November 26, 2014
Even in a profession as traditional as law, technology is powerful enough to kill and create a range of roles.
Law firms didn’t increase the number of graduate vacancies this year, but jobs in IT and telecommunications have rocketed.
The number of entry-level posts at tech companies was up 17.9% in 2013 compared with 2012, according to the High Fliers annual review of the graduate market. And new career paths for law graduates within this sector are being forged all the time.
So if you’re a law graduate with your finger on the pulse of the ever-evolving tech industry, what career options are out there?
“Advances in technology mean law graduates have new opportunities to specialise in areas like intellectual property, privacy, and software and business method patents,” says Lindsy McGowan, senior manager at Hays Legal.
“Recent high profile security breaches, personal identity thefts and data thefts have created demand for this area of law, as businesses prioritise safeguarding customer and business information.”
If you have a passion for what’s new in tech, the sector needs people with a legal background to provide up-to-date information and interpret the law for new products.
New concepts like driverless cars and the internet of things – whereby buildings and public services will be connected to people via smartphones – mean technology is changing at a faster rate than the law.
Companies therefore require additional legal advice to ensure that what they do complies with existing legislation.
“It’s an interesting area because there isn’t much in the law – it’s all brand new. So you have to apply traditional legal systems – for example, on the flow of data, to new things,” explains Darren Jones.
After graduating from the University of Law, Bristol, Jones got his training contract at an equity firm and qualified last year. He is now a solicitor in the technology, media and communications team at Bond Dickinson.
“My personal interest is in smart city technologies,” he says. “The idea is to make urban environments more sustainable through things being connected, like waste management. It’s increasingly relevant globally.”
In China, for example, 100 new smart cities are planned to be built over the next 15 years.
With so many people owning smartphones, and technology creators collecting more and varied personal data, this need for application of the law is vital.
“Data protection is a big area of our work and it crosses over all teams,” says Andy Moseby, corporate partner at Kemp Little. “It used to just be operational work – as long as a company knew what information it needed to collect and how it could market that data, that was all the law required.
“Now it covers everything from data security to the types of personal data that’s collected.” This includes things like your shopping habits and geolocation when you place an order or connect to a company’s app.
“It’s trying to see what the law requires you to do to protect that information, but it’s also advising from a commercial perspective so companies can monetise that information,” says Moseby.
So what do you need to land a legal job in the technology sector? It’s not enough for graduates to understand the law – you need to know how businesses work from a technological point of view, says Moseby.
An awareness and understanding of business is also key if you want to work for the new breed of online law firms.
The deregulation of providers means a wider range of organisations can provide legal services. And as business and law collide, there is a greater need for employers to find tech-savvy, entrepreneurial law students.
Rocket Lawyer, a subscription-based online legal services provider, is a technology firmthat provides pre-prepared documents and legal advice from experts at participating firms. People can arrange to speak to a personal lawyer online or in person.
Founded in San Francisco, the company set up shop in London’s tech city, Shoreditch, two years ago. It needs law graduates to fill the sort of roles you’d typically find at startups and tech companies.
Producing and editing its website copy, for example, requires literate graduates with technological and legal knowledge.
Rocket Lawyer also has more technical roles that require both a law degree and computer know-how. “Lawyers are very methodical, detailed people with strong analytical skills,” says Mark Edwards, general manager of the company’s UK arm. This enables them to work particularly well with computers.
The company relies on legal knowledge engineers to create online questionnaires – which assess a client’s needs and gives them relevant information – and produce legal documents.
It also employs legal process analysts to deconstruct the job of a lawyer into steps to make them automated, saving the firm time and money.
As a company that’s growing in the UK, Rocket Lawyer has also recently hired a legal digital marketing specialist.
Edwards explains: “We’ve taken on a law graduate and we’re training them in the marketing skills they need, rather than teaching a marketing graduate about law. No other graduates could do these roles for us.”