Hi Annabel, please share a brief background on what stage you are currently at.
Hi Zainab! I’m currently a Junior Legal Mind at a startup focused firm called Sparring. While I am training to be a lawyer now, I haven’t always been on the legal path and worked for a data startup, as the Deputy Data Protection Officer, during and after studying Law at the University of Warwick.
In 2021 I decided to return to the legal path, joining a technology startup focused law firm called Sparring. My data protection law experience helped me get this role due to the essential nature of the topic for all technology startups. I’m currently studying for the New York Bar (a qualification route not discussed enough) and am therefore supervised in my legal practice inside the firm. As I am not pursuing the conventional UK Training Contract route, I do not have a defined path or a ‘seats’ structure inside the firm. I therefore work across the law firm, and assist in Data Protection, Intellectual Property, Contractual, Corporate and Investment matters. My current work spans across a few legal areas, and includes Corporate support for a new self-custodial crypto wallet, contentious intellectual property and legal research for a startup defining the future of gaming.
How did your previous experience help you during your TC? (Internships, pupillage, data protection role)
While studying I was always on the search for a role which combined my preference for creativity, with problem solving and complexity. I therefore decided to pursue an alternative path, working in a data startup for an internship, which turned into a part time then full time role in Data Protection Law.
My day-to-day work concerned the startup’s data protection Law agenda, from training employees in GDPR and CCPA, to carrying out research on the fast moving regulatory changes, to advising our Product teams how to incorporate privacy-by-design. After this experience, I knew that I wanted to work in a more dynamic environment. But it also prepared me for working alongside startups today, including work style, entrepreneurial outlook and gaining some technological understanding. This experience also gave me a solid belief in value and mission (over hours worked) and was the beginning of desire to improve our practice in the legal profession.
Being a trainee and working remotely has been different in many ways. How has this been for you and any tips you can share with other trainees?
By being in the startup world, I was already fairly orientated with remote working when I joined Sparring. However, my first few weeks in the firm were hard even with this experience, as my work was much more legal-heavy than my data protection role. My team however accommodated well for our lack of in person meetings: I was invited to several pre-joining welcomes, professional and informal team building sessions, frequent 1to1s and daily standups covering both our professional and personal goals.
If you do feel lost in your firms when working remotely, I recommend utlising a channel which allows you to meet others or speak to your leader about setting one up! In the Slack world we have something called donut-buddies (which randomly pairs you with a new person every week) and the team organised water cooler chats/lunch drop-ins (we noticed ideas from spontaneity decreased during full remote working and tried to replicate this).
You have been busy co-founding various exciting projects in the past year. Please share with us what they are and if there are opportunities for aspiring lawyers to get involved in them.
Last May I started The Wired Wig podcast (TWW), a show aimed at highlighting the intersection between law and technology. Initially, I created the podcast to highlight how technology is regulated but also the exciting career opportunities for students outside of the traditional routes. I also started the podcast as a project to keep me engaged in technology law and network with others throughout lockdown. What started as laughing about my experience in the technology world as the only student studying a literature-based topic, soon turned into a useful educational resource to inspire others to engage in these topics. I soon found out that the Law and Technology and LegalTech community is so willing in educating and supporting others, and I’m happy that I can be a part of this in passing my experience on!
However, currently TWW is on pause due to another initiative which I am co-leading. Law School 2.0 is aimed at providing more future lawyers with the technological skills, experience and knowledge to excel in the legal profession. This project was born out of a conversation I had with Catherine Bamford, Legal Engineer and CEO of BamLegal, at the end of last year. On Catherine’s recommendation, it wasn’t long before I had a call with Amy Conroy and Nathan Corr about the idea and we decided to organise the LegalTech Vacation Scheme! While the three of us have been iterating the idea for a few months, it wasn’t until June 2021 when we really got the ball moving and started to work with our fantastic Law School 2.0 team. Catherine is the mentor I would have loved to have met while studying Law and a huge shoutout goes to her who actually connected me to Amy Conroy initially for The Wired Wig.
Lastly, in your opinion what effect does technology have on the legal industry and what advice do you have for students interested in this intersection? (Links to wired wig and lawschool 2.0 for others to check out)
Despite The Wired Wig being a top LegalTech podcast, I had no idea what LegalTech was until I was interviewing LegalTech tools. While this might bemuse people, the lack of education around technology usage in legal practice is logical, considering the traditional ways we are assessed: written exams, no laptops in moots, encouragement of writing notes and (at least for me) no online lectures. On the other hand, I was aware of the law of technology and how regulation was challenging technology, as that was what I was engaging in during my internship and startup role.
I can answer this in two parts: from a LegalTech and a Law and Technology perspective.
Firstly, technology is completely redefining how law firms work and lawyers practice. While technology is not the only way to improve inefficiencies in law firms and legal teams (we will show how technology is not always the answer in The LegalTech Vacation Scheme), through using automation and tools, teams can provide more value in less time, with more accuracy and potentially less stress. This can lead not only to a faster turnaround for clients but indirect benefits such as trainees having responsibility earlier on, lawyers having more free time to give advice to their clients that requires human interaction and overall higher lawyer happiness. Finally, the premise of using LegalTech to automate tasks that are repetitive and low value also challenges the principles the legal industry runs on, such as the billable hour and having to work set hours. LegalTech therefore can redefine the legal industry and make it more dynamic and prosperous for the people working within it.
Secondly, technology is posing both benefits but also challenges to our everyday society. Even technology lawyers use can present ethical and legal challenges such as algorithmic bias, discrimiantion and black-box methodologies. Therefore, the more advanced technology becomes, the legal profession will have to stay one step ahead in their decisions to (or not to) regulate emerging technologies. But these changes shouldn’t only come from lawyers alone: the regulatory change demands the opinions and decisions of multi-disciplinary teams, meaning lawyers will need to work with topic specialists, developers, designers and others outside the field of law. Technology Law therefore poses a recalibration of the legal profession, and requires the contribution of multiple fields, which for tomorrow’s lawyers presents a great opportunity to learn from other professions.
For students interested in both of these fields, the free LegalTech Vacation Scheme will be running from the 16th to the 20th of August, consisting of three days of lunchtime skills workshops in problem identification to solution execution, and a 48-hour LegalTech challenge. It will provide a great introduction into the problem to solution lifecycle, essential for both LegalTech and Technology Law. There are also many publications that address the intersection of Law and Technology with the Artificial Lawyer, the Cyber Solicitor, Automated being great places to start. Finally, for those wishing to take a more academic path, more universities are now offering masters specifically in Law and Technology and in Computer Science for Lawyers.