The issue of data protection continues to be one of the main topics in IT law, following a spate of high-profile cyber-attacks in the past few years. What regulatory changes have you seen to try and prevent further attacks and have these caused an increase in work for you?
Richard Kemp: As data volumes explode (currently at the rate of 10 times every five years) and computing migrates to the cloud, data regulation continues to become more intrusive and onerous. In addition to all the changes we’re seeing around data protection (the progress of the new General Data Protection Regulation, fallout from the Schremsand Weltimmo cases), clients are getting to grips with what big data and the internet of things means for them in terms of the personal data that they control and process. Along with data protection, data sovereignty (when government or other agencies can access your data in the cloud without your knowing) and data security (the technical, legal, organisational and management steps an organisation takes to achieve its desired security outcomes) are becoming increasingly important to all our clients. These regulatory changes mean we’re looking at a whole new practice area around data law.
Outsourcing is another area which was mentioned regularly during our research and identified as a leading trend. Has this been the case in your jurisdiction, and are there any other major trends affecting your work?
Richard Kemp: Outsourcing continues to be a major cost and efficiency driver in the UK for a range of our clients, particularly as it becomes practical to do smaller, more granular outsourcing deals with a high degree of confidence. Another major trend is the third platform, a term coined by research consultancy IDC to describe the convergence of the cloud, big data and mobile. Cloud data centres are the engine room of the cloud, which is now the “new normal”, with cloud services growing at 25 per cent per year, and many clients are increasingly putting out their workloads to the cloud. Data volumes – 80 per cent unstructured from the internet – are growing at the rate of 10 times every five years and clients are starting enterprise-wide information governance and big data analytics projects to harness competitive advantage. Mobile has an impact in many ways – not least in reshaping the boundaries between work and home life, with mobiles and bring-your-own-device. All these trends generate work for IT lawyers.
The increasing number of niche and boutique firms in the market continues to grow, appealing to the start-up market with their lower fees and highly specialised services. Has this been an issue in your jurisdiction, and if so what effects has it had on the legal market?
Richard Kemp: Yes, and we’re a case in point – when I set up my previous firm 20 years ago, we spent £200,000 on IT in the first 18 months. Eighteen months out at Kemp IT Law and with the cloud, we’ve spent £30,000 with significantly greater IT functionality and flexibility. IT running costs are negligible compared with on-premises IT. Working from home is now completely acceptable to all types of clients as they judge by service quality, so we no longer have rent, one of the largest law firm outgoings. All this make it easier and more attractive for niche and boutique firms, who are able to deliver an enhanced service at a better price for the client and margin for themselves, without the risk and bother of a larger practice. It’s all about the client at the end of the day and delivering the service they want, and as clients get more discerning about the range of provider options they have to choose from for particular kinds of work, I believe we’ll see more niche and boutique firms in the IT area.