Sam is a Senior Associate in Berwins' Digital team. We asked him a few questions, both professional and personal, to get to know him a little better. Have a read for yourself and find out some things about Sam that you probably didn't know!
What's your biggest Achievement - professional or personal?
This is a really hard question; a lot of people might just name the highest value/publicised thing they've done but I think I'm most proud of spotting a "gap" in the GDPR which could potentially have left my client with someone else's liability under a specific circumstance.
I realised this when creating a contract for a client which reflected the GDPR at a time when there weren't any templates available, so, I was free-drafting most of the important clauses entirely from scratch based on the text of the regulation and my interpretation of what that meant for my client in their industry. That contract was fairly long given all the requirements the GDPR imposed but I was pleased with the end result and even the Information Commissioner's Office have seen and approved of it since, and it has protected my client well.
I created a clause to address the gap I'd identified (something to do with cross-liability between the chain of processors), which I included in my client's contract, and I was questioned about the wording I'd chosen during a call with one of the lawyers for one of the biggest businesses in that industry. A few months later I noticed that they had included my clause in their own standard terms and that was a nice moment of affirmation for me for another professional to recognise my work in that way. Unfortunately, there's very little copyright protection in contractual terms…
Tell us a bit about your Background…
I grew up in Leicestershire watching the local football team lose to Derby City on a regular basis. I then moved to Wirral at the same time that Emile Heskey moved from Leicester to Liverpool and did my degree at Lancaster (don’t tell anyone in Yorkshire that my rose is the wrong colour…) before doing my training in Chester and Wirral and qualifying as a Solicitor.
Despite many of my friends telling me I'd make a great lawyer (read into that what you will) I always thought I'd become a pilot and I went through most of the initial selection process to become a fast-jet pilot in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. I passed all the flight aptitude tests (including the maths part surprisingly) but I decided to get a degree just in case I scratched my eye or something during the 17-year training pipeline, because after all of that training you end up with no civilian qualifications at all, I wanted to make sure I had a fall back plan.
When I started my degree and attended Contracts 101, I got hooked on the law. I really enjoy reading case law and solving complex legal problems. It is not only satisfying to find a solution but even more so when there's a real-life person on the other end of that problem who you get to help out.
What do you like to do Outside of work?
Outside of work I have amassed quite a few water sports qualifications including things like Powerboat/Yacht/Diving licenses and I both used to race dinghy's and instruct others on how to sail at the Marine Lake in West Kirby (Wirral). I spent most of my youth either sailing or playing field hockey and I really enjoyed competing in team sports with my old hockey clubs/regions. I played hockey up to what would be the equivalent of the Championship League in football (though my cardio wasn't at that level) and also coached junior and women's hockey teams including a few tours abroad. One of the biggest highlights for me playing hockey was getting utterly thrashed playing against a team that included quite a few, then regular, European Hockey League players as I really enjoy a challenge! Because I was so active playing sport and engaging in other outdoor activities, I discovered that computer games were an excellent way to not only unwind whilst keeping my mind active, but more importantly it made me rest between exercise as recovery is important to ensure you maintain peak performance (as it is with the law too).
Gaming is still an avid hobby of mine, and as the industry tends to lead in quite a few areas of new technology development, my interest in gaming helps me keep my tech knowledge up to date too and is a great conversation starter with many prospective clients in the tech industry. I'm very much looking forward to utilising Virtual Reality more in my practise as and when the b2b applications for that improve. I game on PC, Console and VR currently.
Teaching and developing other people is something I really have a passion for and as a Solicitor I very much enjoy any opportunity to train up my colleagues and share the knowledge I have to help them grow and develop, particularly trainees and junior solicitors who are just starting out in their careers. Recently I've gotten into bouldering and more hiking and would like to do more outdoor/lead climbing in the future.
What about the way you approach your work makes you Unique?
My knowledge of computer theory - stemming from my passion for gaming and working with software developers creating software products for lawyers - really makes me stand out from other purely commercial contract lawyers. Because I'm always getting involved in games that are still in development, I've been exposed to so many tech acronyms over the years (and researched what they mean) that I've developed a kind of sixth sense for where tech issues might occur (resulting in liability) and that has really added value to my advice in some cases.
My clients very often comment on the fact that I smile a lot and my friends describe me as being a very considerate and empathetic person, I like to think I'm positive and open-minded, apparently rare qualities for a Solicitor! I think these qualities help make me a better collaborative negotiator, especially in the context of negotiating contracts for my clients with their customers or suppliers as you need to be able to understand the commercial reality of both parties in order to find the right solution.
This has also helped me avoid any matter going to trial as settlement is almost always a better option and my aim is to avoid disputes occurring by thinking about the "what if" scenarios and drafting reasonable solutions ahead of time so that both parties have clarity around their respective expectations. If I ever see or hear the words "MS365" and "migration" in the same statement of work, then I know that problems are probably not too far away and some additional drafting/advice/fact-finding may be required.
Within the firm I support data protection compliance and am involved in key elements of our technology strategy and planning. Particularly given my experience creating legal dashboards and having had exposure the internal dynamics and policies of FTSE100 Companies, I have a lot of ideas to bring to the table and our management team are always happy to hear them.
Where did you study and what Training and education do you have?
I read law at Lancaster University, did the LPC at Chester's University of Law and then completed my training contract at Riverview Law (now an Ernst & Young legal services company) after serving 10 months there as a Business Law Executive. I qualified as a Solicitor at the age of 25, went travelling for a year all over southeast Asia, and then started my post qualification life as a Solicitor when I joined Berwins back in November 2017.
My legal training was all based around commercial law in the technology and digital realm, including consumer issues, so quite unusually for most solicitors I didn’t do an employment law or conveyancing seat or anything like that during my training contract. Having focussed my learning, I knew the industry I wanted to work from an early stage, that has really paid off given the way this particular area has exploded over the past ten years.
I also spent a lot of time in my early career working with lawyers and developers, effectively becoming a bridge between them, because I had a good sense of what software was capable of and I could offer up alternative solutions for coders to achieve requirements set by lawyers where the response from our in-house developers would otherwise have been "this isn't possible" and where I knew what they actually needed to achieve because of my understanding of contract law.
Should you need any advice or support on anything relating to Digital Law, you can call Sam on 07595 650226.