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So you want to be an IT lawyer?

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Lance Michalson

I often get emails from law students wanting to know more about ICT law and what they should study if they want to have a career in ICT law.


Well first off, we need to be on the same page about the subject matter: ICT. A good start is to read our post “What is ICT?

Its always useful to see what other students are thinking. I think its worthwhile reading Eugene Volokh’s 2008 post on his blog.

The legal profession

Before you even think of enrolling for your law degree, you had better try and understand what the legal profession is all about and what you are letting yourself in for. My partner John, referred me to a wonderful article by Patrick Schiltz titled “On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and an Ethical Profession” which for me is a must read (more like plough through as it is 81 pages long).

Future of law

Regarding the future of IT law in South Africa, I think the focus should be on the future impact of technology on the practice of law and what law schools are doing by way of preparing future lawyers for the legal workplace which is different to when I first started and will most certainly change (profoundly) over the next 15 or so years. You should listen to the interview with Dr. Richard Susskind by Mark Harding, Group General Counsel, Barclays Bank PLC earlier this year as well as read the Law.com 2008 interview with Richard Susskind whose book I highly recommend below for insight into what I am talking about here.

Based on the discussions that I have had with law students, very few have any sense of the likely impact or relevance of, for example, the commoditisation of legal services, multisourcing, or disruptive legal technologies (e.g. automated contract assembly – see for example our PropDox site). I believe that law schools need to expose their students to likely trends and to think deeply about new skills that will be needed in practice. For a good article on these new skills, I suggest that you read the article written by Gene Koo of the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School titled “New Skills, New Learning: Legal Education and the Promise of New Technology“.

Some good books

There are several books which have greatly influenced my thinking over the past 10 years and would regard them as required reading for anyone who is taking the future of law seriously. Three books you should read are:

I wish you all the very best of luck and would be most interested to hear your views. Feel free to send me an email.

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