For technology lawyer Ryan Black, being a member of the Dean’s Advisory Committee for the Centre for Business Law is an important opportunity to give back to the legal community.
“For me personally, the idea of being able to contribute to the faculty of law and particularly to the Centre for Business Law at Allard was really critical because it’s not very often that these opportunities come up at UBC where they typically focus on social justice issues or environmental issues or environmental social governance or things like that, which are all very important, but as a pure business lawyer who does commercial transactions (where) people make or lose lots of money, it’s hard to sometimes feel like I can actually contribute back to the law community,” said Black, who first became involved with the committee during his time as Co-Chair, Information Technology and Chief Technology Partner at McMillan LLP.
“The Centre for Business Law is led by Dr. Liao and it just does incredible work. I’m so proud of my involvement with that group.”
Black earned a Bachelor of Commerce and then an LLB from the University of Alberta. He is now a partner at DLA Piper, focusing specifically on intellectual property, information technology, video games and esports and internet-facing businesses. In 2017, he was named one of Canada’s leading lawyers under 40 in Lexpert’s annual Rising Stars edition.
“I didn’t really have any grand plan on what I was going to do when I became a lawyer, but everyone else was articling, everyone else was applying to law firms and I thought I should do that too, and I’ve loved every step of the way,” he said.
Black also has professional experience as a web developer, which he said not only gives him substantive insight into some of his clients’ needs, but also a logical process he continues to follow in his practice.
“Software, at the end of the day, is an iterative process where you start with inputs and you’re trying to end up with an output. That may sound very familiar because that’s exactly what a contract is, or when you’re trying to do a business deal—you’re starting with inputs and you’re trying to end up somewhere. The process that you go through in computer programming … that’s the same logical process that you do when you’re drafting a contract,” he said. “Apart from the knowledge of the industry that I’ve gained from it, I’ve actually found that my programming brain gets triggered a lot and gets used a lot by helping clients with their contracts and by doing drafting exercises. I find (it’s) like I’m coding in legal language now.”
Black is also part of professional organizations such as the Canadian IT Law Organization and Video Game Bar Association and has been involved with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority.
Nearly two decades after leaving law school, he is now a Clinic Adjunct with the Business Law Clinic at Allard, where he shares some of the insights he has gained through his practice with aspiring students.
“I hope they come away with the idea that in business law, it’s not about advising your clients everything that could go wrong. It’s about advising clients where the risks are and letting them make their decisions,” he said.
“In law school, I feel like there’s a lot of you should or shouldn’t do this … the business world just generally doesn’t work like this … It’s always about teasing out those risks and making sure people understand where they are on that continuum, and I think it’s a really critical thing for students to understand before they go practice business law.”