The Age of the Creative Lawyer: Working at a Technology Company and the Startup World

By Annabel Pemberton, Warwick Law School Alumna, Creator of The Wired Wig and Deputy Data Protection Officer at Exponea 

When I started studying Law at Warwick in 2015, the interaction of technology and Law still felt futuristic. Five years later, the legal industry is transforming. Previously known for bundles, basements full of paper and an insistence on the status quo, the profession is responding to societal change. The growth of impact-first and creative lawyers is now.  

What drew me to working in Technology and the Law?

While I was unsure of what path to take after graduation, I knew my future role had to spark curiosity and allow creativity. In first year, I always found myself drawn to modules featuring a working technology such as Consumer and Tort Law. I also enjoyed creative elements of my studies, spending time carving arguments for moots and shaping the Law to fit a context.

By second year I had an inkling that Technology Law might be my area of interest, due to my curiosity in Intellectual Property Law. During my year abroad in Helsinki, my interest in the subject became entrenched when I discovered the Legal Tech Lab and modules such as Artificial Intelligence and the Law. Fascinated, I began to read a lot of acclaimed authors such as Richard Susskind. These authors were highlighting how technology would introduce new layers of rule and order and drive significant changes in the industry. I recognised that Law and Technology would be both an issue but an opportunity: 

  1. Firstly, technology itself is now becoming a tool for lawyers to streamline repeatable tasks. The tools which allow this are typically coined as Legal Tech.
  2. Secondly, the interaction between Law and Technology is introducing policy considerations which society and designers never considered. For example, facial recognition used in the wrong hands and for undefined purposes can lead to discrimination and abuse of power. This area is coined Law and Technology. 

What have I done since graduating?

I currently work for a scaleup which helps fashion brands, travel companies, banks and telecommunication companies to learn more about their customers. Our product is a suite of marketing tools, which processes and synthesizes data to provide analytics and then executes personalised campaigns. The product therefore processes a vast quantity of personal data. In my role as Deputy Data Protection Officer, I assist our clients in compliantly handling and processing data and advise our Product team about the changing privacy landscape.   

How did I secure this position?

I applied to work at Exponea for a non-Law consulting internship in Summer 2018. When I asked why I secured the internship, they highlighted my degree was a large asset. Alongside legal writing and research, I had an eagerness to learn, was thinking analytically and presented perspectives which technical students would not consider. My mooting experience also translated into an ability to convincingly convey ideas. Through carrying out this internship I was able to convert it into a part time job in my final year and then a full time role upon graduation, both in Data Protection Law.

What do I do on a day to day basis? 

One attraction of working in a small company whether startup or Law firm, is the diversity in your role. My core work is therefore Data Protection Law, but in my role I work cross-disciplinary with Sales, Marketing, IT and Product. I am also located in the Compliance function to work closely with Security Engineers to ensure the technical protection of data, but I work with Legal when negotiating Data Protection Agreements with clients. 

Working in a startup also grants you responsibility. This means you have the ability to carve your own path and be proactive in identifying areas to improve. For me, this has meant creating products and sharing knowledge that will directly benefit our clients, while also carrying out regulatory research for our Product team. 

What is my advice on engaging in Law and Technology?

Firstly, even if a technology is very complicated, don’t forget you have invaluable skills from studying Law such as writing ability, aptitude for research and an ability to present clear arguments. These skills help businesses, particularly ones that want to move and grow fast. 

If a startup environment is what you are looking for, you can actively seek out opportunities in technology startups or legal technology tools. Many startups do not name the roles but ask for open applications, so research their expertise and consider what your detail orientated focus could bring to their operations. If an established technology company is your aim, some companies offer the possibility to qualify in-house. The SQE could also be an option for students wishing to pursue this route to qualification. 

In terms of resources, Linkedin and Instagram are thriving places for legal techies. Legal Engineers like Catherine Bamford record legal technology use cases, while communities like Crafty Counsel explain the application of technologies. Legal Technology startups are also becoming increasingly present on these platforms to attract both clients and new talent. 

I recently decided to contribute to the Legal Technology community, starting the The Wired Wig podcast. The Wired Wig’s mission is to demystify commonly discussed technology, an issue I faced when I started working with technical engineers. To do this, I interview legal technology founders, lawyers working in technology companies or activists recognising how technology is affecting society, such as through Internet Blackouts. You can keep up with the podcast on Instagram or LinkedIn

Overall, while the current climate may present uncertainty, it is also driving a demand for creative solutions and impact-first lawyers. By working directly in a legal technology startup, joining a technology company’s legal team or starting your own legal technology project, there are many opportunities for students interested in the topic.   

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