Mining the law-technology gap for legal jobs

While technology moves ahead in bursts, law tends to plod along. This creates a chasm, a so-called law-technology gap, where new technology is leaping far ahead of the law.

For example, the U.S. began regulating radio broadcasting in the 1930s and operated under the original law for 60 years, despite the advent of television, cable, wireless and mobile telecommunications.

When such chasms open up, there are often opportunities for lawyers. Looking for gap opportunities is a great legal job-search strategy that gets you away from copycatting everyone else.

Gap “Arbitrage”

Once you identify a law-tech gap, you can pinpoint practice areas that take advantage of the gap. Law-tech gaps are proliferating, and the exertions the law makes to catch-up generate job opportunities.

Gap analysis is a form of arbitrage, a term derived from securities pricing. Arbitrageurs identify price variations between exchanges, then quickly buy or sell stocks in order to take advantage of these discrepancies.

Gap identifiers are legal-career arbitrageurs. First, you must ask: Is there a gap in the market?  You do this by keeping up with innovation. Second, you need to ask: Is there a market in the gap? You can use the following analytical template to determine this:

1. Supply and Demand. Does the demand exceed the supply of qualified individuals?

2. Number of Job Opportunities. Are there a large number of job opportunities?

3. Sustainability. Does the gap have staying power?

4. An Upward Curve. Is the gap a growth industry?

5. Geographic Scope. Are jobs available nationally and in places where I want to work?

6. Relative Ease of Entry. Can I move up the learning curve quickly?

7. New or Different. Does the gap allow me to be among those who are “first past the post?”

8. Distinctive Value Proposition/Competitive Advantage. Is gap practice a unique selling proposition?

It is not necessary that all eight criteria be met before plunging into a gap. It is usually sufficient if a majority is satisfied. Cyber security is the poster child for the law-technology gap. Let’s take a look:

Cyber security

The general counsel of U.S. Steel told me that her biggest concern is cyber security and that she cannot find enough cyber security lawyers for her staff. Most corporate in-house counsel will tell you the same story. 

Numbers

The Department of Homeland Security says hackers attacked federal agencies more than 1 million times last year. The Government Accountability Office reports an even higher number. The private sector situation is even worse. BP says it experiences 50,000 hacks a day.

Data protection is daunting. Many experts believe it can never be 100 percent. Like performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports, where the athletes can afford the best chemists, hackers’ financial incentives overwhelm defenders’ resources.

Legal Response

The legal response to cyber attacks is disjointed and, in many cases, nonexistent. Approximately 90 federal laws touch on cyber security, but they are all over the map and do not build on one another. Congress is now only taking baby steps designed to give private sector companies some certainty when it comes to cyber security.

State legal responses are even more meager. There is also no international legal regime, despite the fact that hackers do not respect national borders. 

The Work

Cyber security practice does not have a standard job description because it is still sorting itself out. I put together the following job description from cyber security lawyers:

•  Cyber Security Audits. Analyzing how clients collect, use, disclose and transfer information.

•  Cross-border Data Transfer. Advising on exporting data from nations with cross-border restrictions.

•  Data Security Breaches. Advising on client obligations under breach notification laws.

•  Employee Monitoring. Counseling on the permissible monitoring of employee use of company electronic systems.

•  Employee Training. Data protection best practices.

•  Policy Development. Preparing company policy manuals.

•  Direct Marketing Policies.  Advising on the data protection implications of direct marketing.

•    Document Management. Counseling on privacy, e-discovery and document retention laws.

Read the rest of the story in the free Fall digital issue of the National Jurist magazine here. 

Categories: