There are many differences between technology and law; high among them is that the former may change almost daily, while the latter is at the convenience of the lawmakers. It’s a hare versus tortoise race, only it’s the hare—the technology—that wins.
Such are the opening lines of a story about an aggressive global social media company we recently wrote about, Spredfast, that’s now under new legal leadership. Our colorful writer Neil Cote dashed them off, and I’m recycling his words because I couldn’t put it any better. But I might add something.
Which is that, though technology and law seem at odds, in practice they are becoming inseparable companions. In dozens of conversations with lawyers in myriad industries, we have heard this message again and again, and it comes across strongly in this edition.
Take Joseph Perkins. The former Cummins Inc. attorney introduced streamlining technology to NIBCO Inc. after joining the global manufacturer of valves, fittings and flow products in 2015. Working with NIBCOs IT department, the legal department soon became paperless. Now people tell him, “We can’t believe how fast the legal team is turning around the contracts.”
Yet it’s not just that lawyers are making use of new soft- and hardware. They are also increasingly prominent at companies for which technology is a focus.
Sonny Cave recently told us the company he works for, ON Semiconductor Corporation, probably has a chip in every electronic product on the shelves at Best Buy.
Heidi Young lives in the less tangle work of media. As the deputy general counsel and executive vice president for Re:Sources USA—the communications company behind the devious “Meyham” character featured in the Allstate advertising campaign—she’s always on her toes.
“Just when I think I’ve seen it all, someone decides to create a campaign involving building a climbing wall in Times Square, or a campaign involving writing, producing and posting real-time videos throughout the Super Bowl,” she says.
“Just when I think I’ve seen it all, someone decides to create a campaign involving building a climbing wall in Times Square, or a campaign involving writing, producing and posting real-time videos throughout the Super Bowl.” – Heidi Young
Despite the considerable legal challenges for the once magazine photographer, who counts a cover photo of the Ramones among her accomplishments, Young says she thrives at helping creative business owners “make it happen” without legal repercussions. Still, the work can be relentless for her and attorneys in similar positions.
“You won’t find technology taking a breather,” Cote wrote in the story on Spredfast.
And so long known for their conservatism, corporate lawyers are becoming advocates for ice breaking—“disruptors” in the most positive sense of the word.
As David Vetter of Tech Data Corporation modernized his legal department, he recalls people saying, “We’re getting work done, clients are happy with us, why are you going to throw all of that up in the air and change things?”
Initially he jokes there was a lot “cajoling, encouraging, and beating about the head and shoulders” to get a new approach enacted, but he ultimately found that “if Tech Data is easier to do business with, the rest falls into place.”
If none of this sounds enticing, you might read our story on Brian Burke of the Calgary Flames, in which the notoriously hard-nosed GM gives another side of his often told story.