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Chrissie Lightfoot at Lexpo: "How can you future-proof your business?"

Written by Lucien Wopereis

In 2009 a Japanese man married a computer. And that will happen again in other places around the world in the next twenty years from now, predicts Chrissie Lightfoot of EntrepreneurLawyer Limited. Lightfoot, a keynote speaker at the Lexpo - the legal innovation event - coming up on 21 April, thinks that lawyers need to prepare themselves better for this type of trend. 'We are currently in a period of transition. You need to stay on top of it today, or tomorrow you will have missed the boat.'

Lightfoot is a boundless enthusiast about the opportunities that 'cutting edge technology' will bring us, and she advises lawyers to think the same way. 'Artificial Intelligence and robotisation are now mainly viewed as threats: the jobs of those with both lower and higher levels of education are at risk. In my opinion, it is time to stop talking about the threats. We need to come up right now with answers and solutions, in a way that allows us to continue to be successful in the future. In other words: how do you future proof your business?'

Lawyers also need to take this step, according to Lightfoot. A concrete example: in prenuptial agreements there are often some provisions covering what happens in the event of adultery. But what if the husband or wife has sex with a computer? Or maybe even falls in love with it? Is that a legitimate ground for divorce? Is 'the affair' between a human and a sexbot something to take into account when setting the level of alimony?

Another example: how do employers set about sharing out work between human employees and robots? What consequences does this have for labour laws? Or more generally: is our legislation ready to deal with robotisation and Artificial Intelligence?

The digital era not only requires lawyers to provide new services, but the way in which they provide their services to people will also change drastically, claims this consultant. She predicts a future that is more or less comparable to that outlined by Dave Eggers in The Circle: social media activities will increase massively in scope, and messages from users will soon be shared seamlessly on different forums (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook).

Lightfoot thinks that legal practices generally are very lukewarm about the new opportunities, although there are some exceptions. For example, she praises the NextLaw Labs initiative by Dentons, the biggest legal practice in the world. NextLaw Lab was launched at the end of 2015, and is 'a global collaborative platform focused on developing, deploying and investing in new technologies and processes to transform the practice of law around the world'. Lightfoot: 'Dentons is thinking really systematically about the future, and how to prepare for it. That is the way you need to do it.'