Back to Basics

October 27, 2010

One of the key attractions of IT law for practitioners is that it remains a relatively fast moving area of law.  As IT develops into new and ever more complex areas, new legal issues arise and IT lawyers sometimes struggle to keep pace with the speed of innovation in the industry. 

This has always been the case. In the mid-90s, as an ex-engineer coming to IT law from primarily a technological perspective, I had never taken too much interest in media concepts. With the rise of the Internet in the mid-90s, I had to scramble to understand these issues. Similarly nowadays, with cloud computing becoming a reality for business users as well as domestic consumers, it is no longer good enough just to refer the data protection issues over to the DP experts.

That being said, IT law has its own stock of basic principles and approaches.  It is important that practitioners that claim to have a speciality in this field have a good understanding of these principles and approaches.  Most of the issues that we advise on daily are an application of quite basic legal principles of contract law, copyright and EU law, and accepted approaches have emerged in the IT law context.

As a result, the SCL Media Board has decided that it is time for Computers & Law to publish a series of articles which will focus on some of the more basic issues faced by IT lawyers. There is a risk that the articles that are interesting to more experienced practitioners may be of peripheral interest to practitioners who are at an earlier stage in their careers and we are aiming to offer them a little more.

Over the next few issues we aim to publish articles on more basic IT law concepts than we generally focus on, including the treatment of limits of liability and entire agreement provisions in IT contracts, the construction and legal analysis of the impact of service level and service credit arrangements, IT contract formation issues, the legal status of computer software and the termination (including repudiation) of IT contracts. The first of these articles, from Gillian Cordall, addresses contract formation.

As well as this series of articles on more basic IT law concepts, the SCL Trustees have decided to reinforce the focus on enhancing the skills and capabilities of the more junior members of our profession by developing a series of webinars on basic IT law concepts.  The idea is to give an opportunity for trainees and junior lawyers who want to focus on IT law wherever they are working to have access to applicable training materials. SCL is aiming to liaise with a higher education institution to develop these training materials.

Both of these initiatives link with the new SCL IT Law Certification and Accreditation schemes as announced at the SCL Annual Conference in Bath.  The ‘Back to Basics’ articles, together with the IT Law Basics Webinars are intended to give a new focus to the development of a recognised career track for IT lawyers. SCL IT Law Certification will be available for more junior IT law practitioners and SCL IT Law Accreditation will give recognition to more senior practitioners who have a good degree of competence in IT law matters.  

Further details of the SCL IT Law Certification and SCL IT Law Accreditation schemes will be published in future editions but keep watching the SCL web site for developments in this area as they emerge. 

Roger Bickerstaff is a Trustee of the SCL and Chair of the SCL Media Board.  He is also a Partner and Joint head of the IT Sector Group at Bird & Bird, specialising in IT law.