Automotive sector

Life as a lawyer in the rapidly changing automotive industry

Shoosmiths associate Sam Henegan talks electric vehicles and driverless cars ahead of his virtual appearance at next week’s event

Shoosmiths Associate Sam Henegan

Shoosmiths associate and future mobility chief Sam Henegan doesn’t think the brakes will be slammed on the fast-paced auto industry anytime soon. “The mobility industry (including all forms of transportation) is the largest industry in the world and its business models, infrastructure and technology are all undergoing massive change,” he tells me when we speak.

After obtaining a law degree from the University of Sheffield, Top speed-lover Henegan completed two secondments in the automotive industry during her training contract with Shoosmiths. He was able to discover under the hood the legal operation of the Volkswagen UK group during his first secondment before flying to Japan to help Nissan develop new connected car technology and its electric vehicle (EV) offering, among others. . Having gained a variety of business experiences, as well as work on data privacy and technology issues, Henegan now advises on the latest technologies and innovative projects in the industry.

On electric vehicles, he notes, “the name of the game is to grab the biggest market share from the start. Traditional auto brands – strongly rooted in gasoline and diesel – have been fairly slow to embrace the trend, in part because of short-term shareholder demands trumpeting arguments for large investment in cars. longer term market trends. Some brands are now in a position to have to catch up very quickly ”. But what was once considered an over-publicized fad [EVs], is now at the forefront of government policy, with the sale of new diesel and petrol cars to be banned in the UK from 2030.

For autonomous vehicles, however, “the leaders aren’t even in the automotive industry but are companies like Waymo, Amazon, and Intel. This means that a lot of more traditional players are working in partnership with newcomers to develop the technology in this area ”. Meanwhile, hydrogen appears to be the fuel of the future for heavy-duty vehicles and will likely have the biggest impact in the marine and aviation industries. Henegan points to the market differences between Europe where “hydrogen use cases vary” and countries in Asia which “have been investing in hydrogen in the automotive sector for years”.

A common thread between these products is the need for a fully developed infrastructure. Henegan explains, “It’s a development process where infrastructure is always catching up.” In the case of electric vehicles, it is the need for a reliable charging infrastructure that makes these vehicles accessible to a wider range of the population. Regulatory changes are underway, he explains, which will see chargers made available by employers at workplaces, while other players such as oil and gas giant BP will also invest to fill the gap. infrastructure deficit, recognizing the need to adapt their own business model to survive.

Government regulation is also central to the future of the mobility industry. “The question is which countries can develop the best regulatory framework, which encourages innovation and avoids serious harm.” The United Kingdom wants to position itself as a “world leader” in electric, hydrogen and autonomous vehicles. For autonomous vehicles, he explains, the country already has “a significant advance” thanks to its tradition of being used by industry players as a pilot market and therefore of being a target for foreign investment. .

The deadline to apply for the Shoosmiths summer vacation placement is February 28, 2022

As Henegan’s experience with Volkswagen and Nissan shows, Shoosmiths attorneys have a unique insight into how the auto industry works. According to Henegan, this broad industry perspective, along with legal expertise, makes Shoosmiths “the best automotive law firm in the UK”. He keeps on:

“What the industry does informs regulation. We [Shoosmiths] have a unique perspective because of our client base and are used as a sounding board by clients on cutting edge developments.

Henegan goes on to give the example of the close relationship the company has with its customers in this area: “Some of the best conversations I have had are with the engineering teams, to find out about new technical innovations and to help them. to bring their products to the market. “

The rapidly changing nature of the industry also means that Shoosmiths partners are eager to learn from juniors about the latest technology. “As a junior, the firm really encourages you to share your opinion and interests in these areas. For those interested in a career as a lawyer in the automotive industry, Henegan says the best thing you can be is genuinely enthusiastic and curious:

“You should always want to look under the hood at what a customer is doing right now and what’s happening around the next corner. “

Sam Henegan will speak alongside other Shoosmiths attorneys at “Electric Vehicles, Driverless Cars and Law – With Shoosmiths,” a virtual student event taking place on Tuesday, November 16. You can request to attend the event, which is free, now.

The deadline to apply for the Shoosmiths summer vacation placement is February 28, 2022

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