Friday, January 26, 2024
We just finished our second week of the semester and I’m already exhausted, partly because I just submitted the first draft of a law review article that’s 123 pages with over 600 footnotes on a future-proof framework for AI regulation to the University of Tennessee Journal of Business Law. I should have stuck with my original topic of legal ethics and AI.
But alas, who knew so much would happen in 2023? I certainly didn’t even though I spent the entire year speaking on AI to lawyers, businesspeople, and government officials. So, I decided to change my topic in late November as it became clearer that the EU would finally take action on the EU AI Act and that the Brussels effect would likely take hold requiring other governments and all the big players in the tech space to take notice and sharpen their own agendas.
But I’m one of the lucky ones because although I’m not a techie, I’m a former chief privacy officer, and spend a lot of time thinking about things like data protection and cybersecurity, especially as it relates to AI. And I recently assumed the role of GC of an AI startup. So, because I’m tech-adjacent, I’ve spent hours every day immersed in the legal and tech issues related to large and small language models, generative AI (GAI), artificial general intelligence (AGI), APIs, singularity, the Turing test, and the minutiae of potential regulation around the world. I’ve become so immersed that I actually toggled between listening to the outstanding Institute for Well-Being In Law virtual conference and the FTC’s 4-hour tech summit yesterday with founders, journalists, economists, and academics. Adding more fuel to the fire, just before the summit kicked off, the FTC announced an inquiry into the partnerships and investments of Alphabet, Inc., Amazon.com, Inc., Anthropic PBC, Microsoft Corp., and OpenAI, Inc. Between that and the NY Times lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft alleging billions in damages for purported IP violations, we are living in interesting times.
If you’ve paid attention to the speeches at Davos, you know that it was all AI all the time. I follow statements from the tech leaders like other people follow their fantasy football stats or NCAA brackets. Many professors, CEOs, and general consumers, on the other hand, have been caught by surprise by the very rapid acceleration of the developments, particularly related to generative AI.
However, now more members of the general public are paying attention to the concept of deepfakes and demanding legislation in part because the supernova that is Taylor Swift has been victimized by someone creating fake pornographic images of her. We should be even more worried about the real and significant threat to the integrity of the fifty global elections and occurring in 2024 where members of the public may be duped into believing that political candidates have said things that they did not, such as President Biden telling people not to vote in the New Hampshire primary and to save their votes for November.
For those of us who teach in law schools in the US and who were either grading or recovering from grading in December, we learned a few days before Christmas that Lexis was rolling out its AI solution for 2Ls and 3Ls. Although I had planned to allow and even teach my students the basics of prompt engineering and using AI as a tool (and not a substitute for lawyering) in my business associations, contract drafting, and business and human rights class, now I have to also learn Lexis’ solution too. I feel for those professors who still ban the use of generative AI or aren’t equipped to teach students how to use it ethically and effectively.
Even so, I’m excited and my students are too. The legal profession is going to change dramatically over the next two years, and it’s our job as professors to prepare our students. Thompson Reuters, the ABA, and state courts have made it clear that we can’t sit by on the sidelines hoping that this fad will pass.
Professionally, I have used AI to redraft an employee handbook in my client’s voice (using my employment law knowledge, of course), prepare FAQs for another client’s code of conduct in a very specialized industry, prepare interview questions for my podcast, and draft fact patterns for simulations for conferences and in class. I’ve also tested its ability to draft NDAs and other simple agreements using only ChatGPT. It didn’t do so well there, but that’s because I know what I was looking for. And when I gave additional instructions, for example, about drafting a mutual indemnification clause and then a separate supercap, it did surprisingly well. But I know what should be in these agreements. The average layperson does not, something that concerns Chief Justice Roberts and should concern us all.
How have you changed your teaching with the advent of generative AI? If you’re already writing or teaching about AI or just want more resources, join the 159 law professors in a group founded by Professors April Dawson and Dan Linna. As for my law review article, I’m sure a lot of it will be obsolete by the time it’s published, but it should still be an interesting, if not terrifying, read for some.
January 26, 2024 in Business Associations, Compliance, Consulting, Contracts, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Human Rights, Intellectual Property, International Law, Jobs, Law Firms, Law School, Lawyering, Legislation, Marcia Narine Weldon, Research/Scholarhip, Science, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, January 15, 2024
"Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. "
-Martin Luther King Jr., “Facing the Challenge of a New Age,” Dec. 3 1956, Montgomery, Alabama
These words from Dr. King have meaning for me today and every day. Many lawyers and law professors are strivers, and I count myself among them. We understand the burdens and joys of our roles and pursue them with vigor. Having recently stepped back from an interim administrative role at UT Law, I feel more free to refocus on my instructional mission.
A tweet from a law prof colleague over the weekend asks a question that resonates.
I just love this observation and the related question! I am not on social media as much as I used to be, but when I am, I often am rewarded by tidbits like this. Thank you, David, for commenting and asking.
I did reply. FWIW, my reply was "For me, it’s about setting limits and persevering. There’s always more one can do. But we need sleep and time away to be most effective. And so we must sleep and save things for another day!" Other replies offered similar and other personal wisdom.
Our roles as law professors--if we want to do the job well--involve focused attention and extensive effort. Teaching (with all that entails from course design to assessment), researching, writing, editing, and performing service to benefit the school, the university, the community, the academy, and the profession can be a heavy load to bear. Managing it with self care can be a struggle. That struggle is real, and we should, as David does, acknowledge and address it. After all, Dr. King also is quoted as having said the words set forth below in a sermon, “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” in April 1967 at the New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois.
You know, a lot of people don’t love themselves. And they go through life with deep and haunting emotional conflicts. So the length of life means that you must love yourself. And you know what loving yourself also means? It means that you’ve got to accept yourself.
Words of wisdom. And so we plod on, endeavoring to do our life's work well while also accepting and loving ourselves. The latter should not be a burden, but rather a commitment to self leadership through self love that enables us to do our best work.
Thank you, Dr. King, for helping lead us through, even years after your untimely death. And again thank you, David, for your resonant post.
Monday, December 18, 2023
I was honored to be invited recently to write a column for our local bar magazine, DICTA, entitled "Privileged to Be a Lawyer." My contribution, Joy in Lawyering, can be found here. It took no time at all to write this short piece. The words came straight from my heart through my fingers to the keyboard. The punchline (for those who don't care to read the entire column): "Truly, I know of few career choices that could have given me so much." I can only hope that many of you feel the same way.
Monday, November 20, 2023
The title of this post is the name of the advanced business associations law course I will teach in the spring. I got the idea for this course after talking to students about decreasing enrollments in advanced business law courses. Although they attributed much of the decrease to grade shopping, they also noted that they and their peers often base course registration decisions on course names (from which they make assumptions) without reading the course descriptions. So, a course named "Advanced Business Associations," no matter how creatively it is taught (and I teach it as a discussion seminar), is not likely to attract positive attention. When I floated using the HBO Max series Succession as a jumping off point for a discussion seminar on business law, they responded favorably. The rest is, as they say, history. The proof of the pudding will be in the registration numbers.
The idea for the Succession-oriented course came to me quite naturally. I already was writing an essay on fiduciary duties relating to the series--forthcoming in the DePaul Law Review in a special volume focusing on Succession. So, it was only a small jump to think about teaching more broadly from the many business law situations in the four seasons of the show.
Some of my friends from West Publishing heard about my teaching plans when they were visiting UT Law recently. They mentioned the course to their colleague, Leslie Y. Garfield Tenzer, who produces a podcast for West Academic, Legal Tenzer: Casual Conversations on Noteworthy Legal Topics. Leslie reached out and asked me to record an episode with her on the series and my course, which I recently did. The podcast was released last week. You can find it here.
My Succession course syllabus is still under construction. If you have a favorite episode that you would like me to include--one that illustrates concepts from business governance or finance--let me know. I admit that I am excited to teach from the material in Succession, a series that I enjoyed watching.
Monday, November 13, 2023
As I reflect on the current contentious world environment, I cannot help but note the impact that electronic communication has on maintaining quality personal and professional relationships. Although it sometimes may seem that business law professors are less impacted by domestic and global events, our work's engagement with broader economic, social, and political issues and our individual intersectionalities can keep us in the throes of it all. As someone who cares deeply about (and believes in the power of) human relationships and interpersonal communication (leading me to co-design and co-teach small group communication course for our leadership curriculum), I offer some food for thought here.
We all enjoy free speech. And I respect that right deeply. I bear a tattoo on my body (an open "speech bubble" on my right scapula) as a symbol of that belief.
I also believe in the careful, considerate exercise of that important right. I have written a bit about this before, in another blog space, arguing for well considered communication. My conclusion in that post?
Just because a person can say something in the exercise of their rights to free speech, does not mean that the person should say something. And if someone chooses to say something, the way in which the communication is made can make all the difference. Through mindful collegiality, Ubuntu, civility, and other conduct reinforcing inclusion, a lawyer-leader can motivate action and loyalty in and outside their law practice.
Although I wrote that post back in February of 2022, what I say in the post still rings true to me.
Electronic communication seems to be an enabler of suboptimal behaviors in this regard. I am, of course, not the first to observe this. But I see relationships falling apart right and left (political pun acknowledged) because of people's choices in using electronic communication, especially (although not exclusively) in group settings. Most recently, as some of you readers know, this has been happening on the Association of American Law Schools Section on Women in Legal Education listserv. This has saddened me. That group, and the listserv that binds us, has historically been an inclusive space. I hope we can revive that ethos of inclusion, even as long-term members of the section determine to disengage from communication in that forum.
There is so much information on the Internet about etiquette in electronic communication. In the course I taught this semester, my co-instructor and I assigned some of those publications. We had a robust discussion with the students. Some expressed their surprise at the way certain words and phrases in emails and text messages may impact the reader in unintended ways. We discussed whether to communicate electronically at all, and if so, how. We assigned out-of-class work on related issues. I felt good about the information we conveyed and the discussions we had. That positive feeling was borne out when one of the students in the course used the material in another course (Corporate Finance) in which I also am the instructor.
I wish we had covered listservs in our course. I plan to add that to future iterations of the course. I have discovered that many organizations, undoubtedly struggling with the threat that listservs will disrupt group relations, have formalized rules about their usage. This seems like a sensible approach to help avoid (or at least limit) the disrespect that may be shown to listserv managers and moderators in the event of a conflict over the appropriate use of the listserv. For example, the American Bankruptcy Institute has listserv guidelines. They provide instruction on best practices (including a statement on topic scope) and also on prohibited practices. Among the prohibited practices is one that seems relevant to communications I now notice more frequently.
Subjects Generating More Heat Than Light
Occasionally, a subject will come up that generates lots of posts because of its controversial nature. If the discussion threatens to overwhelm our mailboxes or becomes nasty, we will ask that those interested in discussing it further take the discussion off the list.
Do not challenge or attack others. The discussions on the lists are meant to stimulate conversation, not to create contention. Let others have their say, just as you may.
The guidelines also include instructions on brevity, advise users how to alert readers to message content and length, and caution folks to "[o]nly send a message to the entire list when it contains information that everyone can benefit from." Other websites I reviewed offered similar guidance (in some cases using some of the same wording).
I offer all of this up for what it may be worth to you. I am committing myself to working on being the best group member I can be because I value my relationships with members of the groups to which I belong. These people have helped me ride over many bumps in my personal and professional lives over the years. They have supported me in handling stress caused by deaths, recessions, bullying/verbal abuse, a global financial crisis, a global pandemic, a number of wars and political conflicts, and much more. I know my students will benefit more from my teaching if I can manage that stress. I also aim to teach them some of what I have learned about the importance of relationships as opportunities arise.
Moreover, as I earlier noted here on the BLPB, I am writing an essay that connects with this topic based on a presentation I gave at the annual Business Law Prof Blog symposium, "Connecting the Threads," last month. The essay, Business Lawyer Leadership: Valuing Relationships, will cover the connection of business law and lawyering to relationship building and maintenance. It will be published in a forthcoming (spring 2024) volume of Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law that will feature works presented at the symposium together with faculty and student commentary. I will post on the essay and the volume once online access is available.
Friday, November 10, 2023
I’m a law professor, the general counsel of a medtech company, a podcaster, and I design and deliver courses on a variety of topics as a consultant. I think about and use generative AI daily and it’s really helped boost my productivity. Apparently, I’m unusual among lawyers. According to a Wolter’s Kluwers Future Ready Lawyer report that surveyed 700 legal professionals in the US and EU, only 15% of lawyers are using generative AI right now but 73% expect to use it next year. 43% of those surveyed see it as an opportunity, 25% see it as a threat, and 26% see it as both.
If you’re planning to be part of the 73% and you practice in the US, here are some ethical implications with citations to select model rules. A few weeks ago, I posted here about business implications that you and your clients should consider.
- How can you stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in AI technology and best practices, ensuring that you continue to adapt and evolve as a legal professional in an increasingly technology-driven world? Rule 1.1 (Competence)
- How can AI tools be used effectively and ethically to enhance your practice, whether in legal research, document review, contract drafting, or litigation support, while maintaining high professional standards? Will it be malpractice NOT to use GAI in the future? Rule 1.1 (Competence), Comment 8, duty to understand the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology; Rule 1.3 (Diligence)
- How can you obtain and document informed consent from clients when using AI tools in your practice, ensuring that they understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives associated with these technologies? Rule 1.4 (Communication); Rule 1.6 (Confidentiality of Information)
- How can you obtain and document informed consent from clients when using AI tools in your practice, ensuring that they understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives associated with these technologies? Rule 1.4 (Communication); Rule 1.6 (Confidentiality of Information). Tip- Make sure your engagement letter discusses the use of technology and specifically addresses the responsible use of GAI. If needed, amend your engagement letter. Adequately anonymize client information in your prompts. Make sure to opt out of data sets. Check the terms of service and privacy policies of your AI tools.
- How do you rethink billing clients and what’s ethical if you have reliable AI models that can do some work in a fraction of the time? Is it still ethical to bill by the hour or do you use a flat rate? Rule 1.5 (Fees)
- How can you effectively explain and defend the use of AI-generated evidence, analysis, or insights in court, demonstrating the validity and reliability of the methods and results to judges and opposing counsel? Rule 3.3 Candor Toward the Tribunal; Rule 4.1 Truthfulness in Statements to Others
- What measures should you implement to supervise and train your staff, including paralegals and support personnel, in the responsible use of AI tools, ensuring that ethical and professional standards are maintained throughout the practice? Rule 5.1 (Responsibilities of Partners, Managers, and Supervisory Lawyers); Rule 5.3 (Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistance)
Then there are the harder questions:
- How many lawyers and legal professionals will you replace?
- How many should you replace?
- Who and how will you retrain and upskill?
- Should your firm be developing your own large language models as some are already doing? What are the risks? The 2022 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report found that accuracy is the top barrier preventing many lawyers from adopting AI. Some insurance brokers have indicated the existing GAI tools are not fit for law practice because of reliability, accuracy, confidentiality, and copyright concerns,
If you're ready to take the deep dive or maybe just dip your toe in the AI waters, here are some resources to help you get started on the journey. Of course, with the way things are changing so rapidly on the legislative and tech development front, this list could be relatively useless in the next few weeks.
Are you using generative AI in the classroom? How are you preparing the next generation of lawyers? If you’re a practicing lawyer, are you ready to be part of the 15% this year or the 73% next year?
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.
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
It's been little while since I posted here, but long-time readers of theis blog will not be surprised by the topic. I am happy to say that, after a lot of work with an exceptional co-author who shares my concerns, Professor Samantha Prince from Penn State Dickinson Law, we have an article documenting the problems with mislabeling LLCs and providing a variety of solutions. I have been writing on this for nearly 15 years, and unfortunately, not a lot has changed.
The article, An LLC By Any Other Name Is Still Not A Corporation, is now available on SSRN, here, and has been submitted for publication. In the meantime, we welcome thoughts and comments.
Here is the abstract:
Business entities have their own unique characteristics. Entrepreneurs and lawyers who represent them select an entity structure based on the business’s current and projected needs. The differing needs of each business span across myriad topics such as capital requirements, taxation, employee benefits, and personal liability protection. These choices present advantages and disadvantages many of which are built into the type of entity chosen.
It is critically important that people, especially lawyers, recognize the difference between entities such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs). It is an egregious, nearly unforgivable, error in our view to call an LLC a “limited liability corporation.” In part, this is because lawyers should try to get things right, but it is also because conflating the two entity types can lead to unpredictable outcomes. Perhaps more important, it could lead to incorrect and unjust outcomes. A prime example lies within the veil piercing context.
Lest you think that this is not a prevalent occurrence, there are nearly 9,000 references to the phrase “limited liability corporation” in court cases. Practicing attorneys are not the only people messing this up. Judges, legislators, federal and state agency officials, and media pundits are also getting it wrong. Most recently, Justice Samuel Alito scribed an op-ed that was published in the Wall Street Journal where he misused the term. Even the TV show Jeopardy! allowed as correct the answer, “What is a limited liability corporation?,” during one episode.
Enter artificial intelligence. AI relies on information it can find, and therefore AI generators, like ChatGPT, replicate the incorrect term. With a proliferation of users and programs using ChatGPT and other AI, the use of incorrect terminology will balloon and exacerbate the problem. Perhaps one day, AI can be used to correct this problem, but that cannot happen until there is widespread understanding of the distinct nature of LLCs and a commitment to precise language when talking about them.
This article informs of the looming harms of misidentifying and conflating LLCs with corporations. Additionally, it presents a warning together with ideas on how to assist with correcting the use of incorrect terminology in all contexts surrounding LLCs.
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)
Sunday, July 16, 2023
I am a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Leadership. This year, members of the have been hosting a series of Zoom forums on teaching. The remaining forums (although more may be scheduled) are set forth below.
Wednesday, July 19, 2023 – 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. EST – Joan Heminway, Interim Director, Institute for Professional Leadership and Rick Rose Distinguished Professor of Law, The University of Tennessee College of Law ,and Martin Brinkley, Dean and Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina School of Law
Monday, September 25, 2023 – 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. EST – Lee Fisher, Dean, Cleveland State University College of Law
Wednesday, October 18, 2023 – 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. EST – Kellye Testy, President and CEO, LSAC, and Hillary Sale, Associate Dean for Strategy, Georgetown University
You can register for a session by clicking on the link for that session. As you can see, I am cohosting Wednesday's forum, which will feature two adjunct professors who have worked with full-time faculty to design and implement law school leadership courses.
Business law and leadership are naturally related. The Section on Leadership may be something you are interested in following. If so (and you are a law professor at an AALS member school), you can register to be a member of the section here after logging into your AALS account.
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
Monday, June 26, 2023
The University of Tennessee College of Law's business law journal, Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law, recently published my essay, "The Fiduciary-ness of Business Associations." You can find the essay here. This essay--or parts of it, anyway--has been rattling around in my brain for a bit. It is nice on a project like this to be able to get the words out on a page and release all that tension building up inside as you fashion your approach.
The abstract for the essay is included below.
This essay offers a window and perspective on recent fiduciary-related legislative developments in business entity law and identifies and reflects in limited part on related professional responsibility questions impacting lawyers advising business entities and their equity owners. In addition—and perhaps more pointedly—the essay offers commentary on legal change and the legislative process for state law business associations amendments in and outside the realm of fiduciary duties. To accomplish these purposes, the essay first provides a short description of the position of fiduciary duties in U.S. statutory business entity law and offers a brief account of 21st century business entity legislation that weakens the historically central role of fiduciary duties in unincorporated business associations. It then reflects on these changes as a matter of theory, policy, and practice before briefly summarizing and offering related reflections in concluding.
Although I always welcome thoughts on my work, I am especially interested in your thoughts on this essay. It relates to all three of my activities as a law professor--my scholarship, teaching, and service. And I know that fiduciary duty waivers and opt-ins have different impacts in different business sectors . . . . So, let me know what you think.
June 26, 2023 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, Entrepreneurship, Ethics, Joan Heminway, Lawyering, Legislation, LLCs, Management, Partnership, Research/Scholarhip, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (4)
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.
* * *
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.
Saturday, June 3, 2023
Here are some scary statistics that I shared from the most recent ALM Mental Health and Substance Abuse Survey.
If you’re a law firm leader or work with legal professionals in any capacity, please read the report and take action. If you can’t get rid of the billable hour (which would solve a lot of issues), think about how you allocate work, respond to unreasonable client demands, and reward toxic perfectionism and overwork.
✅ 71% of the nearly 3,000 lawyers surveyed said they had anxiety
✅ 45% said their morale has not changed since the pandemic
✅ 38% said they dealt with depression
✅ 31% struggled with another mental health issue
✅ 44% said they knew co-workers who struggled with alcoholism
✅ 15% said they knew someone in the profession who died by suicide in the past two years
✅ Over 50% of said they “felt a sense of failure or self-doubt, lost emotion, felt increasingly cynical and negative, and had decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment”
✅ A third said they felt “helpless, trapped, detached, or alone in the world.”
✅ More than 60% said they felt overwhelmed, irritable and exhausted or struggled to concentrate
✅ 28.1% used all of their vacation time, but only 31.1% said they could fully disconnect
✅ More than 76% of lawyers blamed their work environment for these problems
✅ 68% cited billable hour pressures
✅ 67% cited the inability to disconnect
✅ 54% cited lack of sleep
✅ 51% of lawyers said they would feel comfortable talking to an offsite professional
✅ Only 33% said they thought that they could take a leave of absence to address their mental health
✅ More than 72% indicated that remote work improved their quality of life
✅ 60% said that some amount of remote work improved their physical well-being.
😮 50% of the lawyers surveyed indicated that the profession is in a mental health crisis.
I see these issues with my students and with the lawyers I coach. Everyone may not have the passion I have to change the profession, but we can all do our part. So what can you do about it? Here are some resources to get you started.
Friday, May 5, 2023
A few months ago, I asked whether people in the tech industry were the most powerful people in the world. This is part II of that post.
I posed that question after speaking at a tech conference in Lisbon sponsored by Microsoft. They asked me to touch on business and human rights and I presented the day after the company announced a ten billion dollar investment in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. Back then, we were amazed at what ChatGPT 3.5 could do. Members of the audience were excited and terrified- and these were tech people.
And that was before the explosion of ChatGPT4.
I've since made a similar presentation about AI, surveillance, social media companies to law students, engineering students, and business people. In the last few weeks, over 10,000 people including Elon Musk, have called for a 6-month pause in AI training systems. If you don't trust Musk's judgment (and the other scientists and futurists), trust the "Godfather of AI," who recently quit Google so he could speak out on the dangers, even though Google has put out its own whitepaper on AI development. Watch the 60 Minutes interview with the CEO of Google.
Just yesterday, the White House held a summit with key AI stakeholders to talk about AI governance.
Between AI-generated photos winning competitions, musicians creating songs simulating real artists' voices, students using generative AI to turn in essays that fool professors, and generative AI's ability to hallucinate (come up with completely wrong answers that look correct), what can we as lawyers do? Are our jobs at risk? Barrons has put out a list. IBM has paused hiring because it believes it can gain efficiencies though AI. Goldman Sachs has said that 300 million jobs might be affected by this technology. I'm at a conference for entrepreneurs and the CEO of a 100-million dollar company said that he has reassigned and is re-skilling 90% of his marketing team because he can use AI for most of what they do.
Should we be excited or terrified? I've been stressing to lawyers and my students that we need to understand this technology to help develop the regulations around it as well to wrestle with the thorny legal and ethical issues that arise. Here are ten questions, courtesy of ChatGPT4, that lawyers should ask themselves:
- Do I understand the basic principles and mechanics of AI, including machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing, to make informed decisions about its use in my legal practice?
- How can AI tools be used effectively and ethically to enhance my practice, whether in legal research, document review, contract drafting, or litigation support, while maintaining high professional standards?
- Are the AI tools and technologies I use compliant with relevant data protection and privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, and do they adequately protect client confidentiality and sensitive information?
- How can I ensure that the AI-driven tools I utilize are unbiased, transparent, and fair, and what steps can I take to mitigate potential algorithmic biases that may compromise the objectivity and fairness of my legal work?
- How can I obtain and document informed consent from clients when using AI tools in my practice, ensuring that they understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives associated with these technologies?
- What are the intellectual property implications of using AI, particularly concerning AI-generated content, inventions, and potential copyright or trademark issues that may arise?
- How can I assess and manage potential liability and accountability issues stemming from the use of AI tools, including understanding the legal and ethical ramifications of AI-generated outputs in my practice?
- How can I effectively explain and defend the use of AI-generated evidence, analysis, or insights in court, demonstrating the validity and reliability of the methods and results to judges and opposing counsel?
- What measures should I implement to supervise and train my staff, including paralegals and support personnel, in the responsible use of AI tools, ensuring that ethical and professional standards are maintained throughout the practice?
- How can I stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in AI technology and best practices, ensuring that I continue to adapt and evolve as a legal professional in an increasingly technology-driven world?
Do you use ChatGPT or any other other generative AI in your work? Can you answer these questions? I'll be talking about many of these issues at the Connecting the Threads symposium and would love to get your insights as I develop my paper.
May 5, 2023 in Compliance, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Financial Markets, Human Rights, Jobs, Lawyering, Legislation, Management, Marcia Narine Weldon, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, March 13, 2023
This just in from friend-of-the-BLPB Christina Sautter:
The Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center seeks visiting or adjunct professors for the 2023-2024 academic year to teach Business Associations I (fall and spring) and Business Associations II (spring). Additional courses, such as Mergers & Acquisitions or Securities Regulation will also be considered. Interested individuals should email Pamela Hancock at [email protected] for more information, as well as to obtain a link and instructions for uploading a CV and cover letter.
LSU is committed to providing equal opportunity for all qualified persons in admission to, participation in, or employment in the programs and activities which the University operates without regard to race, creed, color, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, sex, national origin, age, mental or physical disability, or veteran's status. LSU is committed to diversity and is an equal opportunity/ equal access employer. LSU believes diversity, equity, and inclusion enrich the educational experience of our students, faculty, and staff, and are necessary to prepare all people to thrive personally and professionally in a global society.
Monday, February 27, 2023
I teach business law courses that involve planning and drafting in connection with business transactions. I know many of you do, too. My question is, how do you teach your students to find drafting precedents (if that is part of your teaching) for transactional business law projects/tasks? Do you advise students to use forms or to walk back provisions in fully negotiated agreements?
In our capstone 3L planning and drafting course at UT Law, Representing Enterprises, I let students take their own path in finding drafting precedents and ask them to report out their process to the class. We talk through the pros and cons of their individual approaches, which I capture on the whiteboard. My board notes from a recent class (during which we talked through how students located precedent bylaws for a closely held--preferably Tennessee--corporation) are included below.
Although Bloomberg Law was a popular resource for students who shared their process in this particular class meeting, the Securities and Exchange Commission's website and Google also got some love. In the ensuing discussions, a student also mentioned Westlaw's Practical Law as a resource, although that's not reflected in this picture.
In other advanced business law planning/drafting courses, I invite representatives from Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw into my classroom to train my students in how to find precedent documents (and other transactional resources) using their database's search tools. One student involved in the discussion reflected in the photo above was enrolled in one of those advanced courses with me in the fall (and also had been a student in our transactional business law clinic). He was among the folks who started his search process with Bloomberg Law. His classmates told me he had been teaching them some of what he had learned in my course and the law clinic! #peerteaching--loved it!
How do you help students find drafting precedents (and in what business law and legal education contexts)? I am always willing to learn new methods and tricks.
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Belmont University (my employer) is seeking an Assistant Professor and Program Director of Legal Studies.
This professor will sit across campus from me, in our College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences ("CLASS"), but I will likely interact with them because my Business Law 1 and 2 classes feature in the legal studies major, in addition to the business majors on campus. Happy to discuss Belmont University with anyone who may be interested.
You can apply for the position (by March 15) here.