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Navigating the EU’s New AI Act: Legal Industry’s New Frontier

The European Union has taken a monumental step in AI regulation with its Artificial Intelligence Act. This groundbreaking legislation, expected to be enacted by early 2024, will impose significant responsibilities on both in-house and external counsel across Europe. The Act is comprehensive, impacting not only AI developers but also any company utilizing AI systems. With potential fines reaching up to 7% of global turnover, the new law eclipses the penalties under GDPR and is set to transform the legal landscape.

The Emerging Role of Legal Counsel in AI Compliance

The legal sector is gearing up for a surge in advisory roles, especially concerning the Act’s stringent rules for “high-risk” AI systems. Legal professionals, like Elisabeth Kohoutek of King & Spalding and Elisabeth Dehareng of Baker McKenzie, report increasing client inquiries seeking advice on aligning their AI governance with the new regulations. This uptick in demand underscores the crucial role legal experts will play in navigating this new regulatory environment.

The Impact on In-House Counsel and Law Firms

The AI Act not only brings challenges for external counsel but also significantly expands the role of in-house legal teams. These professionals must now focus on developing comprehensive AI governance programs and tackling the legal challenges AI presents. Law firms with multidisciplinary practices are particularly well-positioned to offer valuable guidance, combining expertise in privacy, IP, consumer protection, and competition law. Moreover, law firms may need to enhance their capabilities by hiring staff with specialized technical knowledge, such as data scientists.

Conclusion: A Call to Action for the Legal Industry

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The EU’s AI Act is poised to create a wave of work for the legal industry, demanding a multidisciplinary and globally-informed approach. As the Act progresses towards adoption and implementation, legal professionals must prepare to guide clients through this new regulatory landscape, ensuring compliance and leveraging their expertise in this evolving field of AI.

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