From the SCL Chair: A Good Year for Tech Law?

February 10, 2020

Last year’s successful Annual Conference was underpinned by the theme of “the future technology lawyer”. Reflecting on the buzz around the day at a subsequent Trustee meeting, we decided that the theme could be helpfully employed to inform our activities throughout 2020.

And as we talked around the theme, a sub theme emerged: when we think of the future technology lawyer it is almost impossible not to think of how we can use our expertise to shape the responsible use of technology in the future. The issues many of us will advise on in the next few years have the potential to transform the daily lives of everyone, and if left unrestrained, not necessarily for the better: facial recognition and algorithmic bias to name just a couple. So, the reality is that the future technology lawyer should seek to encourage the use of tech law for good.

Now an aspiration to use ‘tech law for good’ is ambitious and could easily end in disappointment. But if we use the phrase as a guiding light, then anything we do as a community to nudge ourselves, our clients, our policy makers and the wider public towards the responsible and proportionate use of technology will be a step on the way. We can also use our community to reflect changes in wider society such as diversity and equality.

So, I wanted to take this chance to highlight a few initiatives that we are planning for 2020 that will, I hope, progress this agenda (and hopefully avoid accusations of “techlawforgoodwashing”).

On 17 March, our thriving Women in Tech Law Group will host a session on “#EachforEqual: Making an Impact” which will look at how women can raise their professional profiles and drive change within our sector. Two days later, our new Trainee Lawyers’ Group will hold their launch event on Cybersecurity and Cyber-risk: Why should you be on top of it?

Later in the year we are also planning an event on AI and Ethics in Automated Decision Making, where we hope to kickstart work on a blueprint for future standards and regulation that works for financial services. We were amazed and delighted to receive over 25 offers from SCL members to host this event.  

Our work on shaping the future tech law curriculum will continue, building on the brainstorming of the World Café, with a conference on Friday 26 June which will review the draft SCL Green Paper inspired by the ideas aired at the earlier event.

But the culmination of our efforts might well be this year’s Annual Conference on 24 September, which we plan to combine with an opportunity to recognise the good work of our members and others in our sector with our inaugural “Tech Law for Good” Awards. The day will be relaxed and informal with plenty of opportunity to network and not only celebrates achievements in tech law but is the “must-attend” Conference for tech lawyers on the issues facing them in their day-to-day practice.

SCL HQ will keep you in the loop with more details of all our events as they are confirmed but I, for one, am really looking forward to an invigorating year helping to make progress on our “tech law for good” initiatives. I heartily encourage you to join me on that journey.

Last, but not least, we need your help. Inspired by the message from Haben Girma’s SCL Sir Brian Neill Lecture “people with disabilities drive innovation”, the SCL is launching a bursary scheme to help people with disabilities train for a career in law. Our Editor David Chaplin and his publishing partner Helen Lacey (who he also happens to be married to) are running the Bath Half Marathon on 15 March 2020 to raise funds to kickstart the scheme. Please support this initiative and sponsor them by visiting their JustGiving page

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