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The Lifestyle of an Expert AI Lawyer

The law, by its very nature, is constantly evolving. This is especially true when it comes to EU laws in general and EU regulations of new technologies in particular. In this context, lawyers practicing in these areas are constantly faced with new, exciting, and complex challenges. AI is one of them.

An expert AI lawyer needs to juggle complex legal issues with rapid technological advances. From my point of view, as a married man and father of a daughter of almost 5 years and a son of almost 3 years, there is another essential parameter: maintaining a balance between professional and private life.

I would like to focus here on how I live this quest for worklife balance on a day-to-day basis. But, I must first say a word about how the EU is planning to regulate AI and how I came to specialize in this area.

Regulating AI in Europe

The EU aims to be a world leader in the regulation of AI, as it did with personal data protection and the GDPR. The AI Act, proposed by the European Commission in April 2021, was the subject of a political agreement in December 2023, confirmed in February 2024. However, it will not apply until 2026.

The AI Act relies on a risk-based approach, which means that it imposes different requirements according to the level of risk of AI systems. There are four levels of risks. First, minimal-risk AI falls outside the scope of the AI Act. Second, limited-risk AI systems are only subject to transparency requirements. Typically, you should always know when you are chatting with a chatbot. Third, highrisk systems are subject to stricter requirements. The most prominent requirement for high-risk AI systems is the obligation to carry out a conformity assessment before placing the product on the market. Finally, the AI Act prohibits AI systems that present unacceptable risks.

The AI Act also provides rules for generative AI. This is an interesting example of how quickly this area of law is moving. The European Commission’s 2021 proposal did not include any provision on this. Generative AI was only addressed in the context of a negotiation marathon between EU lawmakers at the end of 2023, following the global enthusiasm for ChatGPT.

Businesses that violate the AI Act risk penalties of up to 35 million Euros, or 7% of their annual global turnover, whichever is the largest amount. The AI Act will apply far beyond the EU borders with important extraterritorial effects. It is, thus, expected to have a huge impact, like the GDPR.

Importantly, AI regulation is not just about the AI Act. The GDPR also includes relevant provisions for AI. In addition, the Commission proposed a directive on AI liability and a revised directive on liability for defective products (including AI products) in September 2022.

Finally, EU member states have their own national AI strategies, and data protection authorities have started enforcing the GDPR against AI companies.

How I Became an AI Expert Lawyer

Not so long ago, however, time flies, I never thought I would be an AI expert lawyer. During my law studies in Brussels, I specialized in public law. I was interested in public regulations, but I was still a long way from new technologies. However, I was already a geek. After my studies in Brussels, I decided to specialize in EU law, so I joined the European University Institute in Florence, where I did some research. This aspiration for research reflected my interest in everything that is a source of change and evolution in law.

I then wanted to get closer to practice, and after another year of specialization at the College of Europe in Bruges, I joined WilmerHale in 2015, the firm where I still practice today. At the time, I was essentially a competition lawyer. But very quickly, three years before the GDPR came into application, I largely focused on data protection. I then also specialized in related regulations, such as ePrivacy, NIS2, or the Data Act, to name just a few. This is what led me a little later to specialize in and obtain a master’s degree in law and AI.

My Work-Life Balance

The life of an AI lawyer, especially in an American law firm, is intense. Clients are demanding. They ask complex questions and expect answers that are brief but complete, thoughtful but fast. Precision is non-negotiable, and pragmatism is essential. The ability to find creative solutions while respecting existing legal frameworks is an essential skill in this field.

Despite these challenges, I believe it is possible to achieve a certain work-life balance. My conviction is that it is not just a matter of personal choice — that would be too easy, you cannot just ignore the real world — but that choice plays a fundamental role. In my case, it is a matter of always having certain special moments with my children. They grow up so fast! I believe that today’s world, and WilmerHale in particular, allows me to do just that.

In the morning, I get my children dressed and ready for school. When possible, I try to get home before they go to sleep at night to give them a bath or at least play with them and say good night. When that is not possible, I feel like I have at least spent some time with them in the morning. On Fridays, I work from home so I can be more present when the kids come home. On Saturdays, we have a lot of fun all together. I also try to enjoy my time with family and friends on Sundays, but I would be lying if I said I never work on Sundays.

A Typical Day at Work

The day of an AI lawyer is often unpredictable, but some things almost never change. Let me explain.

Morning: Getting up to Speed

My day generally begins with a dive into the latest AI legal developments. As this is a rapidly evolving field, I really need to keep abreast of the latest regulatory, political, jurisprudential, and technological developments. This can be done via the specialized press or social media, such as LinkedIn, or even Twitter.

Afternoon: Writing and Meeting (Potential) Clients and Fellow AI Experts

The greater part of my day is often devoted to drafting legal documents, such as legal opinions on complex issues, submissions as part of my litigation activity, or awarenessraising documents. Drafting is challenging. An expert AI lawyer must be able to translate complex regulatory and technological concepts into clear, understandable legal terms. I also devote a significant part of my time to meeting other AI experts to exchange experiences, as well as players from the entrepreneurial world to benefit from their feedback and raise awareness of the complexity and importance of the AI Act.

Evening: Legal Watch and Work-Life Balance

Legal intelligence does not stop at the end of the working day. AI lawyers need to stay connected to developments in the sector even outside office hours. Events, conferences, and expert publications can provide crucial information for staying ahead in this dynamic field.

Yet, as I said above, I believe it is essential to preserve a balance between professional and private life. Time management is becoming a vital skill. I will not pretend that it is that easy for me not to look at my emails. In my field, being reachable is an essential quality.

However, I think it is possible to find a balance and devote time to your family and your private life in general. I believe this is essential for maintaining robust mental and emotional health. Of course, you can be a very good lawyer and not do these things. But I think you would only be a very good lawyer for a limited time. And I, for one, prefer to be in it for the long haul.

Is it Right for You?

Being an AI expert lawyer is much more than just a job. It is a constant immersion in an ever-changing field, combining legal expertise with cutting-edge technological understanding. It is also an ongoing exploration of how the law can frame and support the development of AI while protecting individual rights and freedoms and ensuring that innovation is not stifled.

In my opinion, in the medium/long term, the key to success lies in the ability to juggle these challenges while preserving a healthy work-life balance. I believe this is possible. Not under any conditions, and probably not from the outset. I believe in finding the place to do so, and I am happy to say that WilmerHale offers me that. I also believe that finding this balance is a learning process. It takes time to get there. However, with the right advice, a little patience, and a lot of passion, I am sure you will get there if you want to. I hope I have encouraged you to become an expert AI lawyer and to pay attention to your work-life balance!

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