Skills Every Technology Lawyer Must Have – Ololade Oloniyo

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The business landscape today is taking different forms of digital leaps and bounds. What we have today at the peak of commerce is digitalization and technology. In-fact, every industry and sector is scaling up its operations and using technology to achieve greater efficiency and business speed.

For lawyers, what is now required to be added to your portfolio of skills is way beyond computer skills, additional tech-related skills might be a plus for you where the world is fast becoming a global village. You need practical skills like technology related contract drafting, risk assessment, risk management, business strategy, policy making and implementation, and the ability to speak the language of your clients.

The skill of understanding and interpreting the basic terminologies of technology business is crucial to delivering great services to your clients, don’t underestimate the power of speaking the language of the techies!

Technology Contract Drafting and Negotiation

The skill of drafting legal agreements is one of the core strengths of a great lawyer. A perfect legal agreement will underline the important obligations and terms of any contract between both parties who intend to be bound by the terms. For the tech lawyer, this skill has to be taken a step further, lawyers need to be aware of contracts which are relevant to tech companies such as Cloud Computing agreements, Software licensing agreements, Standard Distributor Licensing agreement etc. There are some other contract drafting that overlap with tech contract drafts such as: Non-disclosure agreements, Agency agreements, Distributor Agreements, Supply Agreements, Value- Added Reseller agreement and Manufacturing Agreements. With respect to these kinds of agreements, you need to learn how to draft versions of it that are more suited to what the client needs and expects at that point in time.

Managing the IP Portfolio

The engine behind any technology-focused business is intellectual property. A product tech company has an obligation to patent its core technology from being copied by competitors or other persons. Management of intellectual property in Nigeria begins by filing an application at the Trademarks and Patent Registry, and parties shall be notified of the acceptance or rejection of the application by the registry as the case may be.  It is the responsibility of a tech lawyer to know all the requisite procedures by law, relevant for the protection of intellectual property.

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In a media related technology company, management of Intellectual property may take the form of preventing pirated digital contents on web, creation of e-commerce policies and implementation. The company must be educated on issues pertaining to piracy, copyright, and data privacy to mitigate foreseeable risk and costs.

Risk assessment and Management

Legal risk management is another essential skill for a tech lawyer. It is important that you understand the strength and weakness of any industry and make close predictions about how events might turn out for your client. One needs to have a full grasp of the entire technology landscape or industry, as well as evolving government policies, judicial developments and other key technological advancement. The role of legal in risk management development and strategy is a very important aspect of business management in any organization, including a technology-based company.

Knowledge of emerging technologies

It is true that a technical degree is not a requirement, but you have got to be familiar with the technological advancement around the world today. Knowledge of evolving and emerging technologies like Artificial intelligence, Block chain, Cryptocurrency, cybersecurity, biotechnology, robotics, is crucial to the growth of your legal career. Although, you don’t need to be a techie or even code, but you must be able the understand the mechanism, parlance and terminology of the technology world.

Industries and regulatory landscapes are paying attention to the technology trend in the US. Since 2012, at least 28 states have adopted a tech company standard set by the America Bar Association that requires lawyers to keep abreast of the risk and benefits of technology affecting their legal practice, and as such lawyers need to develop the skill of cybersecurity, encryption, social media skills and digital competencies.  This is probably the reason why the United States are far ahead in the application of legal technology to their law practice.

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Policy making and implementation

Policy making and implementation is the anti-dote to reducing legal and environmental risk.  It is not enough to just identify risk and manage them, there must be policies in place to provide a systematic manner of averting risk.  Policy making provides a framework for consistent decision making and action within any industry. In the tech space, policies are regularly drafted by compliance and legal professionals so as to comply with legal and regulatory standards both national and internationally. Aside from drafting basic legal agreements in the technology industry, there are certain policies to be drafted such as privacy and cookie policy in alignment with the regulatory standards of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), others are return and warranty policies for every online business owner, amongst many others. The opportunities are endless for legal practitioners within the space of policy making, this is because technology will keep advancing markets and there will be need for policies to be implemented for the purpose of providing a consistent legal framework for the use of technology without restricting innovation and flexibility.

Data privacy and protection

The GDPR has been promulgated by the European Union for the purpose of reducing data privacy breach and regulating issues of digital right. Within each state too, there are laws regulating the scope of cybersecurity and data privacy of internet users. In Nigeria, the most prominent of them is the NDPR, providing general guidelines on how Data controllers must use the data of internet users. A good tech lawyer should understand the data governance, architecture and privacy. The concept of internet governance is a good area for lawyers in the legal tech career, it provides an in-depth understanding of the ecosystem of internet law, which includes data privacy, digital taxation, cyber threats, online surveillance, digital rights etc.

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Dispute Resolution

Arbitration and litigation are ways high-tech profile businesses resolve their disputes with one another. There is a need for lawyers, judges and arbitrators to grow an understanding of scientific technology and cloud computing. Disputes that arise from high tech fields tend to be more complex, and it might be difficult to resolve except with the help of jury with a legal tech background. Thus, lawyers need to be versatile in the acquisition of digital law experience.  Aside from understanding the nature of your client’s case, adopting the concept of storytelling, litigation strategies and legal remedies, a basic understanding of scientific knowledge or technology behind the business of your client will help.

It is unassailable that scientific research will keep birthing new technologies that will disrupt the business environment and shape decisions of government or private parastatals. What this means for the new generation of legal tech lawyers is that there will lots of legal work to get done. Aside from the regular skill of legal advisory and compliance, strategic intelligence and business thinking must be added to the bucket of skill. The new era of digital technologies is disrupting the legal sector, and without foresight and strategic thinking, high-tech companies, tech lawyers and business leaders might be taking a step forward to loop in a hole.

OLOLADE OLONIYO

Associate, Aes TriplexLP

Dispute resolution/Tech Law.

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