June 01, 2016

Constant Change Is the New Normal: Everyone Needs a SciTech Edge

So many things have changed since I graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1994:

  • Yahoo had just launched. It would be two more years before Google began as a research project.
  • Not quite one-third of U.S. households had a personal computer.
  • It was 10 years before Facebook and 12 years before Twitter.
  • It was seven years before iTunes, 13 years before the iPhone, and 15 years before BYOD (bring your own device) began dramatically changing workplaces worldwide.
  • It was 12 years before the e-discovery revolution, when amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure recognized that electronically stored information (ESI) was a distinct category of discoverable records.
  • It was two years before HIPAA (electronic health records), five years before Gramm-Leach-Bliley (financial records), and five years before Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy observed: “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” It also was 19 years before Target’s massive credit card data breach, which was a wake-up call for consumers and corporate boards.
  • On the science front, it was the year that grocery stores sold the first genetically modified food (the Flavr Savr delayed-ripening tomato) and two years before Dolly the sheep was cloned from an adult cell. It also was the 16th birthday of the world’s first “test-tube” baby, who would be the first of millions of people born using in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technology.

My practice began with copyright and trademark work, later focused on IT and e-commerce issues, and then migrated to e-privacy and cybersecurity issues. My initial U.S. focus rapidly became international as my clients changed the way they did business in an increasingly e-commerce world.

So many things have changed since I graduated from law school in 1994. The constant through it all has been the ABA Section of Science & Technology Law (SciTech), which has helped me navigate these changes, just as it has helped thousands of other lawyers, regulators, policymakers, academics, students, privacy and security professionals, and business executives who must address unprecedented legal and policy issues raised by continually emerging scientific and technological changes. These issues are not only important, but also important to get right.

Regardless of our practice area or business focus, we all need peripheral vision to identify risks and address unexpected challenges in a world and legal profession being transformed by continual scientific and technological innovation. SciTech is always on the lookout for the next big thing, whether it’s drones, driverless cars, or the Internet of Things (IoT). On May 10–11, 2017, as a follow-up to its blockbuster March 2016 IoT conference, SciTech will hold its second IoT National Institute to explore the issues raised by billions of mobile phones, fitness trackers, cars, medical devices, “smart” buildings, and consumer/business products being embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity.

These days, when everything is changing (and the velocity of that change is accelerating), SciTech gives lawyers in all practice areas and an ever-widening range of businesses and government entities what we all need to survive and thrive: the SciTech Edge. In this Section, you’ll connect with litigators and business lawyers with a SciTech Edge, labor/employment and family law attorneys with a SciTech Edge, IP and IT/outsourcing lawyers with a SciTech Edge, and so on. The peripheral vision they gain from that SciTech Edge helps them stand out and be better advisors.

Far from being a niche Section, SciTech’s reach is sweeping in covering the latest science and technology law issues that will affect all of us in our professional and personal lives. As the only ABA entity whose mission is to interact and collaborate with the scientific and technological communities, SciTech draws legal leaders and industry experts to explore breathtakingly diverse issues. It’s an interdisciplinary approach that makes a huge difference in a world where everything is increasingly connected.

Members can interact with these leaders and experts through over 20 committees focused on the hottest science and technology law issues. The chairs of those committees are eager to help members get involved, make connections that matter, and build their résumés through leadership opportunities (ambar.org/standout). Members also can get the latest insights through SciTech publications, webinars, podcasts, and CLE programs.

Consider all that has changed since we graduated, whether it was 1994, the Orwellian 1984, or some other year. We all need a SciTech Edge, because nothing ever stays the same. SciTech is full of a diverse array of forward-thinking practitioners who revel in change and are continually on the lookout for the next big thing. We know how to reinvent ourselves and act as catalysts. As the playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Constant change is the new normal. u

Ellen J. Flannery

At the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, SciTech’s Membership and Diversity Committee Chair Ruth Hill Bro recognized Ellen J. Flannery as SciTech’s 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Champion: “For blazing the trail in advancing diversity and inclusion and for lighting the way for so many.” A partner in the Washington, DC, office of Covington & Burling LLP, Flannery was the second woman to chair the Section (1992–93) and the first woman to represent it in the ABA House of Delegates. She established and co-chaired for six years SciTech’s Women and Minorities Committee (now Membership and Diversity Committee). Due in no small measure to her commitment to diversity and inclusion, nearly half of those in the officer pipeline to Section chair since then have been diverse attorneys.

Julia G. Passamani

From 2006–16, Julia G. Passamani was SciTech’s Membership & Committees Manager, the first person to serve in that role. She came to the Section from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, where she served as Special Projects Coordinator; she left SciTech in May 2016 to become an ABA Business Law Section Marketing Specialist. We could not have asked for a better partner in advancing diversity and inclusion in SciTech, and we thank Julia for her many contributions and collegiality. We will miss our talented and insightful colleague but wish her well in this next chapter.