Victoria Lee co-leads DLA Piper’s Global Technology Sector and has been practicing law at DLA Piper for more than 25 years. She focuses on representation of emerging growth and public companies in complex technology and commercial transactions in the technology sector, as well as a variety of other industry sectors.
Vicky is one of the guiding partners behind the firm’s Global Technology Summit. Launched in 2008, the award-winning Summit has brought together business leaders, visionary technologists, pioneering entrepreneurs, and in-house counsels from leading tech companies to share insights and analysis of 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.
- The DLA Piper Global Technology Virtual Summit will provide attendees insight into many of the emerging technology and legal trends affecting businesses today. What trends have you seen surface recently that are particularly noteworthy?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a focus on how technology can be used to support the new normal in which we are all living. What I find most noteworthy is that these advancements are likely here to stay. The pandemic has changed the way companies operate, the way consumers behave, and the way we all live. While we did expect many of these technological shifts to happen eventually, we were all surprised by the speed of the changes; and we also understand that they happened out of necessity, driven by the pandemic. Most notable of all is that I expect many of these shifts will be permanent.
From digital payments to ecommerce to telehealth, we are living differently because of the pandemic with the support of technology. Today, many consumers almost exclusively transfer payments digitally to retail spaces after the entire industry was forced to move online. Even in-person cash transactions are discouraged. As the cities and industries open up again, it is becoming commonplace to use technology to ensure that we have safe and healthy workplaces and entertainment venues. This includes user-friendly temperature scanning and contact tracing, which are made possible through technology innovations.
A corollary to the proliferation of online retail as a response to social distancing is the changes happening in our healthcare system, which has evolved to become more digital. Telemedicine is relatively new to healthcare. In the pre-pandemic period, virtual doctor appointments were starting to occur, but now telehealth has become a critical part of our healthcare system. The acceleration of this healthcare delivery option could only have taken place because of the ability to leverage smart and secure technology.
These industries were changed almost overnight because of the pandemic and are proof points for how technology has further been integrated into our daily lives.
- The summit is virtual for the first time since launching in 2008, giving participants a front row seat to candid conversations with top leaders in the technology space. What do you hope are key takeaways?
One of the greatest benefits to this virtual format is that people don’t have to travel to be part of the summit experience. Our goal with this year’s summit is to make it accessible to more people. The virtual format allows us to broaden our reach beyond Silicon Valley and bring a global audience to the event. This year’s speakers reflect that global nature and audience. They bring unique perspectives that are not focused solely on technology in Silicon Valley but include insights for leveraging technology across industries, sectors, and borders.
For example, General James Mattis, who served as the 26th US Secretary of Defense in 2017 and 2018 and is currently a Senior Counselor at The Cohen Group and the Davies Family Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, will speak about global technology trends from a policy and international perspective, with a particular focus on China and the competitive nature of technology innovation. Nick Thompson, the new CEO of The Atlantic, will be asked to speak about the most pressing and top-of-mind issues surrounding technology and its role in our society. Dr. DJ Patel, Head of Technology of Devoted Health, an early pioneer in data science, will discuss challenges facing data-oriented tech companies. And our panel of esteemed in-house counsel will share their first-hand experiences counseling teams on sustainability, environmental, social and governance (SESG) and diversity and inclusion (D&I) topics and how they are guiding their companies through these challenges and opportunities.
- You will be moderating the panel session with Dr. DJ Patel, Head of Technology of Devoted Health. What do you believe are the most pressing legal concerns related to data analytics and the impact of data usage on innovation, technology, and government?
The session with Dr. Patel serves as an opportunity to discuss the critical role of tech companies in eliminating bias in data and machine learning, which is an incredibly pressing concern spanning sectors from e-commerce to law enforcement. Dr. Patel has a unique perspective as a data scientist who has worked in both the private sector and government. Private and public institutions will need to play a role in ensuring that data is used responsibly rather than irresponsibly. It is critical for data-oriented companies to think carefully about how bias impacts the use of data as they develop emerging technologies. I am eager for Dr. Patel to raise tough issues that companies need to start considering immediately.
For example, I’d really like to hear about the areas that he thinks provide the most opportunities for a company seeking to monetize data. I am also interested in having Dr. Patel polish his crystal ball and tell us how a data-centric company today looks different from a data-centric company five years from now.
- The world is facing many pressing societal challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change. What is the role of technology in solving some of these difficult problems?
I think that 2020 made global social and environmental challenges more tangible to both people individually and to companies that want to have a positive impact on the world in which they operate.
An example is the “AI for Good” movement that is bringing together technology companies, governments, civil society groups, and subject matter experts from all over the world, including partners from DLA Piper. We are all united in our belief that, if used responsibly, AI has the power to solve global challenges. Innovations are being made, but they need to scale rapidly in order to achieve positive impact in time to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the international community.
One of the biggest struggles that many of us have faced during the pandemic is the challenge of ensuring that student learning continues while in a remote environment. For me, being the parent of teenagers has not been easy over the last year, but I know that I’ve had it easier than the parents of younger children. While technology has certainly enabled schooling to continue, the education experience is vastly different from school to school. This is in large part due to differing levels of broadband access and the availability of the latest cameras, laptops, mobile devices, headphones and microphones, among other things. The availability of and access to technology is key to leveling the playing field in the classroom, just as it is relevant to leveling out the playing field of the world’s economies.
- As more and more companies strive to elevate diversity, equity, and inclusion as an organizational core value, in what way do you feel lawyers help their clients foster the type of engagement, collaboration, and belonging that reflect a diverse technology workforce and deliver additional value?
DLA Piper’s strategy is to provide our clients with advice specific to a particular problem while also placing that problem within the context of their broader industry or sector. That context requires DLA Piper to have a multitude of different experts and expertise. I believe that diverse teams bring diverse perspectives to our clients. At DLA Piper, we focus on building client teams that not only bring deep legal knowledge and relevant industry experience, but we also offer a diversity of perspectives.
Our clients with diversity, equity and inclusion as a core value expect their outside legal advisors to reflect those core values. Having and being committed to diverse and inclusive talent is necessary for truly understanding what drives and motivates our clients. For us to provide holistic legal advice to our clients as a trusted advisor, we must share that fundamental level of understanding.
One of the things that I have enjoyed about the last year is seeing more of my clients on video calls. Prior to the pandemic, I talked with lots of clients on the phone, but we rarely actually saw each other – especially those across the country or globe. Over the last year, I have seen many clients for the first time in years. Many of those calls involve teams of people, and the diversity of those on the video calls is a great thing to see. Our clients like to see their diversity reflected in their outside counsel, and the diversity helps to form a common understanding and level of collaboration that underpins the legal discussions in those meetings.