I received an email the other day from a law student who asks:
I am a 3rd year law student at [deleted] law school in Lansing. ... I find the area of law in which you practice particularly fascinating. The reason I write is to ask a bit of your advice. I am very interested in what your firm does regarding internet law. I love your new website traverselegal.com and hope to incorporate a thriving web scene into my own firm. [My law school] really doesn't offer classes on this material as I'm sure it is a new and rapidly developing area of the law. How did you get involved in this area of the law, and how might a young attorney like myself become involved? Any information or advice you have would be greatly appreciated.
Like most attorneys practicing internet law, e-commerce law and variations of these practice areas. There are two routes to get into this particular space. The one I see all the time is that lawyers have prior experience working for or with technology companies. I was general counsel to an internet start-up in Boulder Colorado from approximately 1994 through 1996. That was my introduction to the internet and technology company representation.
Other lawyers end up working for law firms who have technology clients, and simply learn on the job. Keep in mind, internet law does have some statutes which apply only within the internet law space such as:
- Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).
- Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).
- Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
- The Communications Decency Act.
- Can-Spam Act.
A variety of other federal and state laws which deal particularly with the internet and technology issues.
Beyond the specialized statutes, there are licensing issues and other contract principles which apply in lots of situations but get thrown into the category “internet law” when they have an online or ecommerce component. Much of what we do in the internet law space is apply general legal principles to the particular facts presented by technology.
My advice to you or anyone else who wants to practice internet law is to set up some Google alerts for terms such as “internet law” “cyber-law” and any other particular things you want to learn about. Do a blog search for those terms as well and start following the commentary in the RSS feeds. RSS feeds on niche blogs provide more educational material than any law school ever could. You can learn more about these particular issues using online tools such as alerts and feeds in ways previously unthinkable. Best of luck and let me know if you need any more advice.