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We're probably a long ways away from colonizing Mars, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people out there giving space exploration their best efforts. And unlike the Space Race, a lot of our extraterrestrial adventures now involve private actors.
Elon Musk, the Silicon Valley billionaire behind Tesla and SpaceX, wants to send humans to the Red Planet ASAP. Virgin Galactic is planning on flying you to space -- some day. Tickets should be just a few hundred thousand dollars. And last summer, a private company earned federal approval for travel to a celestial body. Moon Express became the first company to make it through the government's space regulatory scheme in August, earning the right to follow in Neil Armstrong's footsteps.
What do these businesses need? Not astronauts. Lawyers. And that means your dreams of a Space Law career might take off, someday soon.
Space Law or Space Technology Law?
When you think of Space Law, you might think of things like the Outer Space Treaty, NASA regulations, or Princess Leia's lawyers. But a lot of the interest in space today is coming from the tech industry, as Olga V. Mack and Katia Bloom point out in a recent piece for Above the Law.
The tech industry's space craze is fueled by multiple factors, including lowered costs for space technology and the expansion of analytics and machine learning, Mack and Bloom write. That makes space easier to invest in and more appealing to future-focused companies, from startups to giants like Google.
The result is that many of the growing number of jobs in Space Law are actually focused on space technology. Sure, NASA is still hiring attorneys, but so too are space tech companies.
What's a Space Lawyer Do?
Practicing in Space Law requires more than just some fresh Tang. A lot of the work Mack and Bloom describe seems similar to more traditional in-house or corporate legal practice, with an eye towards the celestial.
Intellectual property, for example, is a major area of legal concern, for space technology companies as with most tech companies. There are also employment and workforce issues. And, for some companies, those issues involve international workers, as top talent is recruited from around the globe, adding a business immigration aspect to the legal work.
Finally, there is the regulatory sphere, as governments from throughout the world are often both customers and regulators of space technology.
Does that make Space Law the next biggest practice area? No way. But if you're committed to lawyering in the stars, you've got more opportunities now than ever before.
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