Mahdi Assan gives a participant's account of the recent SCL Student Tech Law Challenge
In February I took part in the SCL Student Tech Law Challenge 2019 hosted by the University of Law Moorgate. The event was a unique opportunity to work on issues faced by tech lawyers on a daily basis, as well as develop my commercial awareness and network with some of the best legal professionals in the industry. The challenge consisted of two tasks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with the participants competing in teams of two.
The day started with registering at reception where I also met my partner for the day, Ian. The competition was open to law students at all levels, with participants ranging from first-year undergraduates to masters students. Having never met before, Ian and I took the time to get to know each other, expressing our mutual excitement and curiosity as to what the day would entail. All the attendees were then gathered for an introductory talk. We were briefed on how the event would be running, the tasks we would be taking part in, and the mentors who would be helping and examining us.
The first task was a mock negotiation. Ian and I were provided with a set of general facts available to both negotiating teams along with a set of confidential information relating to the respective clients. Our client was a web development agency developing websites and mobile apps. The objective was to renegotiate the terms of a contract to develop a live streaming app for a media and telecommunications company to resolve problems arising after the commencement of the project. Ian and I worked together to identify all the important issues involved in the negotiation and the pertinent interests which we wanted to safeguard for our client. We were given fifty minutes to prepare our proposals, with help from one of the mentors Chris, an in-house counsel for a software company in the UK.
Ian and I were taken into a separate room to conduct the negotiation, where we met the opposing team. Despite having little negotiating experience among us, Chris was able to provide very helpful guidance and gave very thorough feedback with advise on how to improve some of the skills required as a good negotiator. The negotiation itself went quite smoothly with both sides able to come to an agreement within the allotted time. We were also given the opportunity to evaluate our own performances as participants which was really useful exercise. This allowed us to explain and justify our respective approaches in addition to exploring ways in which we could have done better.
Following the negotiation task, all the attendees were able to help themselves to complimentary pizza provided by SCL for lunch. During this time, Ian and I were able to network with some other students taking part. We talked about our interests in tech law and our experiences of studying law at our respective universities.
After the break, Ian and I were then faced with a mock data breach task. Many students had found this task to be the most difficult although I personally found it the most enjoyable since it involved legal issues of strong interest. The first part of the task entailed drafting an email to a supervising partner in our firm regarding a data breach involving one of our clients. We were required to explain the key issues which should be considered and the relevant documents we would need from the client to help determine where they might be liable. This had to be done under tight time conditions, reflecting the kind of constraints tech lawyers would typically be subject to in such scenarios.
The second part of the task consisted of preparing for a meeting with the client to discuss the breach and the potential legal and commercial issues which may arise from it. This included looking at certain provisions of the GDPR and explaining their relevance to the breach. Lawrence, a barrister specialising in IT law, was the mentor who we were required to present to and who provided detailed feedback on our presentation. Ian and I were also able to engage in an enlightening conversation afterwards with Lawrence about his journey to becoming a QC and some of the high-profile work he has been involved in, including the British Airways data breach last year.
The day finished with an award ceremony. Prizes were given for first, second and third place, as well as other unique awards such as ‘Best Risk-Management’. There were also legal work placements on offer for the winners, including with a prestigious construction and energy law firm in the UK.
Despite not winning any of these prizes, my time at the event was still very insightful and fulfilling. The kind of tasks we were exposed to, as well as the various professionals who volunteered to help, all culminated in a unique experience which will no doubt prove valuable to my future development. It also strengthened my commitment to career in IT law and has certainly been one of the highlights of my academic career. I would therefore highly recommend that students partake in this challenge in the future and take advantage of everything it has to offer.
Mahdi Assan is a Law Student at Lancaster University and blogs at The Cyber Solicitor