June 5, 2016

IFCLA Special

This is a special issue of the magazine. In its small way, it celebrates and provides a souvenir of a special event. I would like to add my voice to those welcoming those attending the Conference, especially those travelling from far afield. I hope the Conference goes well; I know that Roger Bickerstaff, Caroline Gould and Maddie Southorn have put in a mammoth effort to make sure it does.

We asked a number of the speakers at the IFCLA Conference 2016, hosted by SCL at the IET in London, as well as some prominent figures in IFCLA, if they would contribute an article. The idea was to give SCL members a flavour of the Conference and reflect the international dimension and range of perspectives that it provided. The response was so positive that we have not been able to include all the contributions here and some have had to be cut down to fit. You will need to use the epub version or visit our website to get access to all the material. I am very grateful to all the contributors – especially those that revised to hit my word count limits.

Thanks to the sponsorship of the German law firm von BOETTICHER Rechtsanwälte, we are able to do rather more than I expected. As well as giving SCL members a flavour of the Conference, we are able to give 1,300 readers of Computer Review International a flavour of the SCL magazine. It will be going out to them from that publication’s base in Germany.

Referendum and Beyond

The publication of this issue is timely, and not just because it is published at the time of the IFCLA Conference. The UK faces a choice on 23 June that will probably have a more profound effect on those advising and working with the tech industries than most. If it is a vote to leave the EU, the game will change. I have no doubt that UK tech lawyers will see a rush of clients from the tech sector seeking advice on the implications of withdrawal. It may well prove something of a bonanza, especially for those who can make themselves sound wise while reeling off advice that, pretty much whatever the EU-related topic, could be summarised as ‘it depends what happens next’. I guess we know that GDPR will still matter – assuming we have enough of a tech industry left for it to matter to.

That last phrase probably reveals that I am dreading a ‘Leave’ vote, though I don’t actually think that the consequence of ruin and degradation that has been outlined is very credible. My stance is much influenced by travels in the rest of Europe which have made me feel European but, since some of those travels were in non-EU countries, it is a little more than practical than that. One major influence is that I see the EU Commission deal with mega corporations and feel that mega corporations take notice; I don’t think that they take as much notice of the UK, despite the fact that we are a large and important economy in our own right.

But whatever the result of the vote, there is no doubt that UK tech lawyers need to look beyond UK boundaries when advising their clients. If we vote to remain, the boundaries for tech lawyers will nevertheless stretch far beyond the EU’s boundaries. If we vote to leave, the need to concentrate the mind on the international dimension will be doubled. Nobody is going to create a major IT business that trades only within the UK.

As SCL Chair Mark O’Conor said in his February email to SCL members, ‘Lawyers training and entering practice today will, more than ever before, need a strong appreciation of their domestic law, to build up awareness of practice, and to understand the technology. But more than that; they will need more than a passing appreciation for the extra-territorial aspects too. Whether that be enforcement of proceedings, or differences in approach between common law and civil law countries.’

I think that applies not only to those entering practice now but to all of those already practising in the tech sector. As far as this magazine is concerned, focusing on the international dimension will not stop here.