Demand for Legal Expertise Lifts LL.M. Programs in Cybersecurity

With the increasing reliance on technology and the rise in cyber threats, law schools are responding with specialist LL.M. programs

Increasingly complex cyber-attacks have prompted governments around the globe to introduce tougher measures to protect individuals and organizations from cyber-criminals. And, the fast-evolving regulatory landscape is increasing the demand for legal expertise in cyber-security, according to law schools that run specialized LL.M. programs in this dynamic field of law.

“The ongoing development of technology, including AI [artificial intelligence], has increased the need for companies and organizations to seek counsel from attorneys,” says Sarah Gruzas, director of graduate and international programs at USC Gould School of Law. “Attorneys work on the front end, conducting threat assessments to ensure that their clients’ systems and data are protected, and on the back end, to navigate any legal issues that may arise as a result of the attacks.”

USC Gould, in southern California, is just one of a number of top law schools that run niche LL.M. programs in cyber-security. USC Gould offers the Master of Laws in Privacy Law and Cybersecurity. It provides an interdisciplinary perspective for law students who wish to develop skills that will enable them to understand and integrate relevant laws, policies and best practices that shape privacy law and cybersecurity.

And there are plenty of reasons to pursue such a degree. “Cybersecurity is a fascinating and growing area of law, and there is certain to be no shortage of opportunities for attorneys to find their niche in this complex field,” says Gruzas. “At USC, students will learn about trending issues from leaders in these fields and develop a global professional network.”

Students enroll in several mandatory courses designed to provide a foundational and nuanced understanding of issues relevant to privacy law and cybersecurity -- including Counterterrorism, Information Privacy Law, and Intellectual Property.

“Upon successful completion of this degree, students will be able to identify privacy and data protection issues across various sectors, understand the legal aspects of cyber risks, identify threats to cybersecurity and the necessary compliance frameworks, and demonstrate solutions to relevant stakeholders,” Gruzas adds.

Cybersecurity: one of the fastest growing economic sectors

The University of Manchester’s law school, in the UK, puts on an LL.M. in Security and International Law that gives students the skills to analyze legal problems related to terrorism, conflict and modern warfare. LL.M. students at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles can take a Cybersecurity and Data Privacy concentration, while Osgoode Hall Law School, in Toronto, runs an LL.M. program in Privacy and Cybersecurity that focuses on how regulators, courts, governments, businesses and individuals can protect their information privacy.

“Cybersecurity and data privacy are two of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. It continues to be the top concern of corporate leaders around the world. And there is an inadequate supply of people who can help organizations navigate the complex regulatory and compliance landscape around cybersecurity and data privacy,” says Antony Haynes, Director of Cybersecurity and Privacy Law at Albany Law School.

The school in New York state in 2017 launched a fully Online LL.M. degree in Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Law. It has several important learning outcomes. “One of the most important is for each graduate to demonstrate an advanced knowledge and understanding of the core doctrines of cybersecurity and data privacy law. And for each graduate to demonstrate ability to communicate effectively in the legal context, in writing and orally, to both lawyers and non-lawyers, the key doctrines,” Haynes says.

He adds that the legal profession has a critical role to play in helping public and private organizations to ramp up their own responses to cyber-attacks. “The legal profession is highly skilled with helping organizations respond to disasters and comply with regulations. When a disaster occurs, everyone rushes to the response table,” says Haynes. 

“It is at that precise moment when the information technologists and security professionals, the legal team, decision-makers, public relations, and other stakeholders must work in unison.”

Cyber-attacks and data breaches: a hands-on learning experience

Given the practical nature of cyber-attacks, Albany is incorporating real-world projects and experiential learning into the program. “The LL.M. program requires students to complete a thesis on a real-world cybersecurity and data privacy problem, to address hypothetical problems based on real-world cyber-attacks and data breaches, to conduct an audit of an organization’s cybersecurity policies and practices, and to pursue a number of other real-world projects and experiential learning,” Haynes explains.

Ultimately, with the increasing reliance on technology and the rise in cyber threats, cybersecurity law has become a critical area of focus. By pursuing an LL.M. in cybersecurity law, you can develop specialized knowledge and skills in this rapidly evolving field. That will make you well-equipped to enhance your career prospects and open doors to a wide range of career opportunities in governments, law firms, corporations, and organizations across various sectors. 

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