Kristina Dimitrova, 36, is a specialist lawyer for information technology law. Becoming a lawyer specializing in IT law is quite difficult. “There are only a few cases that go to court,” says Dimitrova. That is the problem in training, because the prospective specialist lawyers are dependent on court cases. A certain number of cases taken on is required for the award of the specialist lawyer title. There is a lack of such cases because IT disputes in court are usually expensive and the success of the high investment is uncertain.
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Legal IT disputes are almost always concluded by the court with a settlement, an amicable settlement. “Then both parties partially lose,” says Dimitrova. They want to avoid that and come to an agreement among themselves, mainly with the help of lawyers. Sometimes Dimitrova represents clients in such cases. She is happy to draft contracts for their business so that there is legal clarity. Disagreements and disputes can still arise. “A good contract is the basis for getting rid of them quickly and without great effort,” says the lawyer. This shows how important advice and contract drafting are.
Dimitrova studied law and then worked for three years as a company lawyer in an energy company that offers green electricity and climate-neutral natural gas online. “That’s why the company had its own IT department and I often had to deal with IT issues in projects.” Dimitrova actually wanted to specialize in energy law and renewable energies, but found the combination of law and information technology more exciting in her job. She then consistently pursued her new goal of becoming a specialist lawyer for IT law.
Specialist lawyer as further training
In 2017 she moved to the law firm “Werner Rechtsanwälte Informatiker”, which specializes in IT law. Realizing in her previous job how important understanding economics is to her plan, she pursued a master’s degree in business law. “During my studies, I deepened my knowledge of commercial law and learned business administration and economics.” In the year of her second degree, 2019, Dimitrova also became an external data protection officer with a TÜV certificate. At the same time, she prepared for her professional goal of becoming a specialist lawyer for IT law.
This is advanced training for lawyers with a theoretical and practical part. The theory consists of 120 hours of specialist legal courses followed by an examination. Practical knowledge must be proven by working on at least 50 cases within three years. These must include at least 10 legal procedures, such as court cases. Judges and even experts are overwhelmed with the complicated and complex IT cases, which is why disputes in court usually end in settlements. Because lawyers cannot predict how things will turn out in court, they advise against trials beforehand.
Dimitrova is currently working on drafting a contract for a client who wants to use the online shop of an e-commerce provider as a cloud solution. The contract regulates how long shop failures may last, how high penalties are in the event of failures and how quickly the customer gets his data back if he terminates the contract. The law firm focuses on the customer side. These are companies and people who buy IT solutions.
Law and computer science – a rare combination
Marcus Werner, partner in the law firm ‘Werner Rechtsanwälte Informatiker’, has a degree in computer science, a doctorate in law and is one of the first appointed specialist lawyers for IT law in Germany. “The more a specialist lawyer for IT law knows about IT, the better,” says Werner. But the combination of IT and law is extremely rare. Maybe there is one, maybe two handful of people in Germany who have learned both. The vast majority of specialist lawyers for IT law therefore have basic knowledge of IT and ideally a personal interest in the subject.
Specialist lawyers for information technology have not been around for that long. This specialist attorneyship was not introduced until 2006, and the first eleven were appointed in 2007. According to the Federal Bar Association, there are now 730 specialist lawyers for IT law. For comparison: in family law there are a good 9,000, in labor law there are even around 11,000. If you consider that nothing works without IT, this discipline is clearly underrepresented in the legal profession. It is therefore not surprising that Chan-jo Jun, a member of the IT law committee at the bar association, says that there are not enough specialist lawyers for IT law. “Many business transactions are based on IT and, contrary to expectations, general lawyers were not able to take on the associated legal issues everywhere.” Therefore, more IT legal services are in demand than specialized law firms can provide. Jun also runs a law firm for IT law.
Excellent job prospects
You don’t need a special lawyer for a bad purchase on E-Bay. Such a case can be solved with ordinary knowledge of the Civil Code. “But if companies are dealing with software developed on behalf of a contract that has errors and there is a dispute about who is responsible for it, you need specialists and they are specialist lawyers for IT law,” says Jun. They don’t solve any technical issues, but they know IT better than general lawyers or those of other specialties.
The job prospects for the professional group of specialist lawyers for IT law are excellent, says Jun. “That also leads to attractive remuneration.” Employed specialist lawyers for information technology law earn between 70,000 and 100,000 euros a year in his office in their second year of practice.
An earlier version contained an error in the information about the requirements for the IT specialist lawyer training. We have corrected this and apologize for the error.
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