Erin serves as the US Co-Chair for DLA Piper’s Technology Sector and Chair for the firm’s International Trade Commission Practice. She concentrates in civil trial practice in federal courts with an emphasis on patent litigation and International Trade Commission (ITC) proceedings.
Erin is one of the participants in the firm’s upcoming Global Technology Summit. Launched in 2008, the award-winning Summit has brought business leaders, visionary technologists, pioneering entrepreneurs and in-house counsels from leading tech companies together to share insights and analysis into the emerging technology and legal trends affecting businesses today. For the first time, this year’s event will be held virtually, giving participants a front-row seat to candid conversations with some of the tech industry’s top leaders.
- DLA Piper’s Global Technology Summit aims to provide insight on emerging technology and legal trends affecting businesses today. As US Co-Chair for DLA Piper’s Technology Sector, what trends are you closely following and why?
First, I’m closely following the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI), privacy and technology policy. The technology sector builds the tools that influence nearly every aspect of daily life and this presents both an extraordinary opportunity for growth while also putting the sector under a high amount of pressure. Policymakers and users of technology are increasingly scrutinizing the ways in which data is managed in new innovations.
For example, AI technology can help companies conduct a first review of job applications and is seen as one method to help eliminate human unconscious bias. But algorithms are created by people and could contain bias of their own. Therefore, it is important that a data-based solution receive the same scrutiny that a human might to ensure a fair and equitable process. On the privacy side, it is challenging to balance the opportunities for emerging technology applications with the additional privacy risks that are created with technology innovation. The new usage for emerging technology raises important policy questions that are being asked today and the answers will shape the next 100 years.
Second, I’m interested in best practices for recruiting and retaining talent in the technology sector, building strong teams across geographies and growing business in a virtual workplace. Developments in these areas are relevant for law firms, legal departments and the business clients they serve. I’d like to understand some of the better remote practices, which have become so prevalent this year and that lowered costs and improved efficiency for law firms, while also creating opportunities in the remote workforce because they remove barriers to collaboration.
- You will be moderating a conversation with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of The Atlantic and former editor of WIRED You’re a former journalist yourself – what do you most look forward to discussing with Nick?
I’m very focused on AI, privacy and technology policy, and I’m looking forward to hearing Nick’s perspective on these issues. Before he left WIRED in 2020, Nick wrote a fascinating piece called, “A Nameless Hiker and the Case the Internet Can’t Crack,” about a hiker who died on the Appalachian Trail in 2017 after meeting new people and making friends on his journey. After he died, no one could figure out who he was.
The release of the article coincided with the US beginning to grapple with issues of surveillance and the privacy implications of using it on the public and in public spaces. In his article, Nick added to the policy dialogue by raising some fascinating questions about an individual’s identity and the ability to erase or change yourself in this day and age – using the hiker’s story as a key example. I want to continue this conversation with Nick to hear more about what he learned in the process of investigating and writing this article and what has changed since.
- Your practice focuses on patent litigation including International Trade Commission (ITC) proceedings. What recent activity in this space do you think will most impact the technology sector in 2021 and beyond?
One of the biggest challenges facing technology companies is enforcement by the ITC as it relates to trade policy as well as intellectual property (IP) infringement. As a federal agency, the ITC serves several roles including litigation and outside of litigation, such as fielding complaints around IP infringement. In other words, a non-practicing entity – a person or company that has a patent or patent rights but doesn’t produce or sell the patented product – can file for restrictions for IP infringement. When there is a suspected violation of the trade statue, the ITC will launch a fast-paced investigation. Many technology companies are the primary targets for non-practicing entities, meaning the technology sector overall has been responding to expensive ITC assertion after assertion.
I believe technology companies and elected officials will be paying close attention to ITC policy and potential reforms this year that are aimed toward streamlining who can seek an ITC remedy and in what circumstances these claims can be made.
- As one of several women leading sectors and practices at DLA Piper, what role do law firms play in helping women have a strong presence in the technology space?
Law firms have an opportunity to partner with their clients to work together and mentor the next generation of leaders, especially diverse lawyers. That responsibility requires a commitment from firms, their leaders and their clients to recruit, retain and promote a diverse team and workforce. One example of a commitment is known as the Mansfield Rule, an initiative through which participating law firms consider at least 30 percent diverse lawyers for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions and lateral positions. In its third year, the program expanded to include lawyers with disabilities, along with LGBTQ+ lawyers, women and attorneys of color. DLA Piper was awarded Certified Plus recognition for achieving actual representation of at least 30 percent women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities in key leadership roles, partner promotions and lateral hires, in addition to considering candidate pools made up of at least 30 percent diverse lawyers.
Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege to learn from diverse leaders who are each unique and their mentorship has contributed to my growth as a technology lawyer.
- The coronavirus pandemic has increased the need for digital innovation and collaboration. In what ways have you seen this play out in your work?
We’ve all witnessed the huge shift towards a digital, remote workforce where files are stored in the cloud and collaboration extends far beyond email. In fact, this transition away from a traditional, in-person office environment allows companies, and especially law firms, the ability to open opportunities for junior employees to participate in projects they may not normally be able to join. For example, the shift to virtual trials and proceedings eliminates costly travel and allows young lawyers to observe and participate in a portion of proceedings with more senior lawyers, where travel budgets previously prohibited more than one lawyer from participating. Additionally, teams can more effectively collaborate across sectors and geographic locations, which allows young lawyers to be part of even more diverse teams where they might have historically been limited based on their locations.