Raiine

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SCL: Talking Tech Law

I was recently featured in an online Q&A by the Society for Computers and Law for their Talking Tech Law series. It’s aimed at providing an interesting insight into how various legal tech figures got their start in the sector and where they see the profession going. Whilst also providing future tech lawyers who are considering working in this area after graduation with some inspiration. To see the other profiles in the series, ranging from practicing lawyers to people working in tech, check out the society’s Facebook page.

Finally, if you are interested in being more involved with the society, the SCL Student Essay Prize 2018 is open for submissions until 1 June 2018.

  1. What makes IT law different from other areas of law and why did you choose to work in this sector?

My interest in the topic came about in my final year of Law at University College London (UCL). I was able to apply to take an elective for the year at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) in Information Technology Law. This was a turning point for me.

Being able to analyse the history and development of technology alongside its effects on everyday life through an academic lens, whilst considering how in turn these developments have affected the legal profession was invaluable. It helped me to realise that there is so much potential in this field to explore as a legal specialist who understands these nuances from an academic as well as a practical and technical perspective.

I realised that although the legal profession has been talking about the effects of technology for quite a few decades, the difference is that now we have the technology with the relevant capabilities to bring about those dreaded disruptive changes and I like a good challenge.

 

  1. How did you get your start in the sector?

Well, I am in a unique position where technically I haven’t begun to work in a law firm (yet). Following my graduation from UCL and LSE in 2016, I decided to first get some practical experience in the tech field as I wanted to understand the limitations and possibilities of technology from a practical perspective and learn how to code.

Over the last year and a half, I have been working in a regtech startup called FundApps as part of the Content Team. Here I analyse financial regulations and memos, I then code this analysis into software that helps asset managers monitor their positions in over 90 jurisdictions in order to comply with shareholding disclosure requirements.

Here I have been able to gain some practical experience on what it involves to transform the law as it is written, into a software based solution that can make regulatory requirements easier for financial institutions to comply with.

 

  1. What is the single biggest issue facing IT law over the next 10 years and what is the most exciting tech law development on the horizon? Are they the same?

I couldn’t possibly say there is one single issue because technology and innovation by their very nature can be quite unpredictable. However, one thing that I do believe will affect the legal profession is how we respond to the fears that somehow robots will destroy the profession.

If anything, I think that as the printing press revolutionised legal practice in the 15th Century by providing legal professionals a method through which they could control legal information and regulate the profession, we have the power now to redefine what the rule of law is and what is permissible in the Digital Era.

Since Law involves using information to control behaviour, challenges to existing legal processes can be expected to occur when information is used differently. Therefore, as we move from a world where value is held in the physical to a digital world where value is held in bits, it calls for a rethinking of the grand bargain that society has struck with the profession as the ‘gatekeepers’ of legal expertise. So the most exciting development that I would like to help shape would be a reformulation of the grand bargain that lawyers have struck with society tailored for the Digital Era.

 

  1. You’re asked to reapply for your job. If you’re unconvincing, you’ll be replaced by a robot. What would you say?

I am the one that codes the legal software solutions for these robots. It’s not going to happen.

 

  1. Who is your tech law hero and why?

I would have to say Professor Andrew Murray from the LSE. Without his work and lectures, I would not have discovered my interest in the topic. Through the academic analysis and exploration of the jurisprudential and historical context of Information Technology Law, I was able to appreciate these developments and how they relate to the law and our society as it currently is, against what it could be in this new Digital Era.

Additionally, I wouldn’t have been introduced to the great work that the SCL currently does in encouraging young lawyers to consider a career in tech law, if he hadn’t encouraged us to participate in an essay competition the society was running on whether the functionality or source code of software should be protected by the courts.

Lastly, I also wouldn’t have been introduced to the academic contributions of pioneers such as John Perry Barlow, Lawrence Lessig, Richard Susskind, Ethan Katsch etc., whose work largely contributed to my research paper submitted in my final year at UCL. My dissertation explored whether the increasing use of technology would invigorate or diminish legal professionalism, as the nature of information changes in the ‘Digital Age’. This paper ultimately led me to winning the Best International Future Lawyer Award from The International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA) in 2017!

Top Tips from the Student Tech Law Challenge

Twas a gloomy and wet Saturday morning on the third day of February and all was quiet in the City of London. Except of course at The University of Law, where the Society for Computers and Law hosted their first ever Student Tech Law challenge.

The day saw over 40 pairs of students living a day in the life of a tech lawyer by advising Jedi Digital and the Empire Media Group (guess the theme) on issues relating to a data breach and negotiating an IT deal for the two parties. In particular, the competitors put their skills and knowledge to the test by advising their clients on a number of legal and commercial issues that are currently concerning tech law practice.

Judging and mentoring at the event was also a great reminder that it is the season for assessment centres and interviews. Through speaking with the competitors and giving feedback, it was clear that the day also offered a great way for them to practice the skills that are usually tested. So here is my unsolicited general advice that I gave during the day:

Client Briefing Task

Without giving too much away, the context in this task was that the students were given a brief outlining a recent data breach. Subsequently, they had to prepare some advice that they would deliver to their client in a 10-minute presentation regarding their position.

In general, this task was designed to assess a number of key skills:

  1. In delivering the advice make sure that your presentation is clear and structured and that your client (assessor) is able to understand what next steps to take as a result of your advice.
  2. If you are delivering this advice verbally, don’t forget to make eye contact and address your client directly.
  3. If this exercise is being done in pairs, try not to speak over your teammate and ensure you both have an equal chance to address your client.
  4. This type of task is a great opportunity for you to display that all magical nugget that most firms are looking for- commercial awareness. As well as referencing recent cases and the news, try and think of what other practical issues your client might want to consider in such a situation that indicate you know the commercial issues that may affect a business in their position. For example, it could be simple practical advice such as reputation management and addressing the press, steps to guarding against insolvency by analysing the potential poor cash flow that could result through a loss of trust, and potentially other contracts, in such a data breach etc.
  5. As well as identifying the commercial issues, this is also testing whether or not you are able to identify key legal issues as provided for in the scenario, so for example generally, what may your client be liable for, are they open to the risk of a court case, what laws may apply and in which jurisdictions, and so on.
  6. Again, don’t forget to deliver the separate potential next steps that could be taken for each issue addressed. Alongside this, a brief analysis of the work that might be required e.g. timescales or resources that the client would need to consider in remedying their issue etc.

 

Negotiation Task

The usual format of this is as follows, in pairs participants are given information relating to their client with specific instructions and information that the opposing side do not have and vice versa. Although the instinct may be to destroy the other side in a Harvey Spector-esque display of showmanship by winning at all costs, the exercise is testing your ability to successfully reach an amicable conclusion and most likely ensure that your client’s project(s) continue whilst avoiding litigation.

It might be difficult under the pressure of the assessment and wanting to be marked favourably, but it helps to remember that in the context of a real negotiation, it is likely that both sides want to ultimately avoid litigation, additional costs being incurred and continuing in their projects.

  1. Identify the most important issues, not all discussion points are created equal here. In particular, be aware of red herrings that are designed to get you potentially arguing for issues that are probably not that important in the bigger scheme of things.
  2. Demonstrate good concession management in order to achieve the desired outcomes for both sides, this doesn’t mean let the other side walk all over you, but at the same time balance the ability to be flexible between maintaining a strong stance on certain points for your client versus conceding on issues that are probably not as important.
  3. Team work, makes the dream work and successful negotiations ensure that both members and sides get an equal chance in voicing their arguments, amicably.
  4. Ultimately, were you able to achieve the most important objectives outlined by your client? By assessing which issues were important as outlined in point one, you will be assessed on how successful the outcome of the session was overall and how you worked with the other side.
  5. Lastly, be ethical in negotiations! A great book to check out in general is Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ur

And there we have it, hopefully this helps. And once again well done to all the participating teams. As a judge and mentor on behalf of the Society for Computers and Law, it was encouraging and exciting for me to see that so many other undergraduates and graduates are interested in the general topic of how technology is affecting legal practice, and I am glad I have a platform that permits me to shape the future of legal tech in a small way!

 

22 and a Path to Tech Law

This week’s post features a review by Olivia Jean-Baptiste of the ‘A Path to Tech Law‘ panel that I recently spoke on for The Society for Computers and Law. Olivia is currently an undergraduate LLB student at City University of London where she is also president of the British Red Cross RAG group.

A Path to Tech Law

As a law student, I have attended countless events at commercial firms but never one that has had a strong nexus to technology law. Let alone one that offered an insight into finding ‘A Path to Tech Law’. The timing of this event, for me was serendipitous. As a second year LLB law student I am not only figuring out which areas I would like to specialise in but also completing the daunting process of making and sending off applications for vacation schemes and training contracts. I was beginning to feel apprehensive about tech law and felt perhaps I should stick to a more “traditional” area of law.

However, the first way in which the SCL event helped, was confirming that I am in fact a suitable candidate for a technology based career in law. I have always had an interest in technology and have been proactive in ensuring that this interest would be clear to potential employers. It was the SCL panel chair Mark Lumley, partner at Shulmans, who listed some of the key qualities of tech lawyers which I felt matched my own strengths. These were curiosity, ‘an interest in what is coming next’ and ‘a passion for what they do’.

“I am in fact a suitable candidate for a technology based career in law. The opportunity to be face to face with current tech lawyers was invaluable. I left with a more concrete plan on how to get into tech law and ways of broadening my knowledge.

Moreover, one of the panellists, Lorraine Chimbga, a compliance analyst for a regtech start-up called FundApps made the point that you can sell your enthusiasm even if you’re not a tech expert. Ultimately, the panellists made clear that you do not have to know everything! You must simply show motivation and an interest. This is one of the reasons why events such as these are so helpful. They reignite a passion in committed students that they do have what it takes as long as they work hard to achieve it.

Motivation and determination are nothing without a way of being utilised: a clear plan is needed. This is another way in which the SCL event was useful. While the internet is a great resource for researching and learning about how to become involved in tech law. The opportunity to be face to face with current tech lawyers was invaluable. I left with a more concrete plan on how to get into tech law and ways of broadening my knowledge. While you do not have to be an expert to succeed you cannot be complacent either. As Chris Marsden said ‘a little extra knowledge would always help’.  The panellists stressed the importance of networking with practicing lawyers and recommended reading Code 2.0 by Lawrence Lessig. Even something as simple as a book recommendation can put you a step closer to becoming a tech lawyer and finding what truly interests you.

To conclude, I am extremely grateful to SCL for this insightful event. It was certainly worth braving the cold on a dark Wednesday evening for and I hope that there are more events such as these targeted specifically at students in the future.

Editor’s note: Once again, thank you to Olivia for allowing me to share this here, what she said really stuck with me as it is something that I wish I had seen too when I was studying. It also reminded me of ‘what is my why’ and for that I am grateful.

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The Lawyer Portal: Surviving Law School

I recently contributed an article to The Lawyer Portal (TLP), whose aim is to be the definitive resource for everyone considering a career in law, whatever their stage or background. They are also officially partnered with the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).  Check out the original post here, and keep an eye out for the upcoming podcast interview I did with them.

Surviving Law School

Whether you are starting out or you are returning, Freshers’ Week is probably becoming a distant memory as the real work begins. It is also at this point that you may start to wonder, are there any shortcuts to studying law? Sadly, the answer is no, not really. But there are things you can do to save yourself from the unnecessary stress.

Here are a few things that I wish l had come across when starting out. As obvious as they may seem, it is all too easy to find yourself six months down the line having underestimated the time that you have and what you can realistically take on.

1. Prepare Prepare Prepare

As the saying goes, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. One of the most important lessons I learned here was to not underestimate the value of planning what you are going to do and when.  Planning for the terms ahead proved an invaluable exercise, it meant that during times of stress I had a clear plan that I could follow without worrying about what I had or hadn’t covered and what I needed to do.

During my time at UCL, I used the Bullet Journal method to keep me on track. Through this I was able to break down my goals and focus on what I needed to achieve each week. I planned for what I knew I could realistically, and not ideally, achieve. In my final year, this was particularly useful during exams; by having a plan, I was able to avoid doing ‘all-nighters’ and burning myself out.

2. Stay Organised

Again, it might seem obvious, but being organised is essential to everything and not just studying but for maintaining balance. A good way to view your degree is to think of it as if it is a 9-to-5 job. For each day I had to be disciplined and follow a schedule. This helped me to set time to go over what I had learnt in lectures and combine it with what I had read each week, but also leaving time for me to do the things I enjoyed. In scheduling this, it saved a lot of time when it came to revising.

Getting into good habits early on meant that I was being efficient with my time and I was able to avoid a lot of stress at the end of the year. In this it is also important to remember to set some time aside for yourself. Although I was planning my time so I could achieve the best results, it was also vital in setting realistic expectations and avoiding burn out.

3. Taking Notes

When you first start off on your course, you have to find what works for you. You can either do it by hand, or by typing. In my final year, I took all my notes by hand using the Cornell Method for a few reasons.

Firstly, it meant that I was forced to actively listen rather than typing verbatim everything the lecturer was saying, which tends to happen. In this way, it meant I had to process everything and only write the essentials as you generally can’t write as fast as you can type.

Secondly, save yourself time. By reviewing the lecture outline and the set reading beforehand, it is easier to work out what is unique information versus things that can be found in your textbook. In short don’t write every single little thing the lecturer says, instead, focus on active listening and picking up their opinions, arguments said by other academics, other current affairs they might mention in passing and, especially when they are summarising a case. It will give you a good idea of what the contentious issues are and save you time on reading afterwards.

4. Review Your Reading and Notes

Lastly, as soon as you can, review your notes and look at them more than once. Revision begins way before the actual exams. The more you engage with the materials, the more familiar it becomes and unfortunately, there was no shortcut to this.

When it came to my exams, I was able to save time as during the year I had been summarising my notes as I went along. I had gone over each lecture and edited my notes so that they made sense when it was all still relevant to me. Another skill to develop here is learning how to skim read and spot what is relevant. Sometimes, however, there is nothing to sweeten the bitter pill and you just have to force yourself to read.

When it comes to studying law, remember to take it as it comes and realise that what you’re feeling or going through, most students have experienced at some point, and you are not alone. It just takes some time, patience and perseverance.

22 and the winner is…

At the end of August I was able to fulfil a slightly geeky childhood dream of mine: visiting the land of all things stationery and anime.

Admittedly, the reason for my trip was even nerdier but I would be lying if I said I didn’t play Feelin’ Myself and Formation by Beyoncé (and the Tokyo Drift song) a ridiculous amount of times in the run up to the trip.

Earlier this year, I entered an essay competition that a friend of mine through the Information Technology and Law class at LSE, had alerted me to. Thank you Lucie!

And in a Blue Peter-esque here’s one I prepared earlier moment, I could see why she had thought it would be my thing. During my final year at UCL I had submitted a research essay which explored the effects of technology on the law and the legal profession. More specifically, the essay’s central theme was, “Will the increasing use of technology invigorate or diminish legal professionalism.”

Particularly, in the context of big law and the increasing commercialisation of the profession and its effects on costs and access to legal services. For the competition, I adapted this to focus on the question, “Will the increasing use of technology invigorate or diminish legal professionalism, as the nature of information changes in the ‘Digital Age’.”

As someone interested in this topic, I had noticed that at the time, a lot of the literature and thought pieces available were mainly focused on the various technologies themselves e.g. the effects of AI and increasingly capable technologies such as IBM’s Watson.

Instead, I chose to explore and focus on a more jurisprudential and historical analysis of how the law and the legal profession has always been affected by technology in one way or another throughout history, starting with the Gutenberg Press in the 15th Century.

Out of over 30 international entrants, my essay was chosen and I was awarded with the Best International Future Lawyer Award, 2017 by AIJA, the International Association of Young Lawyers.

The essay prize also involved an all expenses paid trip to Japan where I picked up my award and I was also able to attend their 55th annual congress. The congress was generally centred around the theme of AI and the future of the profession. It was great seeing and networking with over 490 lawyers who were interested in debating the topic and analysing it’s effects, but more importantly, engaging in discussions which offered practical solutions that the profession could take in the short and long term.

The top issues and topics that stuck with me were:

1) If clients are innovative why can’t lawyers be as innovative and efficient in serving them? Yes, yes it disrupts the billable structure and the training of junior lawyers, but it has the potential to add value and it forces the profession to re-think how we really add value to clients. Secondly, how we educate and train junior lawyers, a theme I explore in my essay.

2) What kind of digital society do we want and what does the rule of law mean in the digital age?

3) How do we overcome novel barriers e.g. how does e-discovery work in practice across different language barriers? For example, translating documents from Japanese to English and identifying the essential information required during the discovery / due diligence process.

In short, the idea that the majority of lawyers are blindly walking into the future and ignoring the effects of technology was evidenced as being far from the reality. Organisations such as AIJA and The Society of Computers and Law in the U.K continue to make efforts to educate and make this a central topic within the field.

To read more about AIJA and the winning essay see: http://awards.aija.org/
To read the essay: “Will the increasing use of technology in law invigorate or diminish legal professionalism as the nature of information changes in the Digital Age.”