Simon is an IP and technology solicitor and has been practicing in the IP field since 2002. After training at City law firm Baker McKenzie, Simon worked in-house for technology start-ups and for an international publishing business. Simon founded Sellars Legal in 2018 to offer an alternative to traditional law firm legal advice and works with a wide range of organisations, from start-ups in the space industry to national insurance companies and academic institutions.
What initially compelled you to train as a lawyer?
I originally studied science at university and my first job was as a patent attorney, which is a great balance of science and law. I soon realised that I was actually a better lawyer than scientist, so I pivoted into the law conversion course and headed down the career path of becoming a lawyer.
Why did you specialise in IP and technology law?
My science background – and a healthy upbringing on mid-90s science fiction TV – has made me into quite a geek (!) so it was a fairly natural progression to specialise in IP and technology once trained. I’ve also always enjoyed the real-life overlap with things like copyright and trade marks, seeing names pop up in my work that we are all familiar with. For example, whether a film is on Netflix or not is a result of a bundle of IP-related contracts, and supermarket own-brand look-a-likes are a result of a close understanding of the limits of trade mark and passing off law.
How has the rise of digital technology and the internet changed your work during your career so far?
When I first started work, faxes were still a thing, the internet was something you only used at home to check your emails a couple of times a week, and the pace of correspondence was much slower. More recently, the range of Cloud-based software offerings has really lowered the technical barriers to entry and we’re all used to (and often expect!) immediate replies to messages. Today, I can grab a laptop and use my mobile as a hotspot to work anywhere in the world, at a time that suits me – that’s an incredible freedom.
You have worked in a range of settings as a lawyer – any favourite moments or career highlights?
I’ve had a couple of spells working as an in-house lawyer and the opportunity to really get involved in the operation of a business is invaluable. This allows you to interact with everyone, which makes you appreciate the impact and relevance of your role as a lawyer. The experience also made me far more aware of the need to speak in digestible, non-jargony language, and to actually answer the questions asked. As for a career highlight, I started working for myself a few years ago; sitting at a screen with an empty inbox on day one was exciting and terrifying at the same time, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
What skills make someone good at settling disputes?
Dispute resolution definitely requires an open mind. You have to be open to both sides of an argument while taking care to follow the rules of the dispute resolution system adopted. If both parties see that a process has been followed and feel that they have been heard, they are more likely to accept the outcome.
When and how did you first hear of Nominet’s DRS?
The DRS was always mentioned in IP education seminars on dispute resolution, along with forums such as the Company Names Tribunal, as a great alternative to starting litigation. Unfortunately, it was frequently glossed over as a very niche system when in fact it’s a very practical and cost-effective way to help parties focus and resolve a dispute. Back in 2010, I did my first DRS case as a legal representative as part of a wider IP conflict and it was a great opportunity to learn more about it.
Why did you want to join as a DRS expert?
I wanted to join as a DRS expert in order to give back to the service. I’ve been a user of the Nominet DRS domain dispute system for many years, working with businesses to resolve issues surrounding domain name registrations. Having previously only worked on dispute resolution through chains of legal correspondence, and the occasional mediation, it was refreshing to discover this well-structured and accessible system.
What has the experience been like so far?
It’s been fantastic. The Nominet team were very helpful at getting me up to speed on the systems and processes. The first couple of decisions were peer-reviewed, which was a good introductory safety net. The first solo decision was quite daunting because you really appreciate that you’re making a binding decision that will impact people and businesses. That said, the high stakes helps focus the mind and ensures I’m making properly reasoned decisions based on the rules and the evidence before me.
What do you do to switch off from your work?
I have two young children, who do their very best to ensure that I switch off as often as possible. I love spending time with them and, whenever I can find the time, I will be out on my bike or swimming in the nearest pool or body of open water.
How’s lockdown life for you?
It’s been a challenge, as it has been for all of us. Home life and work life have overlapped in new ways and time seems to just disappear. This too shall pass though, and I hope we will come out of it stronger and wiser.
Do you have any burning ambitions – personal or professional?
I’m keen to build my skills in alternative dispute resolution and am working to become an accredited mediator later this year. On the personal side, I’d love to complete a long-distance triathlon…I just need to find the time to train!
Simon joined the panel of DRS Experts in Autumn 2019.