With the evaluation of e-governance and society moving towards digitisation, 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 ebusiness, digital communication, digital evidence, hacking, online frauds and includes everything in the realm which has to be handled in court litigations. Further, the Internet lacks boundary and as such 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, 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. 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 require a different set of knowledge about the protocols, technologies, operating system, devices, etc. In this domain, the challenges for the techno lawyers are much more as compared to those in any other field.
The defense lawyer is expected to get the digital evidence forensically examined and demolish the case of prosecution. 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 and 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 and thus, created wider scope for the legal professionals. The opportunities emerge as a cyber lawyer, specialising into litigations involving information technology, cyber consultant in the companies— particularly in every IT company and almost every government department. The tremendous growth 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 particularly because of e-governance, virtualisation, 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 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 to cyber risks and as such the compliances and information system audit has become mandatory for all medium or big organisations. In India, the scenario is quite dismal and the concept of techno lawyer is completely misunderstood.
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 diploma in cyber law or there are some technocrats who have done LLB and they become so called cyber lawyers but are they competent to handle these complex issues of digital world?
The legal world identifies two broad domains — criminal law and civil law that 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. The role of lawyers in the case of information technology is to apply the substantive law to present the case in criminal or civil footfall before the court.
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? The skills to conduct a civil or criminal trial require a minimum of five to seven years 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 BTech, LLB or BSc LLB and even the aspirants who have joined BA or BBA LLB course can also develop their technical skills along with their graduation. With the LLB, the young aspirants can develop their skills into networking, OSI models, TCP, different operating system. The best way is that along with the law degree, the individual can do the certifications in networking acquiring skill in the hacking methodologies and the courses. 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, interpretation of statutes and join specialised courses. The development of legal skills in the interpretation is more important in the field of cyber. As such, the professionals like advocate-on-record who have excellent skills into legal and interpretations principles, can become good lawyers by adding technical skills. 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 BTech or BSc 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-soever 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 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 available exposure into the IT cases, move ahead slowly. 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. If you are new aspirant, you can go with BTech/BSc/BCA LLB or can do CCNA, CEH, CHFI, along with your LLB degree. Thereafter, you need to develop your skill into civil/criminal law and 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 by undergoing courses on networking, hacking and short term courses on computer forensics. Thereafter, with a balance exposure to cyber cases and emerging technologies, one can become an expert over a period of time.
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 need to remember that for practicing cyber law domain, the knowledge of legal skills will predominant the technical aspect.
Doing small courses, either into computer or cyber law, would not make you competent to handle these cases of data breach or hacking 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. This field is multi-dimensional and has an international prospective which would make a cyber lawyer a truly global professional.
The popularity, of this field as a career, was predominant in the past as well as in present and would broom and groom in future also.
(The writer is an eminent advocate on cyber laws)