Laurence Eastham reflects on a year of high quality articles, is tempted to predict and looks forward to another exciting development in the SCL calendar
I cannot think of many better years for SCL. It’s true that there have been years with high-profile IFCLA Conferences and agenda setting SCL Lectures but 2017 has had a mix that appealed to me enormously. And much of this was reflected in the magazine
In the course of this year’s issues, we have had blockchain explained, AI implications puzzled over and smart cities explored. Plus we have seen GDPR and its interpretation and impact thoroughly examined, though, like a newly discovered continent, I suspect much terra incognita remains to give further delight; the brand new Article 29 Working Party guidance on consent looks like a bundle of fun. We have had one issue dominated by the two of the star SCL events – the Online Courts Hackathon and the SCL Conference on Real Business for Lawyers; the Hackathon was especially memorable for me, with so many bright young people applying a mix of tech knowledge and social insight and giving me a hope for the UK’s future. We can even boast that Neil Brown’s article on Sextech: Sticky Legal Issues provoked a special event on the many related issues – and by all accounts it was a memorable occasion.
We close the year, as has become something of a tradition, with sets of predictions – some very serious and some light-hearted, but all worthy of your attention. I am usually tempted to share my own views at this time – and this year is no different.
There is not as much doom and gloom about Brexit as I expected among this year’s predictions. As I stated in my Editorial for the June/July 2016 issue, I was dreading a leave vote but ‘don’t actually think that the consequence of ruin and degradation that has been outlined is very credible’. To be fair, I think it is marginally more credible now, but the smart money is on a very gradual relative decline, with some things getting better less quickly than they might have if the vote had gone the other way. There must though be a real chance of some very nasty blame games, making a The Apprentice boardroom argument look like a tea party, which will dominate politics, cause social division on an even greater scale than now and throw a shadow over every commercial activity including tech and innovation. Let’s hope not.
One recent development that is a Brexit-positive is the supine approach of the EU Commission to the Privacy Shield. It is a transparently cosmetic arrangement but, luckily for post-Brexit UK, the EU Commission refuses to call for the inches of slap to be removed. One can only hope that, notwithstanding the likely wishy-washy amendments to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 that will aim to make data retention policies compliant with EU law (and come up short), the Commission takes an equally ‘practical’ view of the UK’s adequacy once it becomes a fully–fledged third country.
I make one prediction with greater certainty: by the time, the next set of predictions is published in this magazine, it will have a new editor.
One of the most exciting SCL events of 2018 is likely to be the Student Tech Law Challenge in February. I much regret the fact that I shall be abroad and am unable to enter (though there may be other technical disqualifications too). Teams of two will get to live a day in the life of a tech lawyer. I applaud the pursuit of verisimilitude as I note that it is listed as an all-day event, presumably reflecting the fact that they are still expected to be working at midnight. If you are reading this as an SCL member, you probably don’t qualify to enter for the challenge any more than I do but you probably know someone who should enter. So tell them about it – and tell them to get their entry in quickly.