SWITCHlegal: legal consulting focusing on ICT law

Nora Zinsli tells us about the new service and what she likes most about her job.

Text: Cornelia Puhze, published on 18.02.2020

SWITCHlegal was initiated last year. Why?

Nora Zinsli: SWITCHlegal provides legal consulting with a focus on ICT law to the higher education community. The legal team at SWITCH regularly received enquiries from the community concerning legal matters. Most of them were from staff at universities which don’t have their own legal department. But even law experts from university legal services were turning to SWITCH when they had limited capacity, weren’t sufficiently specialised in a certain topic, or were simply after a second opinion.

SWITCH: What kind of expertise do universities seek in particular?

Nora Zinsli: We specialise in data protection law, telecommunications law, licensing law, intellectual property law and procurement law. Most of these legal fields require a deep understanding of technology, which is something lawyers usually don’t have.

As a domain name registry, network operator and Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), IT is in SWITCH’s DNA. We are techies. Understanding technology is imperative for many legal questions, such as: At what point is an institution considered a telecommunications service provider?, Who is liable for a security incident? and, How do you protect data in such a way that data security is guaranteed?

At SWITCHlegal, we sit down with our internal IT experts and ask them questions for as long as it takes to gain a precise technical understanding of the matter at hand. This allows us to offer the the higher education community legally sound and practice-oriented advice.

Which legal fields does SWITCHlegal provide the most advice on?

Nora Zinsli: Data protection law is currently a focal point because of amendments to Swiss and European laws. Legal advice on data protection compliance, the applicability of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and access to the cloud is in particularly high demand. This is also the case for telecommunications law. In one particular case, we were asked if a university qualifies as a telecommunications service provider by opening up its Wi-Fi network, and if yes, what obligations this involves. Another hot topic is the Internet of Things, on which we prepared a legal opinion.

Do universities also come together for a common enquiry?

Nora Zinsli: We’ve only had one case so far where we received a joint enquiry from two universities. In actual fact, it could be of additional benefit for universities to come to us together concerning fundamental matters such as accessing the cloud. Then we could provide clarification for everyone and derive some sort of legal framework from this.

So you’re trying to bring universities together for matters concerning ICT law?

Nora Zinsli: Yes, that’s particularly important to us! We encourage exchange within the community, especially within the ICT law working group, which meets twice a year to discuss legal issues.

What do you love most about your job at SWITCHlegal?

Nora Zinsli: I’m motivated by the fact that I get to serve the needs of the education, research and innovation community, and the topics are extremely interesting. If I were working for a law firm, I’d be advising clients as an external specialist, but with SWITCHlegal I feel like I’m part of the higher education community. Long-standing relationships of trust exist between the universities and ‘their’ SWITCH foundation, and it’s something that you can feel as part of our everyday work together. This represents immense added value. All of this sets SWITCHlegal apart from a regular law firm.

You are welcome to contact us by telephone or email:
+41 44 268 15 15 


Nora Zinsli

Nora Zinsli has been working as legal counsel at SWITCH since April 2019. She studied law at the University of Zurich, is licensed as an attorney at law in Switzerland and has got a Master of Laws (LL.M.) from King’s College London. Before joining SWITCH, she worked at several Zurich-based law firms specialising in business law as well as IP/IT-law and at the District Court in the Canton of Zurich.

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