8th Itech Law TFA Program

Report by Vibin Natarajan, August 12, 2012

The TFA Program commenced with an internship at the firm of Cabinet Franklin in Paris. Paris is a city of beautiful avenues and buildings. The people and the government are deeply committed to their language and culture and have invested a lot in preserving their cultural heritage. My stay in Paris included trips to a number of the historical sites and museums in the city including the Sacre Cour Church and a guided tour around the city’s important historical museums and monuments. I was able to climb halfway up the Eiffel tower and make a short trip through a section of the world famous Louvre museum including the one containing the famous Mona Lisa. I also had the chance to interact with the various attorneys and interns at the firm over lunches and meetings in the offices and finally rounded it off with a lovely dinner hosted by Bradley Joslove, the partner in charge of the Technology Law Practice at Cabinet Franklin.

While at Franklin I was asked to provide an analysis of the then recent February 2012 decision of the Madras High Court permitting the provision of foreign law advice by foreign lawyers in India. I also had the privilege of presenting a summary of this case before the “India committee” of the Parisian bar constituted to develop the relations between the legal fraternities of both the countries. The members of the Parisian bar were very interested on the implications of this judgment and had a number of questions which I did my best to answer. I had the opportunity to review and provide comments on a model code of conduct which a client of the firm, who was a software vendor, had to agree under a software service agreement. I also reviewed and provided comments on a preliminary notice to an Indian company on charges of having violated the terms of the joint venture with a French client which the firm was representing. The firm was also kind enough to provide at my request a few standard memos that it had prepared on various aspects of a foreign software company doing business in France including tax, labour and immigration laws. I had a very useful discussion with the partner on some of the issues raised in these memos and how agreements and business practices of a software company could be structured to ensure compliance with the requisite laws.

The next stop of the Program was at Gothenburg where I interned with the Swedish firm of Setterwalls. Gothenburg is a fairly small city in size in comparison to Paris. The city however has a number of beautiful gardens interspersed between the residential and commercial districts which gives the whole city a very calm and serene atmosphere which I found to be very pleasant and refreshing. Thanks to the city card provided by the host firm I was able to take in a tour of the city by bus as well as by a charming trip through the canals in the city by boat called the ‘Paddan tour’. The firm also provided a number of opportunities for me to interact with the members of the IT practice group by hosting numerous events including arranging opportunities for me to make presentations to the members of the firm, daily lunches with the associates, a visit to a bowling arcade and finally a dinner at a partner’s house. An account of my stay would also be incomplete without reference to the two associates in the IT Practice Group Martin Vildhede and Johan Lind who were very attentive and helpful right throughout my stay.

I also had a number of opportunities to participate in the professional activities of Setterwalls. One matter which I was involved in related to drafting a contract for a supply of IT services by a software vendor to an automotive manufacturer. The special feature of this contract was that it related to the provision of the services in an agile manner rather than in the typical traditional ‘waterfall’ model. I reviewed the current literature on an agile model for software development and discussed features of such a contract with a senior associate working on this project. I also had an opportunity to discuss the comparative aspects of Indian and Swedish law including in particular Swedish employment laws with Martin Vildhede and thus improved my understanding of the Swedish legal system. The presentations that I made to the members of the firm were also well received with the audience being quite interactive and information being exchanged through a question and answer format as well during the presentations. All in all the experience was a very balanced one with a good exchange of information pertaining to both legal and cultural matters.

After Gothenburg the next leg of the TFA Program took me to the firm of CMS Hasche Sigle at Stuttgart. While Stuttgart appeared to be a fairly large city it had much fewer heritage buildings and the architecture of the town had a more modern feel than any of the other European cities. This was I learnt reflective of its heritage as the cradle of the automobile industry. This German city where the automobile industry took its birth has two huge museums entirely dedicated to the birth and growth of the automobile industry i.e. the Mercedes Benz museum and the Porsche Museum. I was able to visit the Mercedes Benz Museum and though I spent nearly half a day at the museum I came away with the feeling that I had only scratched the surface. The exhibits in the museum covered not only the growth of the car industry but also placed it in the socio economic context in which it developed including the conditions of workers, the legal patents taken out to protect the inventions, the marketing techniques, the two world wars and their impact and the latest contributions to safety and green techniques in the automobile industry. Throughout much of my trip in continental Europe, the European Soccer Championships were underway and in Stuttgart in particular a lot of local supporters and public viewing screens and vocal fans were in evidence everywhere.

During my stay at Hasche Sigle, thanks to the attention of Dr. Axel Funk, I had the opportunity to engage in a variety of interesting assignments, though I was able to do full justice only to a few of them. I was asked to review and provide comments on the terms and conditions which an online forex provider intended to roll out to its customers in Germany.  I was also provided an article relating to issues on cloud computing and data privacy. I also had discussions with an associate of the firm on some aspects of US trademark law and registration. I also prepared a presentation for the members of the firm covering some areas of Indian law and regulations which would be of interest to them and contrasted German and Indian Jurisprudence.

As the International Federation of Computer Law Associations (IFCLA) was holding a conference in Munich, the program was expanded and Dr. Ursula Widmer invited me for a short stay in Munich and thereafter continued as scheduled in Berne. Munich is a very well preserved European city. In addition to retaining its historical legacy the city is also the IT hub of Germany. While in Munich I had the opportunity of taking a walk through the famous beer gardens which are reputed to be one of the largest gardens in the world and also sampled some classic Bavarian biergarten cuisine. I had also the wonderful opportunity to visit the fairy tale like castles of Linderhof and Neuschwanstein. I would like to thank very warmly Isabel Conrad of Schneider Schiffer Weihermüller, who showed me many important places in Munich, and invited me also to visit the law firm.

I flew with Dr. Widmer to Berne, the capital of Switzerland and through a very knowledgeable local city guide I was able to see visibly in its landmarks the history of the origins and growth of a typical European city. The city including its inhabitants are fairly easy going and relaxed best, exemplified to me by the rather remarkable sight one afternoon (to me at least) when the entire Swiss Cabinet (all 7 ministers) had lunch at an adjoining table in one of the restaurants I was dining. It appears that the leaders of the Swiss government go about their work with very little fanfare indeed. The highlight of the trip during my stay in Berne was my excursion to the world famous Swiss Alps (the Jungfraujoch) followed by a boat cruise across the Thun Lake.

The IFCLA conference in Munich provided me the opportunity to listen to and learn from a host of distinguished speakers in some extremely specialised areas. Some of the notable sessions I attended included talks on big data and its implications for data protection in a post privacy age, agile methodolgies and their implications from contractual perspective,  matrix organisations and labour law implications and negotiating IT outsourcing contracts in the healthcare sector. Whilst in Berne I had the chance to review the provisions of a software outsourcing contract involving engine components for a train engine manufacturer. I also had some interesting conversations on the Swiss system of government and political set up with the lawyers at Dr.Widmer and Partners. My visits to Munich and Berne was also greatly enriched in large part due to the generous efforts and exertions of Dr.Urusula Widmer who thoughtfully had planned every part of my itinerary and stay in both these cities.  

From Berne the program next took me to the Irish firm of Matheson Ormsby and Prentice ( MOP) in Dublin. In Dublin I had the opportunity to walk around and experience the sights and sounds of this typical Irish city including the famous Trinity College, its various pubs and of course its delightful people and traditional Irish songs. I had a lot of interesting conversations with people in the firm, including John O Connor the partner of the Tech Law practice group in the firm, on the recent political economy of Ireland as well as cultural aspects of Irish life.

While in MOP I had a chance to attend an induction program where they explained the manner in which the customer relationship management software used by the firm worked and its significance. I was also able to access a lot of material pertaining to IT outsourcing law in general including commentaries, articles, specifically created memos, notes and reports on case laws. Of particular interest to me was the commercial precedent databases available to the members of the firm which covered almost every conceivable IT agreement that an IT company would normally use. These databases also contained elaborate notes and comments on each clause which proved to be very useful in understanding the significance of these clauses. I was also able to review a file maintained by one of the associates in the firm which contained a collection of important articles pertaining to cases on liability in outsourcing contracts.

My final stop as part of the TFA Program at the offices of CMS Cameron McKenna at London. London like Paris is another city which is steeped in history. Notable highlights of my visit to the city included a guided tour of the various landmarks in the city over the weekend and a visit to the British Museum. During my internship at the firm I had the excellent opportunity of working alongwith the IT Practise Group at CMS London and was able to review and study in great detail several commentaries on contracting law in general and IT contract law thanks in particular to the kind attention of Ben Horton, the professional support lawyer for the Technology Group. I found this to be a valuable opportunity to expand and enrich my knowledge of English law governing IT outsourcing contracts. I also had several meetings with several of the firm’s lawyers on various aspects of IT law practice management including their document management and knowledge management systems.

In addition to the opportunity to work on professional assignments at each of the firms, to me the TFA Program also provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to study at close quarters the design, structure and operations of international law firms of varying sizes. As someone who has worked in Indian law firms for a rather significant period of time it was quite interesting to see the parallels and the divergences and the challenges and opportunities which lie for Indian firms in the near future to match up to their international counterparts. It also has offered me a great opportunity to meet and develop cultural and professional relationships with a number of European lawyers, relationships which I hope to be able to continue to sustain and grow in the coming years as ITech Law’s activities continue to grow and expand in India. I also take this opportunity to once again thank each of the hosts and sponsors of the TFA Program whose generosity and hospitality alone has made possible this wonderful program.