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A technology lawyer explains what's involved in this area of practice.

Technology law: area of practice

It’s important for lawyers in this practice area to be up to date with the latest technology trends and developments says Angus Finnegan – a partner at Taylor Wessing.

Technology lawyers need to be trusted advisers for businesses in disruptive sectors, so it’s important that we are up to speed with the latest trends and developments.

Technology law is an extremely varied practice area: what unites the businesses we work for is the fact that their technology is their main asset. There is no typical client; we deal with both early-stage, high-growth start-ups and leading global tech corporations on a day-to-day basis, and the variety of sectors we cover is just as wide.

Technology law covers both transactional and advisory work and our lawyers have to be commercially minded all-rounders, as we rarely deal with the same documents two days in a row. We work on all sorts of commercial agreements and projects; anything that supports a tech company in delivering its goods or services. Our work has an international flavour too, our London team regularly works on deals with an international aspect and our contacts and networks means that start-ups will often use us as a gateway to launching other jurisdictions.

What is involved in technology law

We help clients with complex technology matters, such as software licensing agreements and telecoms contracts, which means that we have to have detailed industry and technical knowledge. Approximately half of our team are data protection specialists. Privacy issues such as compliance, data monetisation and cybersecurity are increasingly at the forefront of tech companies’ minds. Working on largescale commercial transactions is also common in our team. These might include IT implementation projects (a major retailer introducing a CRM system, for example), outsourcing transactions or IP development and licensing deals. We are also heavily involved on the commercial side of our clients’ businesses. We often assist ecommerce businesses with their online set-up, which will typically involve drafting consumer-facing documents such as terms of use and privacy policies.

Broadly, our main sector focus areas are technology, media and communications, but we also provide commercial and tech-focused services to businesses in other areas, including the financial services, health, retail, fashion, gaming and automotive industries.

What is it like being a technology lawyer?

In general, our working hours are fairly consistent – we’re not usually burning the midnight oil and weekend work is rare. Larger transactions will mean that we’re in the office later, but these periods tend to be short and spread out.

Client secondments are really important in this practice area, both to strengthen relationships with clients and to aid in team members’ development. We recognise the importance of working within industry to really understand our clients’ needs. This is an area of high development and disruption – we often work with clients in the fintech, health tech and cryptocurrency spaces, for example. Technology lawyers need to be trusted advisors for businesses in disruptive sectors, so it’s important that we are up to speed with the latest trends and developments.

One of the best aspects of the technology practice area is being exposed to exciting and disruptive technologies on a daily basis. We will often be involved in bringing a cool new app or innovative technology to market, and it’s great to watch these businesses thrive and push boundaries.

What will trainee solicitors do in a law firms’ technology department?

Trainees get involved in all types of work that the team does. Trainees are often given a first go at drafting documents and play a vital part of the team when it comes to the project management of transactions or ongoing projects such as a tech company’s international launch.

What skills does a technology solicitor need to do the job?

  • Good written and oral communication skills.
  • A sense of humour.
  • The ability to work both independently and as part of a team.
  • Commercial awareness.

What impact will Brexit have on technology law?

In general, technology is relatively resilient to Brexit, as it doesn’t involve the physical transfer of goods, but we are increasingly seeing companies looking closely at their supply chains in preparation. We anticipate a bigger impact on the data protection side, as it remains to be seen whether the EU will recognise the UK as an ‘adequate’ regime in relation to the transfer of data. This isn’t insurmountable though, as even if the UK is not recognised as ‘adequate’, there are tried and tested means of lawfully transferring data in and out of the EU.

Types of law practised in technology departments

  • Contract.
  • Privacy.
  • Consumer regulation.
  • Telecoms regulation.

ANGUS FINNEGAN is a partner in the commercial technology and data team at TAYLOR WESSING. He graduated with a degree in law from the University of Hertfordshire. ANNA COOKE, a trainee at Taylor Wessing, contributed to this article.

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