SCL Conference 2011: Risk-free Risk and IT

June 20, 2011

SCL’s 11th Annual Conference is imaginatively entitled ‘Technology PLC v Risk Limited’, capturing the tension between technology and its risks and hinting at the possibility that the tension might spill over into dispute and litigation. The focus is of course on minimising that tension and coping with the difficulties which it inevitably engenders in IT contracts, outsourcing and the like. But the Conference also aims to help with one of the biggest risks IT lawyers run – a failure to grasp the big picture and to see how technology can inform and improve their practice. 

Risk is very widely defined. In one form or another it impinges on almost every aspect of the IT lawyer’s role. There is the obvious risk like data loss and the more obscure like failure to make provision for technological breakthroughs. There are focused sessions such as the one-hour session on risk management in IT contracts, where specific issues such as transfer of risk to insurers will be covered. There is a review of cybercrime and the risk management issues that arise in relation to it. There is, perhaps most intriguingly of all, the SCL world café with its fascinating session title ‘The evolution of lawyers – smarter, faster and more efficient. How will people, process and technology evolve to future proof the profession?’ 

The second day starts with practicalities: balancing risk in outsourcing. There is no doubt that the changes in economic conditions have altered the balance and that some old certainties have evaporated and the session asks if the right balance has now been struck. The second session returns us to the less obvious risk and looks at how to handle social media, dealing with what it describes as the ‘fuzzy lines’ between business and individuals and between the data relating to both. In light of a number of high-profile social media cases, it is easy to shy away from involvement in social media and to discourage its use but the session will seek to improve upon the blinkered approach and show that a more balanced strategy can manage and control the risks associated with social media. The Conference’s final session deals with e-disclosure, under the frightening title ‘Litigation and the cancer of disclosure’. The session will allow lawyers from the UK, Germany and the USA to outline the procedures that apply in their jurisdictions and explain how their systems and procedures represent the best and most effective system for achieving justice. 

Two contributions ensure that the wider landscape is not neglected. Responsibility for ensuring that the wood is seen as well as the trees falls on keynote speaker Dr Andrew Martin from Kellogg College at Oxford University and then Professor John Naughton who gives the speech at the Conference Dinner. Andrew Martin is a leading light in software engineering and will consider the exponential changes in technology and their effect on the challenges faced by lawyers. John Naughton is Professor of Public Understanding of Technology and author of A Brief History of the Future: Origins of the Internet; he is both academic and journalist and will make a fascinating speaker. 

Add to all of this the famed SCL networking experience, where the sharp elbows that one sometimes associates with networking are kept to one side in favour of a community spirit, and the ever-appealing weekend attractions of Bath and its surrounding countryside and you have a sure-fire winner. A risk-free investment of time and money if ever there was one.