SCL’s New Chair of the In-House Group: Dervish Tayyip

February 28, 2011

I was delighted to recently accept the post of Chair of the In-House Group and I want to pay a fulsome tribute to the work already done by Shanthini Satyendra in creating and chairing the fledgling In-House Group.

I am firmly of the view that the broader membership of the SCL and those of its members working in industry have a lot to offer each other. Each can benefit considerably from the contributions of the other. I see my role as supporting this symbiotic relationship and ensuring that it remains healthy and maintains its vitality.  I also want to use my period as Chair to listen carefully to what in-house members of SCL want, take their ideas back to my colleagues in the In-House group and the Trustees of SCL and find ways to put them into action.

Clive Davies, the current Chair of SCL, has expressed his long-standing interest in involving more in-house lawyers in SCL. It is important that we encourage the realisation of the value of SCL to in-house lawyers. In-house lawyers often feel a sense of isolation and seek opportunities to meet fellow IT lawyers.  SCL provides an excellent forum for sharing experiences, facilitating, networking and accessing advice from one’s peers. SCL also marks itself out from other similar fora. In addition to analysis and debate of IT related law, it provides added value on the subject of how to practise IT law. This focus on practical application is of enormous benefit to in-house members.

In-house members in turn bring significant benefits to the broader membership of SCL. They bring a terrific range of experience, perspective and interests. In-house lawyers are influential, valued and respected employees of their companies and, in many cases, their leadership teams.  This is particularly so at a time when the amount of technology driven change we are seeing (and the amount we are going to see in the next few years) is staggering. Change is especially disorienting for lawyers because we are focused on precedent, things that have happened in the past are used to set up rules for what’s going to come in the future. Technology continues to transform the way business is done, regardless of the industry you are in. New developments such as interactions with multiple screens (be they the PC, smartphone or the tablet or slate device), ubiquitous connectivity (so-called cloud computing), and major strides in the development of the natural user interface all have major business and legal implications and the in-house legal community are at the forefront of dealing with the challenges arising from all of these.

At the same time, the role of the in-house lawyer continues to evolve. As lawyers, we have traditionally thought of ourselves as people who are expert in different fields and who bring that body of knowledge to problems that were presented to us.  However, increasingly that information is becoming democratized and there is ubiquitous access to that information. What in-house lawyers add to the equation is the ability to synthesize, to be in effect systems integrators, to add judgement, evaluate, provide insight (and wisdom on our better days) and to try to figure out what ultimately is the best course of action to move things forward. The biggest question for in-house IT lawyers is: how do we help transition the businesses we work for in a world of new rules, law and regulations that deal with these new realities? The truth is that a lot of the old rules we have been dealing with for many years don’t apply as well as they used to.  

When you work in an in-house environment, you are a lawyer in an organisation whose primary mission is to do something else. Therefore the core competency of the business might be finance, chemicals, automotive or software engineering. At Microsoft, for example, we are lawyers within an engineering culture. We play an important role as in-house lawyers in helping connect software engineering to the rest of the world. The values that society adopts in the form of laws, the values we see unfolding, certainly give us an opportunity to play a role in shaping the future.  Part of what we do, part of what makes an in-house role fun, is that we do not only advise on laws as they exist today but also where we think the law is going and how it will exist tomorrow.  These perspectives coming from an in-house dimension contribute real value to the broader membership of SCL.

The In-House Group is proactive and plans to exploit its special perspective with a visible contribution to SCL. It is sponsoring a series of SCL events over the coming months which are designed to be complimentary to the private practice perspective on a range of legal issues and developments related to technology.  I hope you will be able to join us at these events.

In January, Dervish Tayyip became Chair of the SCL In-House Group. He is Head of UK Legal at Microsoft, where he has been in-house since 1999. Dervish is a solicitor and before joining Microsoft, he was in private practice for ten years, first at the City of London firm of Adlers (later DLA Solicitors) and then Partner at the London West End firm of Reid Minty (later McGrigors LLP).