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On the evening of 5 December 2013, a date that will now also be remembered for the death of Nelson Mandela, around 170 people gathered at the Houses of Parliament for the sold-out 40th anniversary dinner of the Society of Computers and Law which was sponsored by LexisNexis. The dinner took place in the Members’ Dining Room, thanks to the sponsorship of the Rt Hon Lord Hunt of Wirral, an exciting and elegant venue and one that was both familiar and new to me. I had not visited the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) before and it was fascinating to see the inside of the building with the original Westminster Hall, started in 1097 by William Rufus, and the rest of the building that was rebuilt in the nineteenth century after a devastating fire in 1834 which destroyed the medieval Palace.
The Houses were busy with several events and it was entertaining trying to celebrity/politician-spot while we were waiting (we saw Nick Robinson recording his section for the BBC news on the Autumn Statement). The drinks reception took place in a room adjacent to the dining room with spectacular wallpaper.
Roger Bickerstaff, SCL trustee and Chair, welcomed everyone to the dinner with a brief summary of the history of SCL and a reminder that technology lawyers work at the heart of society. His welcome was followed by Richard Susskind, SCL President, saying the Selkirk Grace attributed to Robbie Burns. After that we tucked into dinner, which was served at around 8.30pm, with a starter of Gressingham duck, a main course of Scottish salmon and a dessert of Queen of Puddings.
Over coffee and petit fours, Richard Susskind discussed Moore’s law (that is, is the rule that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years) and driverless cars, both topical subjects, as well as discussing Big Data, and Professor Chris Reed, a former Chair of SCL, entertained us by playing his ukulele, see this video.
Sir Brian Neill also spoke. In 1983 Sir Brian Neill succeeded Lord Scarman as the President of SCL and continued in that post until 1993. He reminded everybody how difficult it was to persuade people of the importance of computers in the context of the law at that time (and when SCL was founded).
As well as being a fitting celebration of the Society’s 40th anniversary in a memorable venue, the dinner was a fantastic networking opportunity and it was a pity to have to leave.
Thank you to everyone who was involved in the organisation of the event.
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