February 18, 2011

SCL Forum 

For the third year in a row, the Feb/March issue of the magazine is dominated by contributions reflecting the proceedings at the SCL Annual Policy Forum. The Forum is always a special event that provokes thought and encourages its participants to edge out of their comfort zone. This year’s was no different in that respect and I am delighted that some of that atmosphere has spilled over into these pages. 

Three messages from the articles have lodged firmly in my brain. First, from Professor Nico van Eijk, the need to see net neutrality in the context of an older issue: ‘who takes control of the eyeballs’ and the implications for the major income flow that go with that control. Secondly, the fundamental problem with copyright highlighted by Professor Chris Reed: ‘copying is a mere proxy for use of the creation, which is what the creator needs to control if the law’s aims are to be achieved’ – like all perceptions, pretty obvious once acknowledged. Thirdly, and perhaps because I have a family tie with a science researcher, the mild madness that is produced by applying FOI principles to a university research establishment, as revealed in Andrew Charlesworth’s article. 

You may well find that one or more of the other articles provoke comment or stick in the brain. Although these articles are slightly different in tone than the normal run of articles in the magazine, they will certainly repay your  time and attention. 

I am grateful to all the contributors of course, but special thanks go to Andrew Charlesworth, who chaired the Forum and did so much work in bringing it to fruition, and to Caroline Gould, who was not only intensely involved in organising the Forum but also did much of my job in recruiting authors from it and setting deadlines etc. 


The only downside of having so much space devoted to the articles arising from the Forum is that I ran out of space very quickly. There are even more articles than normal on the web site that demand your attention. A number of those are outstandingly good and would have been lead articles in another issue.  

It really is an embarrassment of riches, although only I need feel embarrassed. I have to offer a public apology to those authors I led on with the promise of inclusion in this issue. It did not work out as I expected, but I am delighted to see that the hits on members-only articles on the web site frequently show that many hundreds have visited the page, and careful analysis suggests that often the visitor has actually read the article thoroughly. In any case, most held-over articles will appear next time. 

SCL Lecture 

This year’s SCL Lecture, from Dr Mike Lynch of Autonomy, exemplifies an area where lawyers need more understanding of IT if they are to operate effectively. Dr Lynch will be shining light on information management issues and dealing with the new challenges set by electronically stored information. Those who react to the mention of ESI with a quiver and a breezy denial of interest are deluding themselves. The SCL Annual Lecture is certainly not just for e-disclosure specialists or those involved with massive databases.  

If lawyers were robots, they would be information management machines. Legal professionals are facing an ever-growing onslaught of information that they must understand and manage – and this is true for lawyers in every size of firm and whatever their specialism. The only way to cope effectively and efficiently is to ally technology with the legal brain. It may well be that only a few will survive – those who see the need for the legal profession’s answer to Iron Man. The rest may be lost forever, buried in a disorganised archive, never to emerge. 

I look forward to seeing prospective survivors at the Lecture on 8 March.