As part of our 40th CCLS Anniversary Celebration we conducted an interview with Chris Reed, Professor of Electronic Commerce Law, who has been teaching at CCLS since 1987.
Professor Chris Reed joined CCLS in 1987 and is responsible for the University of London LLM courses in Information Technology Law, Internet Law, Electronic Banking Law and Telecommunications Law. Chris has published widely on many aspects of computer law and research in which he was involved led to the EU directives on electronic signatures and on electronic commerce.
There are so many! Perhaps my lecture for the Internet Law module in 2001, at the height of the dot com boom. The class was so full that we had to hire the City Temple church on Holborn Viaduct. I gave the first lecture there, with the vicar sitting at the back and working the sound system. It was only an hour or so before the class I realised the implications, because that day’s topic was Online Pornography! Fortunately I’d decided not to use many images in my slides, but I have never chosen my words so carefully in a lecture as I did that day.
Hugely. I arrived in 1987 when we had around 120 students and a faculty of 10 or so. We occupied a corner of the Laws building at Mile End and had a strange, ring-fenced financial arrangement with Queen Mary which allowed us to run a near “pirate” operation, swooping down on opportunities and seizing them without central approval. By the time I became Director of CCLS in 2000 we had 90% of Queen Mary’s taught postgraduate students and owned 90% of its investments! So we had to become a legitimate department of the university, but those old traditions of rapid, independent action still form part of the CCLS culture. That is why we made the move away from Mile End to first the City and now Lincoln’s Inn Fields, to be physically part of the practising legal and regulatory community with which we work so closely.
Although CCLS is maybe ten times its size in 1987, the best things haven’t changed. There is still a real sense that we are all working together in a shared enterprise, which is academically and socially important as well as intellectually exciting. There’s a team spirit, it’s like a second family. When the coronavirus lockdown happened everyone threw themselves into action and worked amazingly hard. Within a week we had worked out how to teach all our students, and the following week we sorted out how to assess and examine them. I thought that was remarkable!
I think the day we moved from Mile End to Charterhouse Square, which was my main project as Director of CCLS. When I called a meeting of CCLS support staff to begin planning the move they told me not to bother – they had already worked out everything which needed to be done, and indeed it just magically happened. On the day of the move I had two main jobs – keeping out of their way and fetching coffee. I was really proud of them all.
I’d say the amazing team spirit. If something important needs to be done, no-one holds back. This also applies to research projects, our work with the outside legal world and international organisations, and so on. Always exciting, never dull!