SCL Internet Interest Group: A Brief Manifesto

November 1, 2001

The Original Aims

For most members of the legal profession, the Internet in the Summer of 1996 was little more than a promise. It was a promise of instant written communications from virtually anywhere in the planet, a promise of immensely vast and completely up-to-date legal resources and a promise of the most sophisticated marketing tool ever available. It was the anticipation of that promise and its impact on the legal profession that led a handful of those members to launch the SCL Internet Interest Group in June 1996.

The original aims of the Group can be grasped from the title of its first event: ‘Demystifying the Internet – Everything you need to know to get started’. At the time, there was an urge to know what Internet technology was about. Shortly after, this need was accompanied by the wish to understand the legal issues affecting the commercial use of the Internet.

This simple formula proved pretty successful. Today, the Group has around 1,400 members which represents around two-thirds of the total membership of the Society for Computers & Law.

The Evolution

It is clear that the IIG has not remained static. Like the Internet itself, the Group has learnt to evolve at a dramatic speed. Members of the IIG have seen the dot com bubble inflate and burst. Key pieces of legislation have been scrutinised and debated. Internet hot topics, trends and buzzwords have all had their moment (and new ones will, no doubt, continue to emerge).

Perhaps, the most important achievement in the evolution of the Internet Interest Group has been to become a think-tank for the ‘interactive economy’ (previously known as the ‘new economy’ and before that as the ‘information age’ – see my point about the buzzwords!). Those of you who witnessed Danny Meadows-Klue explain why The Daily Telegraph became the first broadsheet to go online or listened to Harry Small criticise the lukewarm treatment of electronic signatures by the Electronic Communications Act will know what I mean.

The discussions that followed most of our events must have sparked many thoughts about the implementation of Internet technology in law firms and the interpretation of the law in an online context. I am sure that many of our clients have benefited from those thoughts and discussions.

The Vision

What we need to ask ourselves now is: Where do we go from here? How can we further exploit our potential in a creative and beneficial way? The diversity of expertise of those 1,400 members is something that cannot, and must not, be shunned. The IIG must retain its unstuffiness whilst exploiting fully its wisdom and enthusiasm. In other words, it is time to take the Group to the next level.

One of the ways of exploiting this potential is by taking a more active role in the legislative process. Most government departments engaged in drafting new laws and regulations seek comments and suggestions from those who are interested in contributing. In the area of Internet-related legislation, the challenge is to contribute to the debate in a practical and forward-thinking way. This is a challenge that the IIG should accept at every opportunity.

For those of us who are responsible for steering the future strategy of the Group, it is also important to encourage the rest of the members to contribute their ideas and opinions. This is an open forum, because the Internet, its uses and the legal conundrums presented by it, require that. Anyone who contributes, either at one of our events or privately by e-mail, will be helping the rest of us understand the small print of the Internet.

Eduardo Ustaran is a solicitor in the TechMedia Group at Berwin Leighton Paisner. He can be contacted at