Building a Tech Law Curriculum – SCL World Café – Friday 15 November 2019, London

November 7, 2019

Given its impact on all our lives, you might wonder why all law students are not taught about information technology (IT). Lawyers are educated in many core areas, such as contracts, torts, public law, criminal law and equity, to name a few. But many specialise in areas where technology is not really in focus, and they will not see the opportunities and threats that the latest technology brings to the legal system. That is not only unfair in terms of their own career development, but it also means that the legal system does not adapt to technology as it should. On 15 November, the SCL aims to help solve that problem by gathering over 100 stakeholders from across the UK to discuss the evolution of the legal curriculum to include a core focus on information technology.

Where has this idea come from?

A year ago, the SCL’s Advisory Board met for the first time. Building on the legal membership of the Society’s previous media/editorial advisory boards, the Trustees wanted an Advisory Board with a wider remit to help the SCL focus on general trends in technology law in everything it does, rather than just in terms of what it publishes. The board now includes expertise drawn from national museums, scientific institutes and academies, and computer science.

In its first meeting last November, the Advisory Board was asked to consider and recommend how the SCL could best deliver on its mission:

“To inform and educate legal and technology professionals, academics and students and the wider audience on the impact of IT on law and legal practice through the promotion of best practice, thought leadership, and the fostering of a global tech law community.”

One of the key recommendations from that initial meeting was for an “Annual SCL IT & Law symposium for lawyers/law students, tech people, university course providers and recruiters.”

With the support of the Trustees, that idea has evolved into the current event.

What’s the specific goal of this event?

The goal of the event is to help ensure that the legal system can survive and adapt itself to technological challenges, with a view to promoting and protecting core principles such as access to justice for all, the Rule of Law, fundamental rights, the integrity of public administration and the constitution.

Why the World Café format?

The legal education system has many participants – students, universities, employers and other stakeholders, including all of us as citizens. The goal of the event is also outward looking. So, we wanted to encourage as wide a range of interested and knowledgeable participants as possible to influence the shape of the tech law curriculum. Rather than hosting a series of lectures, like a normal conference, we thought that the flexible “World Café” format would help us efficiently capture everyone’s thoughts by enabling discussions among small groups of participants, with some short ‘flash talks’ to help focus the discussion.

What specific issues or themes will be discussed?

Currently, the questions are framed as follows with the intention of provoking and framing discussion rather than constraining it (note that the questions may be refined for the event in consultation with the World Café facilitator and SCL Trustees):

  1. What technology-related skills/qualities should society reasonably expect from law graduates and qualified lawyers?
  2. Should tech skills be taught as part of the university curriculum or as part of the curriculum of other vocational training?
  3. How can lawyers and law students practicably identify, understand and address the externalities and consequences of incentives designed to circumvent existing law (e.g. tax breaks and other exemptions from liability)?
  4.  How can lawyers and law students practicably identify, understand and address the advent and use of technology to ‘hack’ the law or society itself (e.g. crypto-currencies/DLT, subversion of electoral controls using artificial intelligence and fake news, use of private/encrypted communications by ministers, officials and their advisers)?
  5. How can educators practicably ensure that legal and compliance management/staff remain aware of the jurisprudential/ethical roots of regulation and compliance policies/programmes in areas such as privacy, freedom of information, information security, electoral regulation, public administration?
  6. What reasonably practicable steps can be taken to ensure that the ethical and responsible application of the law to technology is not subverted in practice?

What’s the proposed output?

The output of this event will involve the publication of an SCL ‘green paper’ – a preliminary report intended to provoke discussion – to help guide the evolution of an up to date technology law curriculum.

We would be delighted for the SCL to foster further discussion in the course of that evolution, and to assist in the publication of a follow-up white paper, if that’s what participants suggest.

Attendance at this event is free of charge and open to all.

Bookings: Please email to register your interest in this event.