Richard Stephens: SCL and a Promising Future

April 30, 2005

LE: Congratulations on your election as Chairman of SCL. For how long have you been associated with the Society?

RS: For many, many years – so long now I can’t remember!

LE: What do you hope to achieve or improve upon during your term of office?

RS: I don’t think I need to bring about great changes – basically, and thanks to the efforts of my predecessors, everything is going extremely well and moreover going in the right direction. However, it is important not to be complacent. We want to do more for all the members – hence the recent (and ongoing) half-day workshops. We want to reach out to more people – hence the innovation (highly successful on our first two attempts) of using webinars. We want to make the SCL the focus point for all people who have anything to do with its aims – so for example we are planning a drive for membership among in-house lawyers, not just those from IT companies, but also those who need to know about IT and law. We are looking at refreshing the Web site to make it more useable and useful. I could go on!

LE: You are the first Chairman to be alone in that position for some time, as opposed to being a Joint Chairman. Do you see that as creating a more powerful position or does it leave you with a rather heavy burden?

RS: I am not aware of any particular powers attaching to my position – it’s more of a constitutional monarch than a prime minister! But all of us Trustees are bubbling with ideas, so there is a lot to be getting on with for everyone. If I can facilitate progress on those intiatives, that will be the best I can do.

LE: One recent development for SCL is the growth of interest groups such as the KM Group and the Outsourcing Group. Is this rather than geographically limited groups the way forward?

RS: I don’t think the developments are mutually exclusive in any way. It may of course be that an element of self-selection takes place, and we must be aware of the trends as they emerge. We are keeping a close eye on things as they go. What is happening is simply an attempt to provide to the members the best selection of events so that we provide the best service for the membership.

LE: Do you see SCL having a role in campaigning for better IT laws? Is there a big cause, as once there was in relation to BAILII, which can be the focus for a large part of SCL activities?

RS: We are a charity, which prevents us from undertaking lobbying work, for example. There is nothing to stop the SCL from commenting on legal proposals – it is something that we used to do, but it seems to have gone out of vogue. One thing I would like to see is ad hoc groups formed to comment on such things, or perhaps sub-committees of existing groups. We have tossed a few ideas around at the Board, but if anyone has ideas, be sure to let me know, as I would love to promote this sort of thing.

LE: Given the changing face of technology and the general move to smart phones and the like – is Society for Computers and Law the right name for the organisation?

RS: Well, looking at branding is just one of the things we are thinking about at the moment hand in hand with a refresh of the website. It is something that the Media Board is actively pursuing so I won’t pre-empt their thinking. The really important thing is to make sure that the SCL is instantly recognised for what it is and does. We want SCL to be known as the best forum for discussion about IT and law and the most cost effective provider of training in IT Law. All this can be done through our magazine, website, meetings or webinars. We want to ensure that all our members can benefit from our innovative approaches – be they in Aberdeen or Plymouth, Delhi or Sydney.