Euro law firms form millenium bug net

Herbert Smith is spearheading a network of European law firms to exchange advice on the implications of the “millennium bug”.

The Pan-European Advice Network for Year 2000 (PLAN Year 2000) comprises 15 firms with expertise in information technology law, insurance law and cross-border litigation.

The network has been set up to deal with disputes arising from computer system failures when the new millennium begins. Firms will share information in the run-up to 2000 and will act as a network of contacts so that they can provide clients with cross-border information at short notice.

Nick Gardner, a partner in Herbert Smith's intellectual property and technology group, believes problems arising from the bug “could affect any number of our clients” and is “one of the biggest potential practice areas”.

Banking, transport and insurance are areas where cross-border disputes may arise if computer systems cannot cope with the change of date.

Gardner cites the example of an international banking transaction failing to make a payment to a third party. A firm would be faced with the question of which country to bring an action in, and may need advice on a jurisdiction's time limitations and other rules if it needs to act quickly.

Gardner says that “trying to get that number of firms to agree was very difficult”, but the network plans to hold a London seminar in March and will produce briefing papers with information on limitation rules and other cross-jurisdictional issues.