Interview with Antonio Ravenna, founder of Lex by Design

2020-05-20, by Julia Bialek, Head of GDPR Conference, EIPS
Gertrud Huberty

Antonio Ravenna, founder of Lex by Design, could you briefly introduce yourself?

In a nutshell, I’m a Privacy & Data Protection Specialist and Data Protection Officer, working in the Italian Department of a top-tier international law firm. I’m focusing mainly in innovation, in particular in projects related to Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Automotive and SmartHealth.

Prior to this experience, I launched my own startup in the Augmented Reality industry with 3 co-founders, winning an Italian startup competition and raising public funds. Furthermore, I’ve participated in several projects for almost 8 years as a content creator for marketing campaigns, focusing mainly on video production.

You are convinced, that the legal market needs new solutions and lawyers and coding does sounds like an interesting combination - but how does that all fit together?

In the current landscape, lawyers and legal consultants working in the Tech and Innovation industry are facing new challenges never imagined before. Nowadays understanding IT and coding basics and concepts is more useful then ever.

This is particularly true when talking about privacy and data protection.

While this is quite clear when advising clients in projects related to Artificial Intelligence or IoT for instance, this is true even when implementing the simplest cookie policy!

Indeed, a basic knowledge of coding can really help to understand client’s services, in particular when using a Privacy by Design approach, enabling the lawyer to be proactive. Even more, it really helps to have a clear communication when talking with IT counterparts, which is a plus to understand client’s needs.

I really believe this as I’m learning coding basics also thanks to an University Specialisation Course held in Milan. It’s difficult of course and it requires a lot of patience, as I’m experiencing by myself, but the benefits overcome the discomfort.

Furthermore, having basics skills of coding is particularly useful when approaching to Legal Tech solutions, as well as Legal Design for certain aspects.

What's Legal Tech and Legal Design?

Legal Tech can be intended as the technologies and softwares designed to provide legal services in an innovative and disruptive way.

As I said, having some coding skills can be a very useful tool for the lawyer when approaching to Legal Tech solutions.

First of all, this enable the lawyer to understand how a program is developed and what’s the logic underneath the box.
Probably the first thing that a lawyer/legal consultant will experience is the deep difference of logic between law and code. Law tends to be ambiguous while the code needs to be unambiguous to work properly.

Secondly, it helps to understand what can be developed easily and with a minimum level of effort (e.g. because it can be done by using frameworks and assembling piece of codes already created by other programmers) and what really requires a lot of effort ant time/costs.

Legal Design, instead, is a methodology which uses a human-centric approach and design principles to create legal services and explain complex legal problems in an easy and compelling way.

As a content creator and passionate in communication, this is something in which I firmly believe!

Explaining legal solutions is a form of communication and I believe that we, as counsellor, have to be clear and compelling. Visuals can be very helpful and innovative in this and it’s something that I believe that we shall explore more deeply,

For instance, based on my prior experience I’ve started to create animated videos to help people and non-professional understandIng privacy problems during this COVID-19 emergency, receiving a very good feedbacks.

In the privacy and data protection context, a Legal Design approach can be a great plus. Even more, we could say that the GPDR itself requires this approach, without using the term “Legal Design”.

Indeed, privacy legislation is based on transparency and clear communications with data subjects, requiring a human-centric approach. Just think to Recital 60 of the GDPR. It states that information may be provided to the data subject in combination with standard icons in order to give a easily visible, intellegibile and clearly legible manner a meaningful overview of the intended processing.

Using visuals in the legal services can really make the difference, enhancing transparency and clarity.

As an example, I’m developing a set of illustration on the processing of personal data in the context of the COVID-19 emergency.
I’m planning to distribute it for free to everyone who wants to embed these illustration in their privacy policies during the emergency to help data subjects to better understand processing of personal data and their rights!

You are a Privacy & Data Protection Specialist. What role does GDPR and data protection play in your business concept (in a positive and negative sense)?

Creating a culture on the processing of personal data and privacy can really help the company to unlock a new level of possibilities.

Everyone continue to repeat that data is the new oil. This is true as long as we are respectful of people’s rights and we are transparent with them. Creating such a culture in the company can really help to spread value by finding solutions that are compelling for the business and create trust in the data subjects. Companies can achieve this by empowering people and explaining clearly why do the they process their data and what are the benefits.

That is why I believe so much in Legal Design, which really helps people to understand their rights and can help the company to create a long lasting relationship with clients.

Thank you for the interview, Antonio