DLA Piper: The Legal Beacon Guiding OpenAI in Washington

Sep 13, 2023

The illustrious presence of Sam Altman, the head of OpenAI, at the Senate’s critical hearing on artificial intelligence in May was not merely a coincidence but a well-choreographed event. Altman won over legislators from both sides of the political spectrum with his sincere and proactive approach to collaboration. This successful performance was orchestrated by the strategic guidance of DLA Piper, a law firm with extensive global reach and deep-rooted connections in Washington.

Sources privy to the relationship revealed that DLA Piper has been providing counsel to Altman on ways to navigate Congressional testimony and win over lawmakers since as early as spring 2023. These insiders, who requested anonymity, have also stated that the firm is currently preparing Altman for his upcoming appearance at the inaugural AI Insight Forum. This high-profile event, convened by Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, will feature an array of tech industry leaders.

While the partnership between OpenAI and DLA Piper was previously undisclosed, Geneva Youel, a spokesperson for DLA Piper, confirmed their business relationship. She stated that the firm offers strategic advice to OpenAI on various matters, but declined to provide further details or disclose the financial particulars of the agreement. Representatives of OpenAI chose not to comment.

Altman, a prominent figure in the AI arena, has found himself at the heart of Washington’s whirlwind effort to craft new regulations governing artificial intelligence. His company’s groundbreaking language model, ChatGPT, sparked significant interest in AI among Congressional and White House circles.

Despite Altman’s increasingly frequent appearances in Washington, OpenAI’s official presence remains relatively low-key. However, the firm’s recruitment for a U.S. congressional lead indicates a desire to expand its influence in the capital.

Until OpenAI solidifies its own operations, it’s expected to continue leveraging DLA Piper’s expertise for navigating Washington’s complex political landscape. DLA Piper has been proactive in AI policy, as evidenced by its early adoption of OpenAI’s GPT-4 language model to develop a pioneering AI legal assistant. The firm also established an AI and Data Analytics Practice in March, headed by Danny Tobey, a partner at DLA Piper and former software executive.

DLA Piper’s involvement with AI extends beyond OpenAI. The firm spent several years lobbying on AI issues for the Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit organization that recently rallied tech leaders to call for a halt to large-scale AI experiments. The relationship ended around the same time as Altman’s first congressional testimony, according to lobbying disclosures.

DLA Piper’s roster of AI specialists includes Tony Samp, a senior policy advisor and founding director of the Senate’s AI Working Group; Paul Hemmersbaugh, a former chief counsel at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and John Gevertz, the former chief privacy officer at Visa.

In summary, DLA Piper is playing an instrumental role in shaping OpenAI’s approach to Washington, providing strategic guidance and support in the increasingly crucial area of AI policy.