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law, is again publishing the proceedings. This has been a great partnership between Emory Law and Tennessee Law over the years. The proceedings of the 2021 Emory Law conference can be found here.
Just as I was ready to post this, I heard from the 2023-24 Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Bethany Wilson, that we are currently accepting articles for the Fall 2023 edition of Transactions. The articles published by Transactions typically focus on transitional business law issues and topics, including agency, antitrust, arbitration, bankruptcy, business associations, contracts, insurance, intellectual property, labor and employment, property, real estate, secured transactions, securities regulation, shareholder litigation, and tax. If you have any articles that you would be interested in having published by Transactions, please send them our way. Articles can be submitted via Scholastica or by emailing an abstract and copy of the article to [email protected].
Friday, February 3, 2023
My mind is still reeling from my trip to Lisbon last week to keynote at the Building The Future tech conference sponsored by Microsoft.
My premise was that those in the tech industry are arguably the most powerful people in the world and with great power comes great responsibility and a duty to protect human rights (which is not the global state of the law).
I challenged the audience to consider the financial price of implementing human rights by design and the societal cost of doing business as usual.
In 20 minutes, I covered AI bias and new EU regulations; the benefits and dangers of ChatGPT; the surveillance economy; the UNGPs and UN Global Compact; a new suit by Seattle’s school board against social media companies alleging harmful mental health impacts on students; potential corporate complicity with rogue governments; the upcoming Supreme Court case on Section 230 and content moderator responsibility for “radicalizing” users; and made recommendations for the governmental, business, civil society, and consumer members in the audience.
Thank goodness I talk quickly.
Here are some non-substantive observations and lessons. In a future post, I'll go in more depth about my substantive remarks.
1. Your network is critical. Claire Bright, a business and human rights rock star, recommended me based on a guest lecture I did for her class. My law students are in for a treat when she speaks with them about the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (that she helped draft) next month.
2. Your social media profile is important. Organizers looked at videos that had nothing to do with this topic to see how I present on a stage. People are always watching.
3. Sometimes you can’t fake it until you make it. This is one of the few times where I didn’t know more than my audience about parts of my presentation. I prepared so that I could properly respect my audience’s expertise. For example, I watched 10 hours of video on a tech issue to prepare one slide just in case someone asked a question during the networking sessions.
4. Speak your truth. Going to a tech conference to tell tech people about their role in human rights and then going to a corporate headquarters to do the same isn’t easy, but it’s necessary and I had no filter or restrictions. I didn't hold back talking about Microsoft-backed ChatGPT even though they invited me to Lisbon for the conference. It was an honor to speak to Microsoft employees the day after the conference with Claire, Luis Amado, former head of B Lab Europe, and Susana Guedes to discuss sustainability, ESG, diversity, and incentivizing companies and employees to do the right thing, even when it's not popular.
5. Explore and leave the hotel even when you’re tired. I was feeling run down last Friday night and wanted to stay in bed with some room service. Manuela Doutel Haghighi (one of my new favorite people) organized a dinner at an Iranian restaurant owned by a former lawyer with 6 badass women, and I now have new colleagues and collaborators.
Stay tuned for my next post where I'll cover some of my remarks.
February 3, 2023 in Compliance, Conferences, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Human Rights, International Business, Lawyering, Marcia Narine Weldon | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
The call for papers will be posted soon, but I wanted to let everyone know that The University of Tennessee College of Law will be hosting the National Business Law Scholars Conference in person (!) in Knoxville, Tennessee on June 15 and 16. As many will recall, Tennessee Law was scheduled to host the conference in 2020 and 2021, only to have to move the conference online late in the game both years because of COVID-19 infection rates. While we were happy to host our business law friends on Zoom those two years, we are truly excited to have folks come to our campus!
More coming soon. But go ahead and save those dates. Please reach out to me if you have any questions.
Saturday, January 14, 2023
An ambitious question, yes, but it was the title of the presentation I gave at the Society for Socio-Economists Annual Meeting, which closed yesterday. Thanks to Stefan Padfield for inviting me.
In addition to teaching Business Associations to 1Ls this semester and running our Transactional Skills program, I'm also teaching Business and Human Rights. I had originally planned the class for 25 students, but now have 60 students enrolled, which is a testament to the interest in the topic. My pre-course surveys show that the students fall into two distinct camps. Most are interested in corporate law but didn't know even know there was a connection to human rights. The minority are human rights die hards who haven't even taken business associations (and may only learn about it for bar prep), but are curious about the combination of the two topics. I fell in love with this relatively new legal field twelve years ago and it's my mission to ensure that future transactional lawyers have some exposure to it.
It's not just a feel-good way of looking at the world. Whether you love or hate ESG, business and human rights shows up in every factor and many firms have built practice areas around it. Just last week, the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive came into force. Like it or not, business lawyers must know something about human rights if they deal with any company that has or is part of a supply or value chain or has disclosure requirements.
At the beginning of the semester, we discuss the role of the corporation in society. In many classes, we conduct simulations where students serve as board members, government officials, institutional investors, NGO leaders, consumers, and others who may or may not believe that the role of business is business. Every year, I also require the class to examine the top 10 business and human rights topics as determined by the Institute of Human Rights and Business (IHRB). In 2022, the top issues focused on climate change:
- State Leadership-Placing people at the center of government strategies in confronting the climate crisis
- Accountable Finance- Scaling up efforts to hold financial actors to their human rights and environmental responsibilities
- Dissenting Voices- Ensuring developmental and environmental priorities do not silence land rights defenders and other critical voices
- Critical Commodities- Addressing human rights risks in mining to meet clean energy needs
- Purchasing Power- Using the leverage of renewable energy buyers to accelerate a just transition
- Responsible Exits- Constructing rights-based approaches to buildings and infrastructure mitigation and resilience
- Green Building- Building and construction industries must mitigate impacts while avoiding corruption, reducing inequality, preventing harm to communities, and providing economic opportunities
- Agricultural Transitions- Decarbonising the agriculture sector is critical to maintaining a path toward limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees
- Transforming Transport- The transport sector, including passenger and freight activity, remains largely carbon-based and currently accounts for approximately 23% total energy-related CO2 global greenhouse gas emissions
- Circular Economy- Ensure “green economy” is creating sustainable jobs and protecting workers
The 2023 list departs from the traditional type of list and looks at the people who influence the decisionmakers in business. That's the basis of the title of this post and yesterday's presentation. The 2023 Top Ten are:
- Strategic Enablers- Scrutinizing the role of management consultants in business decisions that harm communities and wider society. Many of our students work outside of the law as consultants or will work alongside consultants. With economic headwinds and recessionary fears dominating the headlines, companies and law firms are in full layoff season. What factors should advisors consider beyond financial ones, especially if the work force consists of primarily lower-paid, low-skilled labor, who may not be able to find new employment quickly? Or should financial considerations prevail?
- Capital Providers- Holding investors to account for adverse impacts on people- More than 220 investors collectively representing US$30 trillion in assets under management have signed a public statement acknowledging the importance of human rights impacts in investment and global prosperity. Many financial firms also abide by the Equator Principles, a benchmark that helps those involved in project finance to determine environmental and social impacts from financing. Our students will serve as counsel to banks, financial firms, private equity, and venture capitalists. Many financial institutions traditionally focus on shareholder maximization but this could be an important step in changing that narrative.
- Legal Advisors- Establishing norms and responsible performance standards for lawyers and others who advise companies. ABA Model Rule 2.1 guides lawyers to have candid conversations that "may refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral, economic, social and political factors, that may be relevant to the client's situation." Business and human rights falls squarely in that category. Additionally, the ABA endorsed the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ten years ago and released model supply chain contractual clauses related to human rights in 2021. Last Fall, the International Bar Association's Annual Meeting had a whole track directed to business and human rights issues. Our students advise on sanctions, bribery, money laundering, labor relations, and a host of other issues that directly impact human rights. I'm glad to see this item on the Top 10 list.
- Risk Evaluators- Reforming the role of credit rating agencies and those who determine investment worthiness of states and companies. Our students may have heard of S&P, Moody's, & Fitch but may not know of the role those entities played in the 2008 financial crisis and the role they play now when looking at sovereign debt. If the analysis from those entities are flawed or laden with conflicts of interest or lack of accountability, those ratings can indirectly impact the government's ability to provide goods and services for the most vulnerable citizens.
- Systems Builders- Embedding human rights considerations in all stages of computer technology. If our students work in house or for governments, how can they advise tech companies working with AI, surveillance, social media, search engines and the spread of (mis)nformation? What ethical responsibilities do tech companies have and how can lawyers help them wrestle with these difficult issues?
- City Shapers- Strengthening accountability and transformation in real estate finance and construction. Real estate constitutes 60% of global assets. Our students need to learn about green finance, infrastructure spending, and affordable housing and to speak up when there could be human rights impacts in the projects they are advising on.
- Public Persuaders- Upholding standards so that advertising and PR companies do not undermine human rights. There are several legal issues related to advertising and marketing. Our students can also play a role in advising companies, in accordance with ethical rule 2.1, about persuaders presenting human rights issues and portraying controversial topics related to gender, race, indigenous peoples, climate change in a respectful and honest manner.
- Corporate Givers- Aligning philanthropic priorities with international standards and the realities of the most vulnerable. Many large philanthropists look at charitable giving as investments (which they are) and as a way to tackle intractable social problems. Our students can add a human rights perspective as advisors, counsel, and board members to ensure that organizations give to lesser known organizations that help some of the forgotten members of society. Additionally, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer note that a shared-value approach, "generat[es] economic value in a way that also produces value for society by addressing its challenges. A shared value approach reconnects company success with social progress. Firms can do this in three distinct ways: by reconceiving products and markets, redefining productivity in the value chain, and building supportive industry clusters at the company's locations." Lawyers can and should play a role in this.
- Business Educators- Mainstreaming human rights due diligence into management, legal, and other areas of academic training. Our readers teaching in business and law schools and focusing on ESG can discuss business and human rights under any of the ESG factors. If you don't know where to start, the ILO has begun signing MOUs with business schools around the world to increase the inclusion of labor rights in business school curricula. If you're worried that it's too touchy feely to discuss or that these topics put you in the middle of the ESG/anti-woke debate, remember that many of these issues relate directly to enterprise risk management- a more palatable topic for most business and legal leaders.
- Information Disseminators- Ensuring that journalists, media, and social media uphold truth and public interest. A couple of years ago, "fake news" was on the Top 10 and with all that's going on in the world with lack of trust in the media and political institutions, lawyers can play a role in representing reporters and media outlets. Similarly, lawyers can explain the news objectively and help serve as fact checkers when appearing in news outlets.
If you've made it to the end of this post, you're either nodding in agreement or shaking your head violently in disagreement. I expect many of my students will feel the same, and I encourage that disagreement. But it's my job to expose students to these issues. As they learn about ESG from me and the press, it's critical that they disagree armed with information from all sides.
So can the next generation of lawyers save the world? Absolutely yes, if they choose to.
January 14, 2023 in Business Associations, Business School, Compliance, Conferences, Consulting, Contracts, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Financial Markets, Human Rights, International Business, International Law, Law Firms, Law School, Lawyering, Management, Marcia Narine Weldon, Private Equity, Shareholders, Stefan J. Padfield, Teaching, Technology, Venture Capital | Permalink | Comments (0)