Reflections on Can-Tech Law Association’s 2020 Fall Conference

Can-Tech Law Association’s 2020 Fall Conference brought together leading experts to discuss emerging developments in the field. This two-day conference implemented a unique platform for the event, which enhanced the online delivery amid COVID-19. The event platform allowed profile creation to increase networking, included a point system to increase engagement, and had a choose-your-own-adventure style of breakout sessions. It is an interesting change from the typical Zoom format.

The conference started with a chance to network. There were then introductory remarks from co-chairs Andrew Alleyne and Nancy Cleman. This was followed by a discussion with panelists (including Osgoode’s very own Jonathon Penney) which touched on new developments for technology lawyers. More specifically, topics ranged from the impact of COVID-19, the “ancient” Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and some aspirational goals for the profession.

The breakout session I chose to attend was titled, “Artificial Intelligence: Critical Updates on Contracting, IP and Ethical Issues.” My eyes were glued to the screen this session. In fashion with legal pedagogy, the session introduced a fact scenario for the speakers to analyze and this format is particularly familiar for   law students everywhere. Personally, the ethical issues resonated with my interests, especially with respect to economic policies and individual rights. The speakers offered a number of models, tools, and analytic frameworks to break down these issues. The nuanced discussion by each speaker was not only intellectually stimulating, but it also sparked various new interests in legal practice areas.

A further notable talk directly confronted the applicability of technology to COVID-19 (titled, “Utilizing Technology, AI, Machine Learning and Neural Networks in the Fight Against COVID-19: Managing the Legal Risks”). This talk highlighted the importance of collaboration in this area of law – the speakers included an entrepreneur, a practicing lawyer, and a legal academic. It is particularly relevant to emerging issues in public health ethics. The diverse perspectives offered new ways of looking at legal risk and the varying roles of those practicing in this area. Again, the takeaway for me was how complicated these issues can be, how novel the solutions can be, and how interdisciplinary this area of practice can be.

Day two began in much the same fashion. However, the plenary talk discussed the role of international laws on technology law in Canada and beyond. The interaction between innovative technologies and legal frameworks that grapple with them has been on my mind ever since I came across Harvard College v. Canada (Commissioner of Patents). International law poses fascinating challenges for domestic technology law, particularly as it overlaps with the booming field of international economic law.

The conference rounded off its sessions with a more practical focus. I was particularly fascinated by a breakout session titled, “Financing Start Ups in the New Normal.” Often, structural economic changes and a “new normal” give rise to a wave of entrepreneurial initiatives. I am excited to see how shifts may affect those practicing in areas of private equity and venture capital. More generally, what sorts of changes are in store for law firms around the world? The following sessions suggested interesting policy changes from WFH to cybersecurity. 

There were many more memorable moments that I neglected to mention. By and large, as a student, it was particularly meaningful to have the opportunity to network and chat with the leading titans practising in this area. Their warmth and collegiality are coupled with a genuine excitement and passion for this area of law.

Written by Dan Choi, a second year JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and an IPilogue Contributing Editor.

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