The SCL Student Tech Law Challenge – a winning account

March 13, 2019

I found myself in London on a sunny Friday at the end of February, Google-mapping my way to the University of Law for my first experience with the Society for Computers and Law. The university itself is tucked in between the large, space-age buildings that dominate the landscape around the Barbican and it is visually as far as you can get from the aged, cobblestone streets of Edinburgh, where I began studying law in September 2018.

I had flown down to participate in the SCL Student Law Tech Challenge 2019, a day-long event organised and run by the SCL to encourage students interested in tech law and its applications in the every day lives of tech lawyers. I genuinely had no idea what to expect when I arrived. I collected my lanyard and literally bumped into my partner Chris Ireland. Chris, from the University of Southampton, and I were partnered when our original partners had to drop out. We immediately hit it off – bonding over a love of black coffee and biscuits – before the day kicked off at 10am.

The day itself consisted of two tasks. There were around 60 teams(~120 students) in total and people had come from all across the UK to participate, including Team 7 seated behind us who coincidentally had also come from Edinburgh as well. The room was split in two, half doing the negotiation task first, and the other beginning with the data breach task. The SCL mentors were on hand to explain the running of the event, give advice and in general created a relaxed and creative environment in which we got to work.

Chris and I began with the negotiation task – a breach of contract case that required negotiation to fulfil both the needs of our client and to prevent further retention and possible termination of the contract. The SCL had developed a really detailed scenario, with in-depth information that was shared with both teams and “confidential” information that only your side got to see. The theme was “Game of Thrones”, highly topical of course, but I was glad to stand by my GoT allegiances and #represent the North by being the negotiators for “Stark Digital”. We had an hour to prepare our arguments and strategy, then the negotiation took place with another team representing “Lannister Industries”.

We had 50 minutes for the negotiation, which was followed by self-analysis and feedback from the mentor who marked us. The entire experience was great. I have never participated in a negotiation before, and although I have some experience of mooting this was very different. Chris and I worked well as a team, keeping our cards close to our chest, while the other team were very impressive, balancing aggressive questioning and standing their ground with subtle points and open discussion. Each team was given the opportunity for a 5-minute recess during the negotiation, to compare points and consider further movement. We came out of the first task feeling optimistic, happy about the day so far and our teamwork.

Lunch was served and, despite having to run to the bank to deal with my own technology issues, it was a great opportunity to talk more with the other participants and mentors at the event. There were a wide range of people, from backgrounds in computing science and physics to the humanities and the mentors had come from as far afield as Italy for the event. The discussion was great, everyone was very open and friendly and it was clear there was a great community within the SCL.

“The mentors throughout the day had emphasised that the focus was not on your legal and case law knowledge… but on how you responded to the tasks.”

The afternoon wore on, and Chris and I settled into developing our strategy for the data breach task. This was a different perspective from the negotiation task, with two parts. The first involved a question and answer set up, which required us as a team to read through the documents pertaining to the breach and to answer questions. These questions were very general, asking about key issues and that type of thing. The mentors throughout the day had emphasised that the focus was not on your legal and case law knowledge but on how you responded to the tasks.

The second part of the task was slightly more hands on. We had to prepare for a meeting with our client, who wanted more information about their legal position regarding the breach and what they had to do in response to this. This was the only part of the day that involved slightly more nuanced legal analysis skills, as you were required to look through the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) to work out how the law applied to your client and what their obligations were under the law. Once again, we sat down with a mentor and he acted as the client, asking questions while we clearly and concisely explained the situation as is appropriate for a client without in-depth legal understanding.

Finally it was the end of the day, and a great experience. Chris and I had had a great day, getting to know one another and working together on really interesting projects and issues with dedicated mentors and enthusiastic competitors. I can genuinely say that we were not expecting to win, we were already flying high from the opportunity to meet and work in an area we’re both interested in for our future careers. Winning was an unbelievable honour, and it was humbling to have our efforts recognised by individuals in the industry who do this type of thing every day. It made an already great day even better. “The SCL are invested in students, not just in London but UK-wide”

Overall, my experience of the Student Law Tech Challenge and the SCL was superb. I would highly recommend anyone interested in getting involved. Not only was the event full of talented, interesting people but it also opened my eyes to the world of tech law more deeply. It is clear that the SCL are invested in students, not just in London but UK-wide. The society’s incredibly generous help regarding travel costs made attending the event possible for me, and I would encourage anyone not applying on the basis of cost to always ask. I only started studying law in September 2018. My knowledge of law is obviously limited – I am only in my second semester of the subject! Yet the experience with the SCL has boosted my confidence, proving to me not just the strong community in this area of law, but the possibilities it has for myself and others like me looking to build a future with tech law. 

Lauren with teammate Chris Ireland receiving their trophies from Simon Tolson, Senior Partner at sponsor firm Fenwick Elliott LLP

Lauren is a graduate LLB student at Edinburgh University and an SCL Student Ambassador