Event Report: Making a Career of IT

October 28, 2019

At this interesting event SCL members gained insights into different careers in IT law. The event was chaired by Quentin Tannock, Barrister at 4 Pump Court. A diverse panel, both in terms of specialisms and roles, addressed the room about their work, their paths into their careers and important trends within their field. The panelists were: 

William Norris, Principal – Legal UK&I, DXC Technology
Holly Pownall, Specialty Claims Underwriter, Hiscox UK
Shayhan Patelmaster, Solicitor, Ernst & Young LLP
Harshiv Thakerar, Head of Commercial Litigation, Augusta
Linda Sjoblom, Solicitor, Fieldfisher

William Norris offered an insight into the digital transformation that he has been witnessing and working on. He reported that increasingly organisations are moving away from legacy mainstream IT estates to scalable cloud-based services and applications. To support its business effectively against this background, the legal department at DXC has been undergoing its own digital transformation focusing on improvements and innovations in processes and technologies. For example, DXC has introduced new contracting methodologies and processes to help increase the speed to contract, and is looking to use automation and AI to assist with contracting reviews and risk assessments. Innovations and technologies of this nature are allowing lawyers to spend less time on administrative or low value tasks and increasing the time spent focusing on areas where they can add true value by bringing their skills and experience to bear. This shows how much already is and how much more may soon be possible in the area of legal tech. 

Holly Pownall: Drawing from her experience in the insurance industry, Holly shared that many in the industry are closely following the progress of Lloyd v. Google LLC [2019] EWCA Civ 1599 through the Courts. In this important case, the Court of Appeal ruled on a claim brought on behalf of a class of Apple iPhone users. Key points emerging from the judgment are:

“that damages are in principle capable of being awarded for loss of control of data under article 23 and section 13, even if there is no pecuniary loss and no distress.” (para. 70) and that “the represented parties do, therefore, in the relevant sense have the same interest. Put in the more old-fashioned language of Lord Macnaghten in The Duke of Bedford at [8], the represented claimants have a “common interest and a common grievance” and “the relief sought [is] in its nature beneficial to all”.” (para. 73)

This decision has sparked much interest and has potentially far reaching consequences for group litigation in the context of large data breaches.  

Shayhan Patelmaster highlighted how the “Big Four” accounting firms are increasingly moving into areas that were traditionally the remit of private practice law firms. The global reach of these firms is impressive, with EY Law already operating in 84 countries, for example. The initial focus has been to combine advisory legal services for complex and high value matters with legal managed services for high volume legal work, in order to offer a combined and valuable service offering to clients. Through the cooperation with subject matter experts across EY some exciting new projects have also been realised, for example in relation to new disruptive technologies such as AI and blockchain. Shayhan stated that a challenge will be to bring all of EY’s areas of expertise into combined service packages for the legal market. He also observed that the market for such legal tech was becoming increasingly competitive but also that demand was increasing as in-house teams were increasingly being asked to do more with fewer resources. 

Harshiv Thakerar offered valuable insights into the work of a litigation fund. Before funding a case, there is of course a need for rigorous analysis and only 3-5% of cases that are considered are actually invested in, which appears to be the average across the industry. He explained that there has been a growth in this market since litigation funding became legal in the 2000s. Interestingly, very wealthy clients and corporate entities are also approaching litigation funders, as they appreciate the management service offered and appreciate the analysis of this third party. There are also funders specialised on Defendants, however, litigation funders do not usually invest in defence work as a “win” for a Defendant can be difficult to define. 

Linda Sjoblom recently joined Fieldfisher after working for two years at a boutique technology law firm where she focused on distressed IT projects and outsourcing disputes. Linda discussed her career path and offered valuable insight into the challenges and opportunities of moving into new roles and work environments. In terms of trends, she drew attention to an increase in personal data advisory work and personal data disputes that she has been involved with, repeating the potential significance of Lloyd v. Google LLC

SCL and 4 Pump Court are very grateful to all the speakers for sharing their insights and time. 

Anna Hoffman is a Barrister with 4 Pump Court.