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50 Years of Firsts

As we count down to the 50th Anniversary kickoff celebration, we’d like to take you down memory lane to commemorate key events in the history of ITechLaw with our 50 Years of Firsts series brought to you by the ITechLaw 50th Anniversary Committee. We look forward to celebrating our fifty-year history as an association. We have reviewed our history as an association and have selected ten “firsts” for ITechLaw which we will highlight to you as we countdown to this special event. We hope you enjoy each one! The celebration will continue at our upcoming conferences and events in 2022 and 2023.

A quick but heartfelt acknowledgment before we start. Significant content in this communications series has been sourced from the formal history of ITechLaw “History Project: A Few Opening Remarks”, by C. Ian Kyer, one of our Past Presidents (the “ITechLaw History”). His work is gratefully acknowledged.

First ITechLaw Conference
First Time the Annual US Conference Left Washington, DC
First Female ITechLaw President

First Annual European Conference
First Official Publication
First CyberSpaceCamp
First India Conference
First Webinar

First Mission Statement
First Strategic Plan

When was the First ITechLaw Conference

Determining which was the first conference is not as easy as one may think. The informal Computer Lawyers Group, the predecessor to ITechLaw, began in 1971 and was formally incorporated as a non-profit association in the District of Columbia in 1973 as the Computer Law Association (CLA). Following its incorporation, the CLA continued to host meetings as it had done previously, but these were largely informal.

Thus, while it may be arguable, ITechLaw history identifies the 1975 First USA-Japan Joint Computer Law Conference in Japan, co-chaired by the CLA and the Japanese Computer Law Association, as the first formal conference.

C. Ian Kyer comments on the significance of this conference:

The Computer Law Association grew out of a shared need to better understand the legal issues generated by computerization. That need and the desire to collaborate in dealing with these issues knew no national boundaries. North and South Americans, Europeans, and those in the Asia Pacific, all faced similar issues and concerns. So it was not long before the Washington-based association reached out to those in other countries. The Japanese conference was a logical and very important first step.

Thus, were these first ‘international’ seeds of the International Technology Lawyers Association born.

When was the First Time the Annual US Conference Left Washington, DC?

The answer is complicated. ITechLaw, known as the Computer Law Association (CLA) at the time, began as a Washington-based association in 1973 but did not hold a conference outside of the District of Columbia until its first U.S. West Coast conference in San Francisco in 1976 (where we will hold the 2022 World Technology Law Conference, 25-27 May). While the CLA at first returned to the West Coast for many years, by 1998 the World Technology Law Conference (located in North America) was once again well and truly ensconced in Washington, DC.

In 2005-2006, then-President Amy Lynne Williams successfully broke the cycle of Washington DC conferences, by moving the 2006 US World Technology Law Conference to San Francisco. Williams reflects: 

Historically, there was a CLA conference in Washington every year, partly out of habit and partly because the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was there, and we had easy access to government speakers. However, as the tech business changed and the membership became more international, not only were people tired of going to Washington and not interested in the USPTO contacts, the international members were also hoping to tack on going to International Trademark Association (INTA) while they were in North America for CLA/ITechLaw to save travel time and money. We thought that if we followed INTA and went to the same city where INTA was going to be, either right before or after our conference, we could encourage more international ITechLaw members to make the trip for our conferences. It worked!

And from there, ITechLaw never looked back. The World Technology Law Conference has been held in diverse locations across North America including Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Scottsdale, and Seattle, to name a few.

Who was the First Female ITechLaw President?

In 1987, Susan Nycum became President of ITechLaw. Nycum served for two years during which time ITechLaw held its first European meeting in Amsterdam. To put that in perspective, the United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the first woman to serve on the high court in 1981, just six years prior. 

ITechLaw is proud to note that Nycum was the first of a long line of women leading ITechLaw including Karen Casser (1998-1999), Diana J.P. Mackenzie (2002-2003), Esther Nunes (2004-2005), Amy Lynne Williams (2005-2006), Ursula Widmer (2009-2010), Sandy Jeskie (2010-2011), Kiran Sandford (2013-2014), Jenna Karadbil (2015-2016), Susan Barty (2016-2017), and Gabriela Kennedy (2021-2022). 

Susan Barty, Past President (2016-2017) and Chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee, comments on support for gender diversity in ITechLaw: 

ITechLaw has always supported and promoted women within the organization, as the list of women Presidents attests, but we always want to do more. In 2007, Francoise Gilbert and I led the start of the I-WIN (the ITechLaw Women’s International Network) which has gone from strength to strength, and is now under the excellent leadership of Carmen de la Cruz, Hélène Deschamps Marquis and Arya Tripathy. So, in the year when the sixth woman and the first black woman is nominated and confirmed on the United States Supreme Court, I would encourage all women members of the organization to become as actively involved as you can. We have so many impressive women within our membership from all corners of the world – we welcome and endorse your involvement at every level.

ITechLaw promotes, supports, and facilitates the unique interests and needs of women technology lawyers and leaders across all jurisdictions through the I-WIN (Women’s International Network) Committee. The I-WIN Committee provides a space for female technology lawyers to interact, learn, and grow through targeted networking, educational, and career-boosting opportunities.

When was the First Annual European Conference?

On June 1 - 3, 1988 ITechLaw held a conference in Europe for the first time, in Amsterdam. In our previous 50th Years of Firsts communication, we noted that Susan Nycum was the first woman to as President of ITechLaw in 1987: the Amsterdam conference took place during her tenure.

Notably, the conference in Amsterdam also acted as the first meeting of the International Federation of Computer Law Associations (IFCLA), an organization with which ITechLaw has had a productive and collegial relationship for many years. ITechLaw went on to co-sponsor other European conferences with IFCLA in Munich in 1990, Stockholm in 1992, Bath, England in 1994 and in Brussels in 1996. ITechLaw notes that IFCLA is also celebrating its anniversary this year at its June 16 - 17 2022 conference in Helsinki – its 35th anniversary – so congratulations to IFCLA! 

While the 1988 Amsterdam conference was successful, it is not what initiated our annual ITechLaw European Conference. In C. Ian Kyer’s History of ITechLaw, David Bender (Past President, 1999-2000) attributes the commencement of the ITechLaw European Conference to Enrique Batalla (Past President, 2007-2008), who recommended a European Conference series, which began in Madrid in 1999. The European Conference has become an annual staple of ITechLaw’s calendar.

Enrique reflects on his proposal for annual series of ITechLaw European Conferences:

I suggested that if ITechLaw wanted to become really international, they had to hold conferences also in Europe. My idea was to change every year from one city to another in order to also fulfill the further goal of recruiting members throughout the different European countries. This vision on internationalizing the activities of the association led to another President, Richard Allan Horning, to start the Asian Conferences.

ITechLaw has hosted European Conferences in Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Rome, and Stockholm. This year’s European Conference will be in Zürich, 19-21 October. We look forward to seeing you there!

What was ITechLaw's First Official Publication?

While conference proceedings were published in the 1970s, perhaps the first formal publication by ITechLaw was in 1988, when Paul S. Hoffman edited the first of a series of forms collections. That initiated a long history of significant ITechLaw publications, including:

  • a series of annual essay collections (1993 to 1996);
  • volumes on special interest topics (for example, works on international treaties by Bill Tanenbaum, pamphlets on state taxes by Paul Hoffman, and a glossary by Bob Bigelow); and
  • the publication of the first of the ITechLaw Current Issues Publications Series - "The Internet and Business: A Lawyer’s Guide to the Emerging Legal Issues” in 1996

ITechLaw has played a key role in generating technology law publications. These documents were particularly important as technology law was a relatively new field and new practitioners were desperately seeking guidance. Additionally, numerous ITechLaw members published notable works which became leading publications in the field. There is a strong connection between ITechLaw membership and seminal technology law guidance and publications.

In short, ITechLaw’s thought leadership, including through publications, plays a significant role in the technology law space. This role in providing thought leadership was in fact expressly recognized as being one of the three key “pillars” of ITechLaw in ITechLaw’s first Strategic Plan – a topic which we will address in a subsequent communication.

Bill Tannenbaum (Past President, 1995-1996) reflects on the importance of ITechLaw as a thought leader in developing technology law issues: 

I had the honor of serving as President of our Association during our 25th Anniversary when we were then known by our original name as “The Computer Law Association.” At that time we shifted our focus to the Internet, and in doing so became a pioneer among bar associations in focusing on how the Internet would change the nature of Information Technology Law. We arranged to receive presentations from the first technology companies moving to Internet in order to provide our members with an early education to the Internet as it was becoming part of the commercial landscape.  At this time we also began to expand our membership to start down the road of becoming an international association. 

ITechLaw continues to publish ground-breaking works as technology evolves and new issues come to the fore. The recently published Responsible AI: A Global Framework is another one of these ITechLaw publications, as authored by a multi-disciplinary group of 54 technology law experts, researchers, and industry representatives from 16 countries: Responsible AI was just updated in 2021. 

And so ITechLaw continues to lead the way in technology law thought leadership.

When was ITechLaw's First CyberSpaceCamp®?

Building on two ITechLaw retreat programs in Monterey California in 1993 (“From Bits and Bytes to Virtual Reality”) and 1996 (“From Bits and Bytes to Cyberspace”), ITechLaw hosted the first ITechLaw CyberSpaceCamp® Program in San Jose in 1998. 

In a previous 50 Years of Firsts communication, we highlighted the key contributions ITechLaw has made as part of its “thought leadership” role in the technology law space, specifically in connection with the numerous publications of the association. The CyberSpaceCamp® Program is another means by which ITechLaw has played, and continues to play, a significant role in educating practitioners on technology law issues.

The ITechLaw CyberSpaceCamp® Program is a platform which is specifically designed to allow experienced lawyers from across the world to interact with young lawyers and professionals and share their insight and in-depth view on the implications of technology law and practice as it has developed in their respective jurisdictions. ITechLaw practitioners who have spoken at these programs are always universally positive about the experience, and in particular comment on the immense enthusiasm of attendees for the programs.

Diego Fernandez, Past-Chair of the CyberSpaceCamp® Program, comments on the importance of the CyberSpaceCamp® Program for new lawyers:

The CyberSpaceCamp® Program has proved to be a very effective way in sharing knowledge with young lawyers. Partnerships with local law schools and institutions have helped spread the word as much as possible. 
Our experience during the last seven years has been extremely positive and the association has been able to help create or increase the local lawyer’s technology community. Attendees will often highlight how important this training was for them, as this kind of training was not available at their law schools and/or local bar associations. It is for perhaps that reason that jurisdictions have been eager to repeat the experience year after year.
I have no doubt that this program has been, and continues to be, of great importance for the local community and for ITechLaw as well. 

The CyberSpaceCamp® Programs are now planned by the Latin America Membership Committee, and since the first programs in the United States, the CyberSpaceCamp® Program has been hosted in multiple different countries, including India, Cuba, Panamá, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Brazil and Bolivia. In 2022, the CyberSpaceCamp® Program will visit Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay. We look forward to seeing you there!

When was ITechLaw's First India Conference?

The first annual ITechLaw India Conference (or as it was then known the First Asian Conference) took place in Bangalore, India, in February 2005.  By 2014, the 10th ITechLaw International India Conference – again in Bangalore – had “become the largest annual lawyers conference in India”. Contemporaneous materials describe the diverse range of attendees:  “senior legal professionals (both in-house and practitioners) from India and across the world… [including] a cross-section of Lawyers, Corporate/In-House Counsel and Legal Heads, Technology Entrepreneurs, Cyber Law and Forensic teams, Finance Heads, ICT Professionals, Judges, and others from around the world”.

Rahul Matthan, Chair of the initial conferences, comments on the challenges of initiating the India conference series, and the significance of the accomplishment:

In those early days no-one even believed there was a need for a technology law conference in India - much less that it would be so successful. From building the audience to getting sponsors to commit their support, it was an uphill battle every step of the way. Had it not been for a few ITechLaw members who believed that the only way we could make ITechLaw a truly global organization was to extend its reach halfway across the globe, we may never have got here. Today the India conference is the premier conference of its kind in India attracting policy makers, technology companies and law firms year on year. 

And 17 years later, the ITechLaw India conference is still going strong.

When was ITechLaw's First Webinar?

ITechLaw launched its first webinar series in 2010. As described in the September 2010 ITechLaw Newsletter:

For those of you unable to attend upcoming face-to-face events, ITechLaw has recently launched free monthly webinars on hot topics in IT law for members only.  Starting this month, you will see an extensive program of webinars, beginning with a webinar on Virtual Worlds, Virtual Goods and Virtual Currency on September 28 [2010], followed closely by an Outsourcing Committee webinar on Sustainability Obligations in IT Infrastructure Outsourcing on October 5… ITechLaw also recently launched a social media initiative with daily substantive technology law comments on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Notably, in 2009 the ITechLaw Newsletter itself in fact won the Web Marketing Association Internet Advertising Competition (IAC) Award for Outstanding Achievement in Internet Advertising.

Sandra Jeskie (Past President, 2010-2011), was particularly focused on the importance of utilizing social media and webinars as a means of broadening member engagement, and comments on how this represented an important sea-change for ITechLaw:

Up until around 2009-2010, ITechLaw was often viewed as a conference-driven organization.  Members looked forward to opportunities to network and learn at our annual conferences in the U.S., Europe and in India, but there was limited engagement with the organization and its members between conferences.  The webinar and social media programs were started to actively engage members in the organization throughout the year and to position ITechLaw and its members as thought leaders in technology law.

This expertise in presenting webinars well-positioned ITechLaw to pivot exclusively to the webinar format when in-person events were halted during the worst of the COVID pandemic: in 2020 and 2021 ITechLaw presented 38 and 31 webinars respectively.

What was ITechLaw's First Mission Statement?

ITechLaw’s first Mission Statement was developed and launched in 2007, as the result of a Board of Directors Retreat in Dublin.  While only two sentences, creating the Mission Statement took hours of intensive debate:

ITechLaw is the leading global organization for legal professionals focused on technology and law. Its mission is to create unparalleled opportunities for international networking and exchanging knowledge and experience with experts and colleagues around the world.

Note the key phrases:

  • global”: reflecting the by-now well-established credentials of the Association as having an international impact;
  • legal professionals”: this may seem obvious, but stemmed from the conclusion – after some debate - that this scope should also not also include technology-focused businesses, venture capitalists, etc.;
  • opportunities for international networking” was a nod to the critical importance of events in facilitating networking between ITechLaw members; and
  • finally, “exchanging knowledge and experience with experts and colleagues” highlighted that ITechLaw was not just about networking to drive business, but was also about creating opportunities for technology law experts to learn from each other.

Richard Horning (Past President, 2006-2007), who arranged for the Board Retreat, reflects on the motivations for developing the Mission Statement:
In the period that followed the Madrid, Lisbon, and Milan conferences, and the start of the annual conferences in Bangalore, it became apparent to me and others that CLA needed a clear view of its role as a growing international organization, with leadership opportunities in a broad range of developing technologies in an ever more closely connected world. It was in this context that, immediately following my election as President in San Francisco in 2006, we organized our first leadership retreat in Dublin. The three-day leadership retreat was successful: we changed the name to the International Technology Law Association; we wrote the Mission Statement; we changed the corporate structure and election cycle; and we outsourced the back office to a professional organization.

It is important to note that the Mission Statement is not symbolic: rather, it has served as a critical guide as to which initiatives ITechLaw should support as being congruent with its mandate, and which it should not.  In short, creating the Mission Statement has proven to be a valuable investment for ITechLaw, which continues to reap dividends.

What was ITechLaw's First Strategic Plan

ITechLaw’s first Strategic Plan (Fiscal Years 2013 - 2015) was developed and launched in 2012. As set out in the introduction of the Strategic Plan itself:

In order to establish continuity for the ITechLaw Association between presidential administrations, which rotate annually, ITechLaw has developed this three (3) year Strategic Plan to encompass Fiscal Years 2013 through 2015. While establishing continuity and a cohesive approach to the overriding vision for ITechLaw as an organization, the Strategic Plan will ensure synergy among ITechLaw’s three core offerings – the three “pillars” which support the Association - each of which supports ITechLaw’s core mission:

ITechLaw is the leading global organization for legal professionals focused on technology and law. Its mission is to create unparalleled opportunities for international networking and exchanging knowledge and experience with experts and colleagues around the world.

The three “Strategic Pillars” of the Strategic Plan were (1) Conferences and Events, (2) Membership, and (3) Thought Leadership.

Alex Blumrosen (Past President, 2011-2012) and I jointly developed and issued the Strategic Plan during our presidencies:  below he reflects on what drove the content for, and the significance of, the Strategic Plan:

We had lived through many of the ups and downs of the early 2000s and we wanted to build on the work of the Dublin Board Meeting – for example, in creating the Mission Statement - to ensure long-term organizational stability, no matter the changes in Executive Director or Executive Committee personnel.  The Strategic Plan, in serving that purpose, needed to be both multi-year - to ensure that there was an ongoing vision for the Association without limiting Executive Committee initiatives - and broad enough to engage all our members and their activities.  Finally, the choice of Conferences and Events as a main pillar was no accident: the EU Conference series, as started by Enrique Batalla, had demonstrated that even in difficult times - like 2001 (9/11) and the 2008 recession - our members would gladly travel the world to meet up in person and exchange ideas.  This was a foundational concept of the Strategic Plan.

In some ways, this is the perfect Fifty Years of Firsts communication with which to end our ten-part series, as so many of the topics of the series have in fact fit squarely within these three Strategic Pillars:

Conference and Events:

  • First CLA Conference
  • First Time Annual CLA US Conference left Washington DC
  • First Annual European Conference
  • First Cyberspace Camp 
  • First India Conference

Thought Leadership:

  • First Official Publication 
  • First Webinar

All of which have contributed to expanding both the geographic reach and the depth, of our Membership engagement: our third Strategic Pillar. In short, since its incorporation in 1973, ITechLaw has continued to evolve into an organization that, if you practice technology law, you simply cannot afford to not be a member.