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On November 6 in Hong Kong, The Legal 500 and GC Magazine, in association with Nixon Peabody CWL, hosted the latest iteration of an ongoing set of international roundtables, considering the changing role of in-house counsel.

With a mix of in-house counsel in attendance, including a number from start-ups and technology firms, the differences in approach to business was immediately evident - right through to how their legal departments were being run.

‘The GCs present gave excellent insight into how legal developments were affecting their business and the way they were using outside law firms,’ explains James Griffiths, partner of Nixon Peabody CWL.

As always, regulation was front of mind for those in attendance, with the implications of the impending GDPR, as well as Hong Kong’s approach to the sharing economy of particular interest.

While Hong Kong is coming around to the positive impact that businesses like AirBnB and Uber could have on their economy, progress is slow. But what stood out with both traditional and sharing economy providers in attendance, was a desire for a level playing field for both to operate within - with neither party seeing each other as direct competitors. Of course, any changes to regulation represent a new challenge for in-house counsel of those companies to deal with (as well as tangentially related industries - insurance for example), which proved an insightful and enlightening topic of discussion.

‘We were able to appreciate the practical and strategic challenges GCs face in dealing with such issues as an increased compliance burden, the world-wide (and particularly European) changes in privacy rules and social changes such as the advent of the sharing economy,’ says Griffiths.

As has proven common when hosting this particular series of discussions, the role of technology and how it is being implemented across in-house departments was the most contentious topic. But while this prompted perhaps the most intriguing debate of the session, it also provided a prime opportunity for the GCs in attendance to learn from the experience of others, enabling those looking to implement services or systems for the first time to avoid the pitfalls experience by others.

‘GCs were also able to share how they viewed the opportunities made available by developments in technology, with Artificial Intelligence systems now being used in e-discovery and even in document review. With multiple changes affecting our clients as an ever-increasing pace, there has never been a more exciting time to be a lawyer,’ adds Griffiths.

With Nixon Peabody’s partners taking a seat at the table, having a readily accessible point of contrast in perspective, added substantial depth to the discussions from both sides of the table.

‘It was a pleasure for us to host this roundtable discussions at our new offices in central Hong Kong and to have the opportunity to hear directly from senior GCs on the trending issues of concern to them,’ says Matthew Lam, managing partner of Nixon Peabody CWL.

‘We are grateful to The Legal 500 for setting up this unique event in Hong Kong.’

Discussions were followed with an elaborate Chinese dinner and drinks, attended by in-house counsel and partners from Nixon Peabody CWL.

Please scroll down to see pictures of the event: