"As white-collar crimes hit the headlines regularly, Cyber and Corporate Law courses are gaining popularity, partly thanks to the demand-supply gap."
The steady rise of e-commerce and m-commerce has spurred digital transactions across India. The demonetisation drive in November 2016 accelerated the shift from cash to cashless transactions. Although intrinsically beneficial, online transactions have nonetheless created dark opportunities for cyber criminals.
Indeed, a joint study by ASSOCHAM-PwC notes that cyber-security incidents are increasing in India. In all, 39,730 incidents were reported between January and October 2016, compared to 44, 679 and 49, 455 during 2014 and 2015, respectively. In fact, in October 2016, some 3.2 million debit-cards were hit by an ATM attack.
While cyber and corporate crime cases have accelerated, the genesis of white-collar crime goes back to July 1991. That was when the country embraced economic liberalisation after being weeks away from defaulting on its international loan obligations. Foreign investments soon followed in many domains. However, so did white-collar crime, which includes corporate and cyber crime. The most popular forms of such crimes are bank and computer fraud as well as embezzlement.
Naturally, this led to the need for legal eagles well versed in the nuances of corporate, taxation, IPR (intellectual property rights) and cyber laws, among others. With demand for relevant law courses rising annually, select universities began offering the same.
Presently, the demand for students with a law background is growing in many companies, including banking, insurance, finance, FMCG, pharma and healthcare, the services and many more.
Today, there are courses offering specialisation in fields such as Energy, Corporate, Taxation, Cyber, IPR, Criminal/Labour/Constitution, International Trade & Investments; Banking, Finance & Insurance, Media & Entertainment, Medical/Health/Food and Forensic Laws, among others. Postgraduate courses include specialisation in Energy; Business; International Economic; and Technology Laws, among others.
Given the rise in such crimes and the lack of relevant skilled personnel, students seeking a career in Law, especially corporate and cyber laws, can opt for these courses. The choice, of course, can be as per students' preferences, based upon the long-term perspective.
As more people undertake digital transactions, cyber-security breaches keep rising. In most cases, institutional entities such as banks blame customers for being careless and, in turn, the latter blame banks, insisting inadequate firewalls allowed the crime. Whatever the case, the field is open for cyber lawyers to assist both sides!
Cyber crimes first appeared with the emergence of the Internet in India in 1995. The advent of social media has triggered ever-increasing breaches in confidentiality between employees and employers. Wittingly or inadvertently, employees sometimes end up disclosing classified information. Such cases end up in litigation when accusations and denials sail back and forth. Furthermore, employee-employer disputes are emerging after companies lay off a large block of employees, stoking the need for corporate lawyers.
Courses & Colleges Count
The above cases highlight the tremendous potential for law students. However, students should choose courses carefully. Moreover, it is critical to select the appropriate university because the right faculty and facilities make a big difference in how well the students later perform professionally.
For example, simply understanding the intricacies of law will not assure fulsome success. An emphasis on soft skills is pivotal because a lawyer should be well versed in presenting arguments in a cogent manner. Without proper presentation skills, a case could be undermined. Understanding this, select universities have a separate department offering soft skills training to law aspirants. Reputed colleges ensure that renowned visiting faculty members deliver substantial numbers of lectures.
Another imperative lies in mastering one or more foreign languages. For students (or parents) wondering why foreign languages would be helpful for law aspirants, some elaboration is in order. Energy Law is a popular practice in some regions such as the Gulf. The Middle East has always been volatile, the dynamics of oil-based economies being one of the causes. Some students may prefer a foreign stint of a few years - for instance, in Saudi Arabia - because the high packages abroad help accumulate immense savings that traditionally take a decade or more in India.
In such a scenario, knowledge of Arabic will tilt the scales in favour of candidates knowing Arabic. What's more, the candidate can be paid higher emoluments since s/he knows the local language. Therefore, students should select institutions offering courses with an international flavour. Most courses can be done after completing 10+2.
Presently, the demand for students with a law background is growing in many companies, including banking, insurance, finance, FMCG, pharma and healthcare, the services and many more. Here, openings are available in the company's legal cell. Candidates also have the option of joining specialised law firms, depending upon their background. Those with financial resources can also open their own practice.
Finally, choosing the right college assumes significance since some reputed ones offer assured placement in certain courses. Additionally, prominent companies visit their campus annually to hire candidates. During such visits, the career prospects are clarified to aspiring candidates, who are assured of robust starting packages.
Such students also secure better internship openings with some of the best companies, including foreign law firms. Excellent performance during internship could likely lead to a full-time opening at the company.
In summation, the sky is the limit vis-a-vis the prospects of ambitious law students.
Dr. Tabrez Ahmad
Dr. Tabrez received his doctorate in IPR and Cyber Law from Aligarh Muslim University. He has authored more than a thousand blogs on current issues of national and international importance. His few blogs like Technolexindia, IPlexindia and Energylex are internationally recognized. As per the New York based Social Science Research Network (ssrn.com) current rankings he is rated as rank 160th out of Top 3000 Law Authors in the World.