On July 10, 2013, the Wikimedia Foundation hosted a panel discussion on the topic of “Law, Tech and Social Change.” The event was open to the public, but aimed primarily toward legal and policy interns in the technology/Internet industry. The goal of the evening was to explore the role of lawyers and policy advisors in helping drive social change in the technology industry, whether through traditional or nontraditional advisory roles. (Watch the video and check out our photos.)
The event took place in Wikimedia’s San Francisco office and featured an opening presentation by Wikimedia General Counsel Geoff Brigham, followed by a panel of technology law and policy experts, including: Cindy Cohn (Legal Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation); Jishnu Menon (Product & Data Counsel, Mozilla); Derek Slater (Policy Manager, Google); Amy Keating (Litigation Counsel, Twitter); and Luis Villa (Deputy General Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation). Approximately 75 legal and policy interns, lawyers, policy advisers, and other interested parties attended the panel and reception that followed.
Geoff Brigham delivered a presentation on his experience as General Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation. He spoke about ways in which the Wikimedia community has advocated for social change, as well as ways in which the Legal Department at the Wikimedia Foundation has been able to support the Foundation and the Wikimedia community.
Geoff emphasized the role of the community in driving social change, as well as the importance of collaborating with like-minded organizations, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Public Knowledge, and organizations abroad.
After Geoff’s presentation, Luis Villa moderated a panel discussion on the event’s theme. Panelists shared their experiences with law, policy, and social change in the technology sector. Amy Keating discussed her role as Twitter’s first Litigation Counsel, and Twitter’s legal strategy regarding balancing detailed legal risk analysis with urgency for innovation when dealing with new products.
Legal counseling for new products was a topic of extensive discussion for this panel. Cindy Cohn, who also serves as EFF’s General Counsel, noted that lawyers have the opportunity to influence companies to create and promote new products in ways that would align with ethical concerns. Similarly, Jishnu Menon described the role of lawyers as “the conscience of the company.”
The panelists provided useful advice for students or young lawyers and policy practitioners. Derek Slater explained his career path, which began with an early interest in Internet issues in his youth and led to his current position, advocating for free knowledge and open information. Derek’s advice? “Find what you’re interested in, and make everything about that.” Jishnu offered to “plus one” Derek’s advice.
Luis pointed out the common thread between all the panelists, representing Google, Twitter, Mozilla, EFF, and Wikimedia. Simply, all were “lucky to work at organizations we can believe in,” a statement which echoed an earlier comment by Cindy, on the role of lawyers in the tech industry. “You can build a world with freedom, or a world with repression. It’s up to you,” she said.
Legal Internship Program
As a part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s legal internship program, the Foundation has historically collaborated with like-minded organizations (such as the EFF, Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the American Civil Liberties Union) in organizing educational programs for legal and policy interns in the Bay Area. This year, the Wikimedia Foundation expanded its programming efforts and hosted an event open to the public at large.
The Wikimedia Foundation recruits legal interns every semester and over the summer. All law students and recent graduates are welcome to apply for our Legal Internship Program.
Tiffany Li, Wikimedia Foundation Legal Intern