August 30, 2018 ILN

Meet Technology Officer Caryl Ben Basat

You have more than two decades of corporate law experience. How has your interest in the law evolved over your career?

Law was actually my third career and evolved out of the other two. My first was in nonprofit management. I developed and ran the California Food Network, the country’s first statewide surplus food distributor, moving millions of pounds of agricultural surplus from fields, wholesalers, and retailers to food banks and social service agencies. Through service on another nonprofit board, I met a retired naval officer who hired me to work in purchasing and logistics for an airline. He said the skills were the same, even if the commodities were different, and I launched my second career, in business management for the aviation industry. I advanced to the role of Director of Contracts there, which was my fork in the road. To continue progressing, I could either pursue marketing or go to law school. I chose law school, and thereafter my aviation business experience opened doors to in-house counsel roles with aircraft sales and leasing companies and to the corporate law departments of large firms. Throughout my years in private practice, I have advised airlines, financial institutions, and even export credit agencies on long-term equipment acquisitions worth billions of dollars. The practical experience I gained in my first two careers has given me a unique view of the real-life implications of the contract provisions I negotiate for my clients.

Can you tell us about your experience in international energy law?

My introduction to energy law came through the air transportation industry. Fuel is one of the largest, most unpredictable expenses for an airline, so operators are always trying to find ways to minimize that cost. Furthermore, jet fuel contributes to carbon emissions, which raises a different set of issues pertaining to emissions reporting and control. Against this backdrop, I became interested in solutions that renewable energy could provide, not only for aviation but also for all power generation. As a former Co-Chair of the International Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I have written and organized programs on renewable energy topics. Applying experience I gained in project planning and finance in the aviation sector to renewable energy development and use has become my passion.

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen during your legal career?

Technology has driven so many changes in the practice of law. After graduating from law school, I worked for a small Connecticut firm. The Internet was a novelty, and digital research could be conducted only through special Lexis and Westlaw terminals. Otherwise, we researched with books, and I spent many a day in the Yale law library reviewing and Shepardizing cases. Today, we can find almost anything we need, quickly and efficiently, on our desktop computers, tablets, or even our phones. Also, in-person sale closings are a thing of the past as we now review and digitally sign documents online and then dial into closing calls.

What new international legal developments do you see coming in the next 5 to 10 years?

Technology is providing quicker, cheaper access to sources of law for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. This trend will continue. New developments in medicine and artificial intelligence, as well as space exploration and colonization, will create corresponding demands for new legal infrastructure. The movement away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy sources will change the legal architecture in the energy sector, and the increasing influence of China and India on the global stage will impact everything from treaty law to contract negotiations and dispute resolution.

Given the changes brought about by digital technologies and social networking, what should attorneys and others in the legal field consider when managing their legal practice?

Social media is an essential marketing tool; lawyers who ignore it risk invisibility in our digitally charged world. However, it is important to post carefully and thoughtfully and to be aware of any applicable ethics and legal advertising rules governing the use of social media. Also, it is important to remember that an email message is a written record and can become subject to discovery. As in the case of social media posts, emails that are angry or reactive, or that subject the reader to harassment or abuse can come back to haunt their author at a later date.

How are the ABA and the Section using technology to fulfill the goals of providing high-quality information, educational programming, and networking to members?

The Year in Review and International Law News are now published digitally, along with a diverse variety of committee newsletters that are available online and archived on our Section’s website. Both the Section and the ABA produce many CLE and non-CLE webinars throughout the year. We have successfully live streamed some of our Section’s programming over social media, and some committees are working on podcasts. The Section and many of our committees have LinkedIn and Facebook groups, and the Section is active on Twitter.

What types of online enhancements will be introduced this year for Section members?

The ABA hired Code and Theory, a digital consulting company, to help streamline and modernize the association’s website and e-commerce platform. Leadership has seen previews of the new site, which may be live by the time this article is published. It will offer many enhancements, including greater visibility for the authors of Section articles, since a tagging expert has been hired to facilitate association-wide keyword searches. We will continue to move away from listservs and committee homepages and toward interactive Higher Logic communities as part of the modernization. The ABA has a new email initiative focusing on the reduction of outgoing e-mail volume to avoid clogging members’ inboxes and is planning to launch a new email platform in the upcoming year.

Caryl Ben Basat is a Shareholder with BenBasat Law Group, P.A and is the ABA Section of International Law Technology Officer for 2017–2018.