New Faces, New Voices

November 6, 2019

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of chairing a combined meeting of SCL Trustees and Group Chairs. We get together every year, to gather thoughts on what’s been going on and to set priorities for collaboration, networking and training for the year ahead. 

This year the room was buzzing with ideas and it was particularly gratifying to see and hear the views of representatives from the Junior Lawyer and newly formed Trainee groups. Perhaps because of their presence, and also in the light of our upcoming Annual Lecture to be presented by Haben Girma (on which more below), much of the discussion centred on diversity and how we can do more to get new voices heard and new faces seen. 

I was particularly struck by an observation made by one of our group chairs when encouraging new people to get involved with their events, they focus less on PQE and more on what knowledge and expertise people can bring to the table. 

So this is what we want to encourage in the next year: new faces and new voices speaking at our events, helping to run a group or contributing to the site and Computers & Law magazine (on which point our Editor, David Chaplin, is currently looking for predictions for 2020 and reflections on 2019 year, a perfect way to get started).

Our diversity statement hits the nail on the head: we are trying to build a community where “inclusiveness is a reflex, not an initiative.“ We want age, gender or disability to be no barrier to whether you can contribute. We are going to make a concerted effort to stamp out ‘manels’ at our conferences and to run events where we can harness the talents of all our members and the wider tech law community. The enthusiastic feedback on flash talks at the Annual Conference perhaps shows how we can take practical steps towards achieving that goal. 

Finally, and as mentioned earlier, we were all genuinely excited by the prospect of listening to someone who will challenge our ideas of how we should approach inclusion when it comes to technology. Having Haben Girma, the first deaf-blind graduate of Harvard Law School, make her first UK visit from the US to present the Annual Lecture is a real coup for the Society. Her voice, and her unique message about how technology could help her, deserves to be heard by all and could be the best hour of diversity training any of our members will ever attend. I’ll be there with colleagues and friends: you should be there with yours too.

Mark O’Conor is the Chair of SCL and Partner & Chair of the London Client Group at DLA Piper UK LLP in London