“IT law with porpoise” – what a great year and here’s to the next

December 17, 2018

It has been quite the year for SCL. Under the Presidency of Professor Richard Susskind OBE and Mark O’Conor’s Chairmanship, and the leadership of our CEO Caroline Gould, we’ve:

  • operated a packed programme of successful events, not least our memorable Annual Conference;
  • published high quality thought leadership in our magazine and on our website, on hot topics ranging from artificial intelligence to the digital services tax;
  • celebrated the monumental contribution of our retiring editor Laurence Eastham, and embraced an exciting new chapter under incoming editor David Chaplin;
  • appointed our new Advisory Board – a real ‘brain trust’ of leaders whose input will accelerate our efforts to stay ahead of the curve;
  • moved into our new HQ at Bristol’s trendy Paintworks; and
  • a lot more besides. 

It was time, then, for the executive team and the trustees to enjoy a glass of fizz at our annual Christmas lunch last week. As it happened, we were joined by our new Paintworks neighbours, Workbrands.  Last year we recognised the need to bring our brand up to date. Having discussed the topic at our board meetings, and sought feedback from many of you, we recognise the legacy in our current name and branding. We have decided to pursue change cautiously and with expert help.

To this end, Workbrands kindly donated a brand consultancy session earlier in the day. To kick things off, they challenged us with a question: “If SCL was an animal, what would it be?” I am pleased to report that the SCL team responded with gusto. Getting agreement – not least amongst the lawyers in the room – was not an easy task. Fortunately we were allowed to cheat a little by picking three animals rather than one. After quite a bit of deliberation, and some very questionable illustration, we’d whittled our choices down. In the spirit of giving full transparency into SCL’s important business affairs, here they are:

1. A lioness

  • Lions are associated with being authoritative leaders – which we hope describes SCL’s thought-leadership. That said, it is the lionesses of the pack that are authoritative but warm, independent but team workers, and excel at execution.

2.  A dolphin

  • Dolphins are energetic, intelligent and sociable.  It was remarked that dolphins have their own language, as does the technology law community. Dolphins are also known to enjoy a bit of fun – although we felt that our developer Simon Forrester’s suggestion that our tagline could be “IT law with porpoise” was pushing it.

3. Coral

  • An inspired left-field suggestion by SCL’s Communications Manager Maddie Southorn. Coral is slightly older than SCL: 535 million years to our forty-five. Nevertheless, given our heritage tracking the legal implications of modern computing since 1973, we also lay claim to great tradition. We’re colourful and full of life too.

Of course, these animals also have some traits that could be considered negative for SCL. For example, coral nourishes and supports a whole ecosystem but tends to stay below the surface.  Instead, whilst continuing to nurture and educate, SCL also needs to be visible, unmistakable, unmissable. An elephant, a giraffe, an eagle? 

How about a team of committed, enthusiastic people who enjoy their charitable mission of fostering thought leadership in this important field?

We’ve had some great success partnering with organisations such as HM Courts & Tribunals Service this year, but it’s important that we continue to shout about our own virtues too. Not least because 2018 was arguably the year that tech law really hit the mainstream consciousness. For example, as an acronym GDPR is probably now as well-known as FTSE. Further, in 2018, the notion that lack of effective tech regulation can have profound consequences found critical mass.

Our discussion at lunch touched upon the qualities the Society needs to flourish in this environment. We will continue to welcome to our shores members and visitors alike. We have a solid platform, but we need to continually protect and invest in it to keep it healthy. We need to raise awareness of our mission. Put another way: we need to keep our coral reef in good shape and growing, but we need to make more of a splash too. We’ll be exploring this theme more formally in the new year, and we welcome your views

We hope that you agree with our armchair zoology, or at least recognise many of the same attributes in SCL as we do, particularly our community focus. The maxim “the more you put in, the more you get out” definitely rings true with our Society. Getting involved in 2019 is as easy as dropping the SCL team a line at hello@scl.org to have a chat. We have opportunities for all of our members and prospective members to help us meet our charitable objects.

In the meantime, on behalf of the exec team and the other trustees, many thanks to everyone who has been involved in the Society in 2018. We hope you enjoy the festive period and look forward to working with you again next year.

Chris James
Chris James is a Trustee of SCL and Associate General Counsel, Digital & Innovation / Cyber at HSBC