Clifford Chance: tackling The Big X in tech

Thursday 15 November 2018

At our last partner event, we caught up with some of our Main Partners, including leading law firm Clifford Chance, who have been a TEDxAmsterdam partner since 2011. Clifford Chance has supported our event in a number of ways over the years – through funding, advice, meeting space, and active involvement with the TEDxAmsterdam Award, offering legal and business guidance to participants.

After hearing more about this year’s theme, The Big X, at our partner event , we spoke with Jeroen de Bruin, Senior Marketing and Communications Manager at Clifford Chance, about his own vision of The Big X, or the unknowns of the future.

When asked at the event what his big X was, Jeroen said “human versus computer”, and his idea was visualised by illustrator Anne Kuiper – a half-tech-half-human face balanced on scales.

So, our discussion delved quickly into human versus technology…


What is your Big X?

“When I think of The Big X, the big unknown, I think of the balance between human effort and technology as we move forward in the legal industry. How do we define and implement an effective balance between them? Where do we draw the line?” De Bruin says.

He draws a connection between our theme, which is all about bringing people together to find solutions to the unknowns of tomorrow, and the work Clifford Chance is doing in the technology space.

“We are a real front-runner in the legal industry, when it comes to working towards answering these questions. We are training our lawyers to understand what tech disruption is and to  manage disruption to the advantage of our clients, as they – like us – move to a more tech-based future.”

An illustrator's interpretation of Jeroen's Big X

In doing so, Clifford Chance has also established two new units as part of the firm’s Best Delivery and Innovation Strategy – Clifford Chance Create and Clifford Chance Applied Solutions.

“Create is a laboratory for developing new legal tech products with which we can provide our services in the most time and cost efficient manner and Applied Solutions is the home for the firm's increasing range of digital products that we sell, including often on a license basis, to clients. ,” De Bruin says.

“This is all part of how we are contributing to The Big X, the big unknown that is the future of technology.

“It’s quite revolutionary in our world, which many perceive to be quite conservative. As a firm, Clifford Chance is looking at the big picture, taking a holistic approach, and experimenting and piloting with the future of technology, which is a positive development.” 

It’s also about finding new ways to cooperate with their clients.

“Beyond legal, maybe there are more interactions possible with new software and tech integration in our industry. For our lawyers it is also about how we can leverage technology to add more value to the client, while at the same time, making our job more enjoyable by reducing the number of less interesting tasks.”

And then there are the slightly more ominous questions: “who would be the supreme ruler – the computer or a human being?” “Will we become obsolete as technology integrates into the working world as we know it? “How do we future-proof the industry?

Despite the unknowns, Jeroen remains optimistic.

“It is a revolution. There are many theories about how it will go, but working towards the answers is exciting and necessary. We’re also proud to be venturing into the unknown, and changing the perception of law as one of merely caution and risk-adversity.”

“We are living in a Tech Revolution. This is pushing against conventional legal boundaries and raising unprecedented questions. All areas of law are impacted.” - Clifford Chance 


What do you expect from TEDxAmsterdam 2018?

“It’s going to be all about big questions and bold solutions.”

“After experiencing the brainstorm sessions at the partner event, I was amazed that in ten minutes our group had so many ideas about how to improve the city of Amsterdam.

“I think there is a lot of hope, particularly from younger generations, in dealing with all the ‘Big X’s’ we have ahead of us.

“It is reassuring. I think we will be reassured that the answers are out there.”

"The TEDxAmsterdam Award is another especially great example of people converting ideas that solve big problems into an actual venture. As an office, we help mature these ideas by assisting nominees during the award workshops, and have been on the jury since 2012. Our young lawyers and our managing partner love the interaction with creative people from different backgrounds. We often go further than the Award program and help nominees to gain traction, for example with previous participant Yoni.''

We wholeheartedly agree with Jeroen, and say the way to reach the answers out there is through the power of people connected with ideas worth spreading.

We’d like to thank Clifford Chance for their long-standing support for TEDxAmsterdam, and look forward to experiencing The Big X with them later this month!

- written by Jai Morton.

Clifford Chance is a key supporter and adviser throughout our Award process

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