Lawyers and IT specialists may appear to come from different planets, but a background in both law and IT is proving an opportune practice area for lawyers to specialise in.
For IT lawyer Hayden Delaney, a decision to study a combined law and IT degree at Queensland University of Technology has seen him not only carve out a niche area of expertise at Brisbane-based firm HopgoodGanim, but also boast the computing skills to back up his legal credentials.
"I grew up using things like Napster and that kind of stuff which obviously was the subject of a lot of legal scrutiny during those times. I thought it would be an interesting area to study," he told Lawyers Weekly.
Last week, Delaney took out the Australian Computer Society's Young ICT Professional of the Year award at a ceremony in Brisbane. He was the only lawyer in the mix of contenders for the award.
He's also a rare breed of lawyer in that prior to starting at HopgoodGanim as a trainee solicitor, he co-developed software for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries.
Even while studying, Delaney notes that he was among only a handful of students to do a combined law/IT degree. "It took me probably close to a year to find somebody else who was also doing the same dual degree as me," he said.
Still, IT is an evolving area of law and one that is allowing those with the right expertise to play a major role in shaping it - especially around emerging technology and trends like social networking and cloud computing.
"It's dynamic in that sense and it gives you an ability to be involved as it's evolving. It's not something that's just been there for hundreds of years like traditional property law," said Delaney.
And with the National Broadband Network on the agenda, Delaney is sure that IT lawyers will only get busier in the future.
At HopgoodGanim, Delaney predominantly advisers on a range of IT and IP related issues, including licensing, telecommunications, procurement, contracts and agreements, copyright and privacy.
Bruce Humphry, HopgoodGanim's managing partner, notes that already Delaney is working on some of the firm's most complex technology and IP matters, due to his rare mix of skills.
"His legal ability is equally matched by his technical expertise, largely due to his formal IT qualifications and his first-hand experience in the software industry," he said.