AS universities continue to add information technology to their law degrees, some experts claim that specialisation at university is a bad idea for lawyers.
Peter Leonard, managing partner of Gilbert + Tobin's corporate, communications and technology division, said he would advise budding technology lawyers to stick to the basics.
“I encourage people wanting to move into the corporate, communications and technology area of Gilbert + Tobin to get a fair grounding in company and corporate law first. You can’t be a good technology lawyer without those basic skills, such as negotiating and drafting.”
His comments come after the University of Sydney announced it would begin a combined IT and law degree next year.
“I’m a little skeptical about specialist courses,” he said.
“My experience is that a lot of skills needed to be good in the area, you can learn on the job. It’s much more important for people to have a good general legal practice education rather than specialising in IT.”
The University of Technology Sydney has relaunched its Law/IT degree this year, having put the degree on hold last year to restructure the course.
The universities have seen a strong increase in the number of applications for their respective IT degrees, with In the case of domestic undergraduates, UTS was able to increase the UAI cut-offs for IT degree for the first time in several years, from 80 to 82 for the Bachelor of Science in IT degree, and from 85 to 88 for its combined Business/IT degree.
Leonard said while it was important to have a solid understanding of IT, it is more important to have a strong grasp on the application of laws in more general legal principals.
“These are things that we typically teach on the job; we train them in the particulars of technological law. It’s harder to teach properly the basics of law practice on the job, than it is to teach people the particular law around the area of technology law.”
Leonard added that an increase interest in IT was something that happened in waves. “There was a boom before the 2000 crash and then again before the global financial crisis.”
University of Sydney's School of IT head, Sanjay Chawla, said the rise in technology-based enrolments followed a universal trend in the Western world. "IT enrolments are, generally, up both in undergraduate and postgraduate," associate professor Chawla said.
"Depending upon how we count, enrolments have increased in the range of 10 to 30 per cent over last year." Issues surrounding technology law typically include software, application, creations and ownership and the legal boundaries of the internet Leonard said.