Building on Clive’s Sound Chairmanship

November 26, 2012

As successor to Clive Davies as the Chair of the SCL I feel a certain amount of responsibility. Clive has steered the SCL through some “choppy waters” in these last three years of financial difficulty. He leaves the SCL in good health with a good spirit, a great range of events and keenness amongst many members to get involved and to contribute.

As the new Chair I aim to build on the initiatives that Clive has promoted. We need to reach out as much as possible to in-house practitioners. I don’t know the exact figures but roughly a third of IT practitioners in the UK are probably now working in-house, either for IT companies or as specialist IT lawyers in larger companies, such as financial services entities. Many of these in-house lawyers work alone or in small groups and could benefit enormously from SCL membership, through receiving C&L, access to the SCL’s on-line resources and attending seminars and conferences. But in-house practitioners often work in environments where the cost of membership and attending events is a real challenge to justify. We need to work out ways in which we can support these in-house practitioners and thus gain the benefits of the insights and understandings which they bring.

One way that we might make the SCL more relevant to in-house practitioners is to increase the international outlook of the SCL. In-house IT lawyers now operate almost inevitably in an international environment and face the challenges of different legal systems across their businesses on a daily basis. It is the current reality of legal work. Even so, private practitioners often continue to take a narrow nationalistic. Of course, as lawyers, we can only practice in the legal systems in which we are qualified but as the SCL we need to address the issues facing entities that cross many country boundaries. The forthcoming half-day conference on the data protection regulation of cloud services across Europe at Bristows on 3rd December is an example of an attempt to bring a more international perspective to SCL events. We are lucky to have Sebastian Meissner – the Rapporteur on the recent Article 29 Working Party’s cloud computing paper – to provide the Commission’s perspective on the issues, which will then be analysed by representatives from the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. We heard yesterday that Nicklas Thorgerzon from Sweden will be joining the panel to give a Nordic perspective.

This event may also lead to the emerging thoughts on the evolution of the law in order to accommodate the development of cloud services.
The evolution of the law relating to IT is a topic that has been discussed recently by the SCL Trustees in the context of the update to the SCL Objects in its Articles. Our conclusions are that, whilst the SCL is primarily an educational charity, aiming to educate its members and the public generally on issues associated with the law relating to IT, our role should also go beyond education and give some focus on the sound development of the law relating to IT. Whilst we do not want to become lobbyists, there is a role for the SCL in examining how the law should develop. We have already been doing this for many years in the annual Policy Forum and in our responses to UK government consultation processes. In a number of areas the law is now hindering economic and technical developments and we should highlight these areas, identify the issues and, if possible, suggest solutions. Cloud computing is one of those areas where work needs to be done.

More generally, we should build on the spirit of community that Clive has fostered. Most of us work in IT law because we are interested in the topic and the SCL gives great opportunities to meet and discuss topics with people with similar interests, with an openness that you can never achieve across the negotiating table or in an adversarial dispute. The 40th anniversary of the SCL next year should give us an opportunity (or at least an excuse) to hold more purely social events. We should try and run events that will attract people, and to attract younger practitioners through a range of events that have a broad attraction.

This is an exciting time for the SCL.