Space Law: Becoming an expert

Businesses are mining asteroids, sending satellites into orbit and preparing for civilian space exploration. To enter the space race, private companies and government contractors are calling on lawyers with expert knowledge in space law to navigate complicated and rapidly evolving regulations.

“Obtaining an LL.M. in space law prepares practicing attorneys for this practice area by providing a fundamental understanding of the industry and the unique regulatory and policy scheme,” said Andrea Harrington, an Air and Space Law Instructor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. “The degree allows lawyers to demonstrate a baseline knowledge of the issues touching space law.”

The LL.M. in Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law is the first program of its kind with a combined air and space law postgraduate law degree. The LL.M. is designed for both U.S. and foreign-trained lawyers interested in U.S., international and comparative space law. Participating students are able to participate in space law moot court competitions and contribute to the Journal of Space Law.

There are three main practice areas space lawyers go into, said Elsbeth Magilton, Executive Director of the Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Programs at the University of Nebraska College of Law. The first is private industry and firms, such as launch providers, satellite manufactures and law firms. The second practice area is in policy making and regulation, working with agencies like the U.S. State Department and the Federal Aviation Administration. The third practice area can be found in national security, where space law experts are employed by the military, the Department of Defense or defense contractors.

“The reality is, many space lawyers dual practice in government contracting or other general transactional work,” Magilton said. “Until attorneys are a bit further into their career, very few practice solely in space law.”

Students pursuing the Space, Cyber and Telecommunications LL.M. at Nebraska Law receive comprehensive training in space law, but are also able to choose from two other related specialties. The program offers an international perspective, attracting lawyers from around the globe.

Graduates of both LL.M. programs have found exciting employment opportunities with telecommunications companies, federal regulatory agencies, think tanks, law firms and technology companies.

“The LL.M. is a program that will set you up for a long-term career in the field,” said Gus Hurwitz, Assistant Director and Co-director of the Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law program at Nebraska Law.

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