April 26, 2011

Two big new initiatives from SCL over the last two months will surely not have passed you by. First, we had the launch of the scheme for certification and accreditation then we had the new SCL Directory, the directory of members on a searchable database, fully accessible to the public. 

The first two SCL IT Law Accredited members have contributed to this issue: Paul Berwin and Barry Jennings. I wish I could claim this was part of a grand plan but it is in fact pure coincidence. Well, perhaps not ‘pure’ coincidence as one of the features of the magazine is that it includes comment and analysis from ‘competent and experienced practitioners’ ‘who can identify and advise on a wide range of IT law and related issues’ – the essential criteria for accreditation. The articles from Paul and Barry both carry that strong practical flavour that is characteristic of SCL articles and courses and that is one of the Society’s great strengths. 

I am hoping that the SCL Directory will blossom – certainly as I write this, a day after the public launch, the signs are very encouraging with over 200 SCL members having completed profiles. If you have yet to add your profile, it is not too late – the pages of the Directory are always open for new entries. 

It is important that SCL helps its members to validate and display their skills. The two new initiatives clearly add value for SCL members. (Although one look at commercial publication costs and course fees shows that it is already ridiculously good value, and one new client approach via the Directory will probably pay a decade’s membership fees.) But SCL takes its charitable objectives seriously and the new initiatives are not just about adding value for members; they involve a recognition that it is hard for businesses, especially smaller businesses, to find the sort of adviser that they need in a world where every commercial lawyer and his dog now claims some IT law expertise. It must be virtually impossible for the general public. I fear that a detailed account of my brush with a local IT law ‘specialist’ would be defamatory but true specialists do exist, even in Wiltshire, and the combination of the Directory and the Accreditation/Certification Scheme should make it easier to find them. 

I have a few words of advice about your entry in the Directory. 

First, it is worth investing a little time in expanding the entry beyond the basic. To have any serious hope of gaining value from your entry, you need to let the reader see what your true skills are and give decent details of what you actually do. And I mean what you actually do now – setting out details of a case which went to the Court of Appeal in 1982 might well shed no light at all on that. A list of clients is helpful but, if the reality is that you act mainly for small organisations, it can actually put people off if your list is only of the FT 500 companies that supposedly endow you with extra prestige.  

It is also important that you make a diary entry to review and update – at least yearly. There is a danger that your use of ‘recent’ (in reference to an event that was indeed recent in 2011) will suggest to a reader in 2013 that you have lost touch with the pace of IT development, and scarcely know what day it is. 

And finally, remember that the Directory is open to the public at large. It may be worth ensuring that your entry is adequately password protected. I have seen the passwords that many SCL members use on the membership database and some have clearly never read a security article or have the memories of goldfish. I have seen ‘SCL’, the member’s surname and a host of other readily guessable passwords used by this supposedly IT-savvy group. It mattered little if your password was weak in that context, but it does matter for the Directory. (Those SCL members who laudably use a combination of letters and numbers might like to remember that ’69’ is not the only two digit combination available.)