New Zealand Law Society - Interview with Nick Valentine, Partner at DLA Piper

Interview with Nick Valentine, Partner at DLA Piper

Nick Valentine leads DLA Piper's Intellectual Property and Technology team. He has extensive experience in technology, IP and telecommunications transactions as well as privacy and cybersecurity advisory work.

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Nick advises public and private sector entities on large-scale business process and IT outsourcing and systems integration; software development and licensing; data protection and privacy; and media rights and online content distribution.

Nick Valentine

The NZLS Auckland Branch Young Lawyer Committee was established in 2010. You were a founding member of the group. What prompted you to get involved with the Young Lawyers Committee?

I saw it as a great opportunity to help build something that I knew would create a culture of collaboration and collegiality across the profession at an early stage of our careers. I'd seen that it was fairly easy to stay within your firm's 'bubble', so I was keen to help develop a forum for young lawyers to network outside their grad cohort. There was also a great group of people involved, so it was a fun thing to help out with.

What were some of the things you learned from being on the Committee?

It was great getting to know people who worked at firms of different sizes and in other practice areas. When you're busy on a large matter it's easy to forget that the law is a broad discipline that touches pretty much all aspects of society, not just the areas or industries you work in. I always really enjoyed talking to the criminal lawyers - their work stories were far better than mine!

How do you think the world has changed for young lawyers compared to when you started out?

I think there is a lot more awareness of the pro-bono and community care opportunities law firms offer, and increased importance placed on those initiatives when law students are making decisions about what firms to apply to. I spoke at a University of Auckland recruitment day a few months ago and was pleasantly surprised that, as well as the questions I expected about the clients we act for and matters we work on, a lot of the questions were about DLA Piper's pro bono programme and other initiatives like Leadership Alliance for Women.

Looking ahead, do you think practising law will be like for young lawyers in 5-10 years’ time? What changes do you envisage?

We are trending towards greater flexibility in the way we work, which is supporting much better work/life balance than the profession is traditionally known for.

Additionally, lawyers are now expected to be trusted business advisors, not just focussing on the black-letter law. I think we'll see that trend continuing and lawyers will move further into a consultancy style role. For example, we are evolving our global legal offering into broader advisory services and new business areas under our radical change agenda. This means law grads will need a broader skillset (though the grads we're seeing come through now have incredibly impressive, diverse CVs anyway).

The growth in technology is ubiquitous and data protection issues abound. Looking back, did you decide early on in your career that you wanted to practise technology and privacy law?

I originally wanted to be a litigator and spent a few years in that area. Mike Heron QC was my supervising partner atthe time and I learnt a lot from him.  By chance, I ended up doing a bit of intellectual property work, then took what I thought was an IP role at a firm in Sydney. That turned out to be a technology and telecommunications role, which I really enjoyed.

When I was looking at moving back to New Zealand, I was given the perfect opportunity to build DLA Piper's New Zealand IP and Technology team, which gave me the best of both worlds - a well-established leading global team, with the opportunity to shape the practice here in NZ.

What was it about these areas of law that piqued your interest?

Technology and data issues are always relevant to our clients, no matter what industry they operate in. Advising clients on outsourcing transactions or new technology rollouts gives invaluable insights into their strategic plans and puts you in the thick of new product development - it's exciting seeing what our clients are looking at bringing to market in the next few years.

The data protection and cybersecurity side is interesting because it's one of the biggest risks facing our clients at the moment. I find data breach response work particularly enjoyable because it's fast paced and typically a business critical issue for our clients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption for businesses and individuals. What are some of the key impacts in your areas of practice?

Tech and data has seen some interesting challenges during the pandemic.

There has been a significant increase in cybercrime, coupled with entire countries in lockdown and the surge in people working from home, often on less secure devices and networks, which has led to an increase in the data breach response and cybersecurity advisory work we've been doing.

Similarly, many businesses' systems have been put under a lot of strain with their entire workforce working remotely. This has caused a lot of clients to look at systems upgrades and BCP reviews, which we have been helping out with.

Any pearls of wisdom for grads looking for a job right now?

Look out for a firm or company that not only offers you great work and fantastic career opportunities, but (more importantly) whose values align with your own.

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