Cyber Security: the mother of all legal growth areas

Cyber Security challenges have exploded in recent years. The Department of Homeland Security said hackers attacked federal agencies more than 1 million times last year, and the private sector situation is even worse.

That has led to a significant need for lawyers who practice in the area.

“Cyber security may soon be the mother of all legal growth industries,” said Richard Hermann, who has written extensively about legal careers writes about the topic in the Fall issue of The National Jurist. “As long as hacking can make big money, there will be a need for cyber security lawyers.”

The practice area, however, is still emerging. 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.

U.S. lawmakers have been considering legislation to help private companies better communicate about security breaches and cyber threats with the government and each other, but disagreements over liability and privacy protections have thwarted a passage of comprehensive security bills thus far.

“Law firms are slow on the uptake,” said Robert Denney, who publishes an annual report on what’s hot in the legal profession. “The demand for cyber security legal experts is absolutely through the roof and there aren’t enough of them.”

Digital assets are also driving the need for expertise in information technology.

“The world is moving from paper-record keeping to electronic-record keeping,” Hermann said. But what happens to our virtual life when we die remains a legal gray area.

That’s because there’s little consistency in how digital records, including online banking accounts, intangible assets in a business and medical records, are being handled or what happens to an account after the user dies, often leaving families and friends unable to gain access to the information or unsure of what to do.

Pew Research shows that seven states have digital asset laws to manage accounts of the deceased and 14 more are considering legislation. And proposed legislation related to digital assets, if enacted, will further legal needs.

Ten law schools offer graduate programs in information technology, offering students a look at the cutting-edge legal issues. While not necessary to land a job, such an LL.M. will help advance a career.