Top tier strengthens its ranks and grabs a market leading IT lawyer

A major Australian law firm has welcomed one of the market’s leading IT lawyers on board as a partner, a move that will add “significantly” to the firm's capability

Leading law firm Clayton Utz has appointed one of the market's leading information technology (IT) lawyers, Ken Saurajen, as a partner in its national IP & Technology practice.

Saurajen, who joins the firm from Gilbert + Tobin, where he has practised for 10 years, is known for his unique ability to design and structure some of Australia’s and the Asia-Pacific region’s most difficult and unorthodox technology transactions.

Clayton Utz IP & technology practice group leader John Collins said Saurajen's experience would add significantly to the firm's capability to provide across-the-board IT and procurement services to our major clients.
Australasian Lawyer has a chat with Saurajen below.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get into IT law?
A. I have had a practice focus in IT and the complex contracting of new and emerging technologies for most of my legal career. What initially caught my interest was the realisation that to practice high-end technology contracting from a market-leading position, one needed a combination of different aptitudes: technically excellent legal contracting skills, a robust current knowledge of a rapidly transformative subject matter and the ability to deploy those abilities to manufacture positive client outcomes in a commercially pragmatic way. I found that challenge irresistible. I also developed a genuine interest in not just technology for its own sake, but its capacity to deliver vastly improved business outcomes. My developmental years as a young lawyer also coincided with the tech boom of the late 90s, which was a very exciting time for the industry and IT business models generally.

Q. What is one of the strangest/most interesting/challenging cases you’ve been involved with?
A. I am fortunate to have been involved in a number of very unique transactions, each of which is memorable in its own right. Personal standouts would have to include negotiating Malaysia’s first-ever active RAN (radio access network) and future LTE sharing arrangement. That was a major milestone for the Malaysian telecommunications industry because it extended beyond the passive infrastructure sharing of physical network assets more traditionally practised by operators. It was also personally significant for me to be able to advise Nine Entertainment on the technology aspects of its recent acquisition of Microsoft Corporation’s remaining 50% stake in long-standing joint venture Mi9, which was historic in Australian internet industry circles. Having worked closely with Mi9 (then ninemsn) a good 15 years ago, I feel like I was able to participate in some fairly significant events in that company’s evolution. Much of my work in the NFC and payments contracting space also requires a fair degree of creativity and has an interesting regulatory overlay.
Q. What are some of the most important issues facing the IT space at the moment in Australia?
A. In terms of the Australian IT procurement landscape, developments such as digitisation, big data and the proliferation of cloud solutions are prompting a noticeable change in traditional IT contracting models. Historically, high-end IT transformation work featured relatively long term vendor-customer engagements which were characterised by protracted and often cumbersome negotiations, relatively limited customer flexibility and fairly conservative attitudes towards the acceptance of project risk. Increasingly however, new technology solutions are leading participants to manage their risk through shorter service-based engagements and physical safeguards, which de-pressurise the focus on traditional risk allocation provisions and strict legal remedies. I am also detecting a greater openness to incentive-based mechanisms, which represents a rebalancing of the historical ‘big stick’ approach.
I believe as IT lawyers we have a strong responsibility to facilitate this shift and ensure it occurs in a sensible and balanced way. In my experience there can be a tendency to catastrophise the risks associated with non-traditional contracting models. I think we need to be much more innovate than that and facilitate, rather than frustrate, the achievement of our clients’ ultimate business objectives. The contracting of new technologies should focus on the sensible allocation of real and non-trivial risks; not counselling the attempted perfect elimination of risks which are largely theoretical.

Q. What attracted you to Clayton Utz?
A. I am incredibly excited by the opportunity to contribute to the firm’s positioning as the uncontested market leader in front-end TMT in Sydney. Over my years of practice I have always held a deep level of respect for Clayton Utz, its people and its clients. It has best-in-class technical practitioners, does excellent work and is progressive in its outlook and approach to client service. In this respect I felt a strong alignment with my own personal values.
Culture is also very important to me. I believe people perform at their best when they are invested with trust and liberated to achieve it. When I first met John (Collins) I immediately sensed an opportunity to pursue my practice at the highest professional level in an extremely supportive and collegiate environment.

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