How To Become A Cyber Lawyer
With the evaluation of e-governance and society moving towards digitization, the Information Technology has penetrated in every sphere of life and the profession of law, being no exception, is immensely impacted by it. The proliferation comprises of e-Business, Digital Communication, Digital Evidence, hacking, DDoS attacks, online frauds and includes everything in the digital realm which has to be handled in court litigations. Further, the internet lacks boundary and as such cyber laws have been structured in a manner to have universal applications.
Cyber crime is at all time high and so thrust broad challenges for the legal fraternity, judiciary and the investigating agencies who are required to equip themselves with new skills to meet these challenges. As high profile data breaches such as those that hit Sony, JP Morgan, Home Depot etc. continue to grab headlines, the demand for Cyber lawyers is rising who can, not only present their case in proper perspective, but also can help the effected companies in handling such cases particularly preserving the evidence and thus help to prosecute the cyber offenders. With the dynamically changing technologies, the challenges for the cyber lawyers are growing as there is a continuous need to update the technical knowledge. The main change is the movement of the data from the hard disk/static data analysis to different storage areas, from the cloud to browser based and to points such as mobile phones.
The cyber domains expand to mainly three categories: computers, network and mobiles all these three categories require a different set of knowledge about the protocols, technologies, operating system, devices etc. In cyber domain, the challenges for the techno lawyers are much more as compared to those in any other field as the original digital evidence always remains intact before the court and during litigations, the defense lawyer is expected to get the digital evidence forensically examined and demolish the case of prosecution.
Scope of Cyber Arena
The domains requiring application of cyber laws are even much wider than the legal domain itself. Its application is not limited to the existing civil & criminal litigations. Due to the unique nature of the internet, a large number of compliances have emerged involving combination of technology and law. The internet, being a public medium, has brought various inherent risks which have resulted into exponential expansion of the domains of privacy, freedom of speech or expressions, cyber security and thus, created wider scope for the legal professionals into this arena.
The opportunities in the cyber domain emerge as a cyber lawyer, specializing into litigations involving information technology, cyber consultant in the companies- particularly in every IT company and almost every government department. The tremendous growth of the information technology is pervasive in every domain of life and business which is responsible for expanding and opening–up of the opportunities for legal professionals in the cyber field exponentially. The field has great and wide scope incorporates particularly because of e-governance, virtualization, development of e-process technologies and internet becoming dominant level playing field for copyright and trademark violations.
Studying cyber law can help IT and other professionals like CIO, CISO, CISA, CISSP, CA, CS etc. to provide better services to their clients by providing them with know how about the legal aspect of the issues relating to e-businesses. The integration of processes in every domain with the information technology have resulted into all the processes exposed to cyber risks and as such the compliances and information system audit has become mandatory for all medium or big organizations. This has also generated more avenues for the cyber lawyers as consultant, advisors etc. Thus, a person with a good legal knowledge, skill and technological bent of mind would be able to master this field and surely going to rule.
In US and Europe, the cyber law field is dominated by technology lawyers and most of them enters into this arena at the bachelor stage itself by acquiring B.Tech, BCA or B.Sc Computer Sciences alongwith the legal degree i.e. L.L.B. Further, the specialized courses such as CFCE, CCFP, CEH, CISSP etc with specialised trainings in the field are also available into the various cyber forensics disciplines and cyber securities This allows these techno lawyers to hone their skills into cyber domain which are required in these litigations. The judiciary and investigative agencies are also trained to handle these issues and law & procedure have been developed but still they are struggling to be compatible with continuously fast changing technology.
In India, the scenario is quite dismal and the concept of techno lawyer is completely mis-understood. The judiciary as well as investigating agencies are not trained to meet these challenges and alarming situation being that it is not a priority even now. The half hearted efforts are being made to bridge these gaps by way of training but due to huge demand, potential and kind of skill required, the gap is ever widening with each passing day creating a large vacuum for techno-legal professionals in this digital arena. At present there are lawyers who have acquired some qualifications in IT or PG Diploma in Cyber Law or there are some technocrats who have done LLB and these professionals become so called cyber lawyers but are they competent to handle these complex issues of digital world?-- as has been discussed hereinafter.
The legal world identifies two broad domains, criminal law and civil law, which infact are procedural laws either Criminal Procedure Code or Civil Procedure Code and this scenario is prevalent throughout the world. Every case which is filed in the court of law falls in these two domains including the cases involving cyber technologies. Most of the information technology laws including Information Technology Act 2000 throughout the world are substantive law and there are few procedures which have been added to the existing procedural laws to amend the provision for the collection, preservation and admissibility of digital evidence.
The role of lawyers in the case of information technology is to apply the substantive law which may include information technology act and also existing traditional laws to present the case in criminal or civil footfall before the court of law. Whether a person who is not proficient in the criminal or civil laws can diligently pursue or argue a trial of a case involving technology? Certainly not. The skills to conduct a civil or criminal trial require a minimum of 5-7 years practice involving training with a qualified practitioner in the trial courts.
The entry to the cyber law domain can be as early as with the passing of secondary education. The aspirants can join five years integrated course such as B.Tech, LLB or B.Sc LLB and even the aspirants who have joined BA or BBA LLB course can also develop their technical skills alongwith their graduation. With the LLB, the young aspirants can develop their skills into networking, OSI models, TCP, different operating system i.e. windows, Mac, Linux, mobiles etc. The best way is, that alongwith the law degree, the individual can do the certifications in networking also, acquiring skill in the hacking methodologies and the courses like CCNA, CEH etc. This would not only refine the skills but would also give an abstract view of movement of data and risks of the real world.
After the LLB, the individual needs to go for training in the court to develop its skills in the procedural laws i.e. Cr.P.C, CPC, interpretation of statutes and join specialized courses like PG Diploma or LLM in Cyber Law. The development of legal skills in the interpretation is more important in the field of cyber as the cyber law is still emerging and only a lawyer with a expert knowledge of the legal principles, principles of interpretations of statutes would be in a position to apply the law to the constantly emerging and developing technology. As such, the professionals like Advocate-on-record who have excellent skills into legal and interpretations principles, can become good cyber lawyers by adding technical skills as discussed above.
The lawyers who are already in the practice can also play a dominant role by entering into this specialized field as these advocates have already gone expert into legal domain and are in much better position to apply legal skills to the cyber cases provided they acquire specialized knowledge of networking and other computer technologies. It is pertinent to mentioned that the arena of computer, which is connected to the law, is a different segment which even a person doing B.Tech or B.Sc may not be fully exposed to, but these technocrats, because of their understanding of technical concepts, are in a better position to acquire these skills as compared to the other lawyers. However, a technocrat, who-so-ever may be an expert, but if he does not have the legal skills to conduct criminal or civil proceedings, would have very dim chances of being a successful lawyer.
In order to further augment the skills and to make it compatible with international domain, one can learn computer forensic, advanced network technologies, mobile technologies and for this purpose, one can go through various courses such as CFCE, CCFP, CHFI and other domain oriented courses. As for a single individual, it may not be possible to acquire all these skills simultaneously, the best course of action will be to choose a particular segment first, such as computer forensic or network forensic, and after acquiring expertise in one field and combining it with a available exposure into the IT cases, the individual can move ahead slowly after consolidating the positions at each level with a blending mixture of theoretical and practical knowledge of the legal and IT domain.
The technocrat moving into the legal field needs to undergo training into criminal or civil trials and to acquire the skill of cross examination, arguments, interpretation, otherwise they may be ornamental lawyers who may be good consultant on cyber technologies or compliances but may not develop dominion into litigation or even cyber consultancies.
What Should One Do
If you are new aspirant, you can go with B.Tech/B.Sc/BCA LLB or can do CCNA, CEH, CHFI alongwith your LLB degree. Thereafter, you need to develop your skill into civil/criminal law and alongwith you need to update on the technology as well. In order to further hone your skill you can do LLM in Cyber, if you want to go towards litigation or you can do CISA or CISM, if you want to go for consultancies.
If you are a practicing advocate and do not have the knowledge of technology, you can develop your skills technology by undergoing courses on networking, hacking and short term courses on computer forensics i.e. CCNA, CEH, and CHFI etc. Thereafter, with a balance exposure to cyber cases and emerging technologies, one can become an expert over a period of time.
Again for the sake of repetition, I would repeatedly insist that developing the legal skills and spending the time in civil/criminal litigations is even more important than acquiring the technical knowledge. Both the categories of cyber lawyers, technocrat termed lawyer and the lawyer acquiring technical knowhow needs to remember that for practicing cyber law domain, the knowledge of legal skills will pre-dominant the technical knowledge. Doing small courses, either into computer or cyber law, would not make you competent to handle these cases of data breach or hacking or cases involving cyber forensics. The skills in the field of information technology as well as law have to be developed in parallel through a consistent study, practice and exposure. The field of cyber law is multi-dimensional and has an international prospective which would make a cyber lawyer a truly global professional.
The popularity, of cyber law as a career, was predominant in the past as well as in present and would broom and groom in future also. The key to excel as a cyber lawyer is to become a perpetual student of law & technology for which one need to have a passion for the subject. The cyber lawyers will find the society, investigating agencies, legal fraternity, judiciary watching them to explain the hidden layers in order to explore the truth and aiding in the delivery of justice. Further, the continued exponential growth of electronic devices and cyber crimes have already led to a crisis point for requirement of cyber lawyers who can cater to the issues of digital evidence admissibility, data breaches and cyber crimes, as such, the growth of the profession will outweigh any other profession growing in the world.