Advising one of our biggest global clients on two strategically important data-related litigation matters at the German Federal Court of Justice were certainly highlights.
Another ongoing highlight from which I benefit every day is joining our core global team supporting a very significant global tech client. This has opened the door for me to work with colleagues from all over the word. I am learning a great deal about advising clients in other jurisdictions, especially in the US. My everyday work is truly global and international.
Data differs from other practice areas firstly in that data is almost exclusively cross-border, and I believe that advising clients should always involve looking beyond their own jurisdiction, even if the advice I provide is specifically in my own jurisdiction. This also means collaborating with international colleagues on a daily basis and having a global mindset.
Second, data is regulated and fully harmonised at the EU level, which means that not just German courts, but the courts of other EU member states and, of course, the European Court of Justice, are the sources I need to consider. The same applies to data protection authorities which, again, brings an extra international angle to the work.
Third, the data field is fast-growing. Tech and data have become some of the most important drivers of our society, which results in high-pace regulation by courts and regulators. The legal principles on which we base our advice are evolving constantly and at high speed. Often, we are advising clients on new technological developments to which no case law exists. We are at the forefront of developing those principles.
Emerging trends I’m following closely: First, the decisions of courts and data protection authorities in the context of trans-Atlantic data transfers following the Schrems II decision. Also, the period for transitioning to the new standard contractual clauses is December 27, 2022 and it is important to closely monitor how clients are coping with this.
Second, more and more countries, inside and outside the EU, are implementing hate speech laws that often contain data disclosure obligations. Those laws are local with requirements and obligations for tech companies that strongly differ from country to country, which is a big issue for a global service. On top of that, the Digital Services Act (DSA) will be regulating this field as well and there are discussions about how those local laws and the DSA will interplay.
I think the biggest challenge to gender equity is not so much connected to the data field but to the culture in and structure of law firms and companies in general. This also depends very much on the jurisdiction/country (local culture). Many firms have made it a priority to achieve gender equity on all levels. Results are already noticeable but I think there is still a long way to go. Most importantly, I believe that gender equity can only be truly achieved not just if it is reflected in numbers/percentages but also if long-established structures and systems are changed to reflect the ways of all genders. Otherwise, the numbers on paper may look good but in reality, other genders will not be able to truly engage.
A big change to the data field in the last decade is the dominance of US-based tech companies, the in-house legal teams and leadership positions of which are women-dominated. Women are the decision-makers and they push law firms very hard to truly live diversity. This constructive pressure is very noticeable as an external advisor and I consider it potentially game-changing.
A piece of advice I would give aspiring data lawyers and professionals: From the very beginning, consistently adopting a global and international mindset and approach to your decisions and behaviour. This will be very beneficial as it helps to always keep an eye on the bigger picture when providing legal advice and truly help a client to solve a problem. It will also help to build a strong network. And, most importantly, it is fun!