April 30, 1998

Our lead story concerns a call for contributions to SCL’s submission on E-document filing in the civil and family courts. February saw Laurence Kaye, Gillian Cordall and Mark Lloyd from SCL’s Internet Interest Group giving evidence in the Houses of Parliament to the All Party Internet Group on digital rights management, having been invited to attend and expand upon their written submissions to APIG’s Inquiry into that subject. These two examples of an interest at a high level in what technologically aware lawyers have to say represent the tip of an iceberg.

As for lower levels, I was struck by an article in The Times on 21 February about the new relationships between lawyers and their musician clients. The technology was taken as read – the questions which drove musicians and others in the music business into the arms of their lawyers concerned the best methods to employ to exploit their talents and products in a digital age. It appears that they are coming with a view to asking advice, even to the point of collaboration, not just with pustulating problems that demand legal remedies. And this echoes personal experience – I was recently amazed to find myself invited to explain about technology and copyright by three teenagers, who showed an informed and questioning interest which lasted at least as long as the display of all my knowledge on the subject, or at least all the knowledge I was capable of recalling after a quantity of red wine.

Each of these occurrences reflects a society which is changing rapidly, and which realises that the input of lawyers with a grasp of technology, and technologists with a real understanding of law, during the formative stage of these changes is crucial. SCL and its members, and indeed the pages of this magazine, have spent years devoting attention to issues which are now being swept into the mainstream. Lawyers with a passionate interest in technology and technologists operating in the legal environment are always going to find people who think those twin interests make them a trifle unattractive – geek squared is the (slightly geeky) description I heard. But that is not a considered or significant view. Your knowledge and your experience are at a premium. The next decade will offer up a number of opportunities to shape, or at least help shape, society. So many current major issues demand an understanding of both law and technology and these are not just the obvious but increasingly pervasive issues pertaining to intellectual property and telecommunications but even issues like terrorism and ID cards. The demand for input will ensure its supply – the challenge is ensuring the supply of good quality input, provided by people of integrity and with appropriate experience.

I would like to be able to say that the Society for Computers & Law will ensure that quality input is always available. I am sure that the Trustees will do their best to make sure that is so – but of course SCL is a membership organisation and what it achieves, in this respect as with any other, is determined by the commitment and level of enthusiasm of its members. This is the time of year when my traditional editorial reminds readers of the value of their subscription (as they come up for renewal). But while reminders about the new online CPD scheme and the host of recent and forthcoming events may be called for, I want to ask SCL members to give just as much weight to what they can contribute through SCL as they give to the contributions they receive in the form of the magazine, the Web site, online CPD and the focused meetings.

I shrink from echoing the over-used John F Kennedy quotation, but I don’t shrink from asking you to support SCL’s attempts to increase its profile and further enhance its reputation. All members thereby gain, and I am sure the new digital society can gain from informed and rounded input in so many areas.

Laurence Eastham