Canadian Lawyer

November/December 2019

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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PEOPLE CROSS EXAMINED 30 www.canadianlawyermag.com COMPUTERS ARE all about 1s and 0s, black and white. They do not work in ambiguity. But for Kirsten Thompson, who leads the transformative technologies and data strategy group at Dentons, ambiguity is the essence of her practice. "I have colleagues who are tax lawyers and securities lawyers, and you can tell who they are because they carry around these very large books full of rules," she says. "My practice horrifies them, because there are no rules, there's very little guidance, it's all first principles." First principles can often be gleaned from very disparate sources, as her career path attests. T h o m p s o n s t a r t e d o ff s t u d y i n g journalism and taking science courses as electives. When she finished her degree and decided against pursuing a career in media, she completed a biochemistry degree. At that time, with the dawning of same sex HUMAN CREATIVITY MEETS RIGID MACHINES When advising on data strategies, Kirsten Thompson's disparate experiences have allowed her to jump from detailed technical questions to a creative human approach marriage advocacy and gay rights litigation in Canada, law school sparked her interest, so she attended Queen's University. After articling at McCarthy Tétrault LLP, she joined the firm as a litigation associate with a focus on health law and IT/IP matters. But a conventional path was not in the cards and she eventually moved inhouse at the technology company Softchoice. "My journey through the profession of law has matched my journey through academia in that it has been circuitous. When I first started, privacy was not really a thing; data was certainly unheard of." Thompson eventually returned to McCarthys, when "the internet was now was firmly established as a thing," and started a practice in privacy law. Being a new area, though, it took some convincing within the firm that this would be a growth area, and she moved among the firm's knowledge management, litigation and technology teams. "If you are in the world of intangibles, which is largely what my world is, I have to worry less about borders than most people." Thompson sits on two public bodies to advise governments. "All governments are doing what my clients are doing," Thomson says. "I assist companies with digital transformation. The governments are doing exactly the same thing." Open Banking Advisory Committee The federal Liberals launched the Advisory Committee on Open Banking in September 2018, and Thompson is one of four members. The committee is exploring the potential merits of open banking, which will allow Canadians to share their financial transaction data with financial service providers more easily. "Canada is just starting the journey toward open banking," says Thompson. "Other jurisdictions are much further along." Ontario's Digital and Data Task Force The provincial government's task force has a much broader mandate than the open banking committee. It aims to help "Ontarians and businesses benefit directly from the data economy, while ensuring their personal privacy is protected," according to a government press release. Thompson is one of eight on the task force. These initiatives, Thompson says, highlight how a lot of what governments are looking at is "how to level the playing field so that you don't end up with giant multinational, global companies that control the resource and everyone else is left on the periphery." GOVERNMENTS STRUGGLING, TOO

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