Spotlight | Alumni Profile
“As individuals and as companies, we’re going to be able to do lots of things that we couldn’t do before. These systems are truly powerful and also improving at a rapid pace.”

Not-So-Artificial Intelligence

Jessica Lipson ’05

Long before she became an expert on artificial intelligence (AI), Jessica Lipson ’05 was an expert on emotional intelligence.

As a partner and co-chair of the Technology, Data & IP Department at Morrison Cohen in New York, Lipson advises an ever-increasing number of clients on the legal implications of AI. She has also written prolifically on the topic, including as a quarterly contributor for Reuters. Despite her cutting-edge practice focused on technology transactions, her career has been shaped by the old-fashioned relationship building that will always have a place in the practice of law.

Armed with an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and a minor in environmental engineering, Lipson worked for several years as an engineer at Merck, and went to law school with an eye toward practicing environmental law. Brooklyn Law School offered her not only the flexibility to continue working during her legal studies, but also a pragmatic approach to training lawyers and a variety of clinics. She started as an evening student before transferring to the day program.

At Brooklyn Law School, Lipson cut her teeth advising artists on copyright and other legal issues under Professor of Law Emerita Beryl Jones-Woodin. It was here that Lipson began learning to manage client relationships, a skill that remains central to her work today. “[Jones-Woodin] really let us do what we needed to do and stood back and provided the supervision we needed without micromanaging us,” Lipson said.

Early in Lipson’s practice, her work focused on environmental law counseling for mergers and other transactions. But in early 2008, the financial crisis brought those transactions to a halt.

As Lipson’s work slowed down, she noticed something: The tech transactional partner with an office near hers was always busy. While collecting papers at the printer they shared, Lipson peppered him with questions about his work. Before long, she began assisting the partner. She invested nonbillable time into sitting in on meetings and learning the vocabulary of tech transactions. Eventually, she transitioned away from the environmental group and into the tech transaction department. She’s been doing tech work ever since.

Under the umbrella of technology, Lipson has a diverse practice. Clients come from finance, professional services, software development, consumer-facing platforms, and more. “It’s never boring. There’s always a new problem to solve, or the same problem to solve in a different industry or in a different scenario,” she said. “So your thinking cap is always on.”

Right now, of course, many clients are considering the potential uses of and legal challenges relating to AI. Although some have been using AI tools for quite some time, others are encountering the technology for the first time with the emergence of generative AI. Lipson also is currently the head of Morrison Cohen’s AI task force, which helps the firm shape its own policies and procedures on using AI tools.

Lipson has focused particularly on generative AI in her writing on the topic. In just a few months during the summer of 2023, she published articles on AI’s use for in-house counsel, employment issues involving autonomous tools, privacy issues related to AI, and more.

“As individuals and as companies, we’re going to be able to do lots of things that we couldn’t do before,” said Lipson. “These systems are truly powerful and also improving at a rapid pace.”

At the same time, Lipson warns of the potential harms of increasingly sophisticated AI, from more effective phishing schemes to the use of AI to develop dangerous pathogens. Although many existing laws, such as criminal and intellectual property laws, can be applied to AI, she would like to see a proactive but measured approach taken toward developing the legal and regulatory framework.

Lipson compares the current AI landscape to the early days of social media, when governments took a wait-and-see approach and ultimately ended up warning parents about social media’s negative impact on children’s mental health. “Let’s get ahead of this now,” she said. “This has potential to impact a lot more people in a lot more serious ways, so I think that being a little proactive would probably be wise. But it is a complex issue. We’re hoping in the industry that reasonable legislation is enacted.”

Her practice may focus on computer networks, but Lipson continues to focus on building human networks. Since the pandemic, she has split her time between remote and in-person work. She is deliberate about connecting with her practice group, both through frequent Zoom interactions and through decidedly more old-school connections. “The whole firm basically comments on how the IP department is always going out having fun together,” Lipson said. “We go bowling together. We do all kinds of fun things. We’re the envy of the firm.”

Despite a busy schedule, Lipson continues to prioritize mentoring younger attorneys. “Those mentoring relationships were so important to me as I was coming up, and I had the right people to help me, to coach me, to guide me, to give me that savvy advice,” she said. “So I want to be able to pay that forward and provide that same support to my team.”

—Suzi Morales