Alumna shares insights on law, technology, and career development

The School of Law hosted an 'In Conversation' event that provided valuable insights into the evolving landscape of commercial law and its intersection with technology.

In March, the University of LeedsSchool of Law welcomed back alumna Sue McLean, a partner in Baker McKenzie's Technology Team based in London, for an engaging ‘In Conversation’ event with Associate Professor Rebecca Moosavian, followed by a dinner with a group of students. 

Sue specialises in major technology deals encompassing cloud, outsourcing, digital transformation, and development and licensing. She also advises on various legal and regulatory issues surrounding new technologies such as AI, blockchain/DLT, metaverse, and crypto assets. With a diverse clientele spanning sectors like TMT, consumer goods and retail, financial services, and IMT, Sue's role as a key member of Baker McKenzie's transactional practice involves strategic support on commercial, technology, and intellectual property aspects of M&A transactions and joint ventures.

Additionally, Sue is co-chair of the firm’s FinTech practice in London and ranked as a leading lawyer in Chambers for Information Technology & Outsourcing and Fintech Legal and in Legal500 for Commercial Contracts, IT & Telecoms, TMT and Fintech. She is also vice-chair and a trustee of the Society for Computers and Law (SCL) and founder and chair of the SCL Women in Tech Law network. During the event, Sue candidly reflected on her journey from being a student at the School of Law to becoming a Partner at Baker McKenzie. She acknowledged her early career uncertainties as a student, admitting that her path from the classroom to one of the world's largest international law firms was not always clear and that she even questioned if she was on the right academic course.

However, through traineeships and various work experiences, she explored different sectors of law. Eventually, she discovered the intersection of technology and law, where she has remained for more than 20 years.

Despite the rapidly evolving landscape of technology, Sue noted that the fundamental nature of legal practice in this sector remains unchanged. She emphasized the importance of providing human insight and the role of technology as a beneficial and efficiency-enhancing tool, saying: 

Tech will take over certain tasks… However, the fundamental nature will not change much because our job requires us to use our experience and judgement, which tech will not do. We will use the tools that technology offers to help us get rid of the boring stuff… and we will do more of the interesting stuff.

In addition to underscoring the significance of dedication, effective communication, persuasive writing, and attention to detail in commercial law, Sue highlighted the importance of curiosity and networking for career development, stating:

If there is one thing I would have done more during my time at Leeds, it would be to ask more questions. I would also have networked more… as a lawyer your network is really important for your career.

Sue also encouraged students to take risks, remarking:

I am not really a risk taker but what I have found out in my career is that, if I take risks, it works out really well for me. So, I think I would give my younger self a pat on the back and say, ‘just go for it’.

Sue also addressed student questions regarding work-life balance or 'blend,' acknowledging the changing dynamics of contemporary work environments. She discussed the positive shifts in the workplace towards greater flexibility, particularly evident in current parental leave policies and the increased participation of men in caregiving responsibilities.

Importantly, Sue debunked the misconception that entering the tech field necessitates prior technical knowledge. Instead, she explained the significance of learning on the job and asking questions to acquire necessary skills and understanding, saying:

Don’t let the lack of technical skills put you off from pursuing a career in this area.

Reflecting on the event, Associate Professor and talk host, Rebecca Moosavian, underscores the value of such opportunities for students:

Thinking about your future career as an undergraduate can be a bit daunting or intimidating. It’s therefore really valuable for students to hear about the journeys that leading practitioners have taken to get where they are.  It is a helpful reminder that they too were once law students starting out. Sue was really open, approachable, and generous with her advice and I think this is why the students found it so helpful.

Sue’s visit undoubtedly left an impression, inspiring students to continue exploring the dynamic intersection of law and technology. As Finn Thompson, first year LLB student, concludes:

I really enjoyed the event – it was inspiring, motivating, and helped me realise what I need to do at this point in my career to be able to achieve my goals. The questions asked in the Q&A were very insightful, and the dinner event was interesting too. Sue allowed me to connect with her LinkedIn, which is going to be very useful in building my network in the future. Because of my involvement in the event, I have become more interested in becoming a tech lawyer, and Baker McKenzie are on my radar as a firm that I would like to apply to for vacation schemes and training contracts in the future.

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