Since 2013, biotech and pharmaceutical company Eleusis has been working to transform psychedelics into modern medicines. For general counsel Paul Slattery, the rise of legal tech has been a mind enhancing experience.
At Eleusis, we are developing a care delivery platform capable of enhancing the safety and tolerability of psychedelic drug therapies and enabling their broad accessibility. That is a big step in medicine and getting there will involve a lot of complex work, including selecting the patient population, ensuring safety and tolerability of therapies, monitoring patients undergoing treatment and working out what treatment optimization looks like for patients.
As general counsel I oversee a lot of translational challenges in the clinical development of psychedelics, both in the context of psychiatry and in the delivery of care. Making sure our delivery of care is compliant with health care law is an important part of the role.
As a legal team we are highly reliant on technology, it is key to our business operations. For instance, our entire calendaring system is digital so we can monitor our patent portfolio, regulatory planning and submissions. We also use a tracking system that both creates an audit trail, whilst tracking everything that needs to be done. By going digital we ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and that all tasks are divided and managed by our internal team.
Additionally, our legal team makes extensive use of DocuSign, a popular eSignature platform. We work on a lot of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that are sent to people across the world. By using the DocuSign platform, we can do it with ease. Documents are easily and efficiently reviewed and signed irrespective of location. As e-signatures become more widely used, I hope that we will see regulatory bodies start to embrace this technology.
For any GC working in the tech sector, networking with other in-house leaders is hugely important. I am part of an invitation only networking group called Tech GC. This is an independent community of general counsel from emerging growth companies that come together to discuss and share best practice. Members of the group are able to access a library full of presentations and other useful in-house legal documents. They can also connect with other GCs who may be facing similar challenges.
Although the companies we represent are typically working on highly experimental projects, you can almost always find someone who is dealing with or has dealt with the issues you are facing.
It is evident that the pandemic has shifted the sands under people’s feet and technological innovation has changed the way people think and feel about their professions. Before, people selected where they lived, got married, had children and set up their homes based on where they work. As remote work becomes more mainstream, this will change.
For in-house legal teams in particular, dispersion is a good thing. It allows around the clock coverage for global companies that need to communicate across time zones. Although I joined Eleusis during the pandemic, I was stepping into an environment that was already used to remote working and dispersed teams. For instance, I am based in Los Angeles, my deputy is based in New York, we have a paralegal in Florida – this type of structure would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
While technology is at the heart of such agile working, it can have its downsides. Being so digitally connected means you can work from anywhere in the world, but it also means the line between home and work becomes blurred. It can be very difficult to switch off or focus on other tasks, and there is a real temptation to continue working.
Nevertheless, the advantages of tech are clear, and technological innovation will further improve legal services and boost efficiency within legal teams. Technology could also be used to automate standardised contracts and NDAs. I have reviewed thousands of NDAs and there is an immense amount of arbitrary variation to get the same six terms. I often wonder if AI could assist with assessing and creating standardised NDA agreements. I am sure I won’t have to wait long to find out that it can. And, in spite of all the advances we’ve seen in legal tech, there is still a lot of headroom for new tools to automate basic tasks and help make legal departments more efficient.
These days, when people refer to a ‘technology company’ they are often referring to the application of tech to other sectors. For example, take Lime, the scooter rental service. Is this a transportation company or a tech company? Almost every industry at this point has been touched by technology in some way and the impact of new emerging technology will continue to have an impact in the future.