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!

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