Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once remarked “change is the only constant in life.” Nowhere is this assertion more accurate than in the legal profession. A
prudent attorney needs to try to stay up to date with new and evolving legal practice areas. For example, in recent times the drone aircraft industry has sprouted up from a handful of enthusiasts to an eclectic group of users. These operators include: Amazon using drones to deliver small packages, Airbus using drones to inspect commercial jets for dents and scratches, and Virgin Active using drones to teach tennis players. In some markets, there are few, if any, law firms that concentrate on this unique area of law. Yet, the industry is becoming increasingly regulated at the municipal, state and federal levels. Small firm or solo attorneys looking to bolster their current practice would be shrewd to incorporate this or another specialized practice area. In addition to drone law, there are numerous other specialized practice areas that continue to see rapid and continuous growth spurts.
Select New Legal Practice Areas
At present there are countless new legal practice areas. Some of the more unique niche areas are outlined below.
- Animal Law
Animal law covers a broad range of topic areas. Current animal law regulations in the United States consist of at least one or more of the following subjects:
* animal experimentation and research
* animal fighting
* capture or importation of exotic or endangered animals
* confinement of animals
* contracts involving the breeding, raising, and sale of animals
* cruelty to animals
* negligence in veterinary care
* responsibilities of pet owners
As an informative side note, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 36.5 percent of us own a dog and 30.4 percent of us own a cat. Meanwhile, courts across the country are beginning to recognize companion animals are far more than just mere chattel and are awarding harmed animal owners with damage awards for the emotional loss of their pets.
- Cannabis Law
Cannabis law combines several other practice areas, including the following categories:
* administrative law
* business law
* criminal law
* employment law
* intellectual property
* tax law
Cannabis was officially outlawed for any use, including for medical purposes, with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. However, according to an April 2017 poll, nearly 94 percent of the American public now supports the decriminalization of medical marijuana. According to the Council of State Governments, thirty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form: (http://www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html) Eight states plus the District of Columbia have approved laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
In addition, Oregon now permits its citizens to expunge convictions for past marijuana crimes that would not be crimes today. Colorado and Maryland have passed similar measures. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont have considered this type of legislation.
(Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Marijuana and Public Health blogs, https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/index.htm)
- Cyberbullying Regulation
Cyberbullying is the use of the Internet or mobile technology to harass, intimidate, or cause harm to another.
Missouri law, for example, provides, cyberbullying is defined as bullying “through the transmission of a communication including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound, or image by means of an electronic device."
School employees in the Show Me state are required under state law to report any known instances of bullying.
in June 2017, Governor Greg Abbott signed Texas Senate Bill 179 into law, also known as David’s Law. The act is named after David Molak who took his own life after experiencing cyberbullying. The law specifically allows schools to discipline for off-campus incidents. (http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/billtext/pdf/SB00179F.pdf)
- Defamation in the Age of Social Media
Defamation is a false, published statement that is injurious to another person’s reputation.
An online posting, even on an obscure website, is likely to be seen by a few people, and will therefore satisfy the publication requirement. However, a person cannot succeed in his or her online defamation claim if the defendant’s defamatory statement was true.
The complete list of elements that must be proven at common law in a defamation cause of action include:
* Someone made a statement;
* The statement was published;
* The statement caused injury;
* The statement was false; and
* The statement did not fall into a privileged category.
- Drone (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Law
Drones are regulated at the municipal level, state level and federal level. For example, in Telluride, Colorado, one town ordinance prohibits operators from flying a drone if under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or a controlled substance. A New Hampshire law prohibits the use of drones to interfere with lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping activities. And, the Federal Aviation Administration oversees multiple federal drone operation and registration regulations.
(“How laws and regulations are shaping the development of the drone industry around the world.,” Business Insider, @businessinsider on Twitter, May 19, 2018)
- Identity Theft Law
Identity theft is a crime where someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
Congress passed legislation in 1998 making identity theft a federal crime. Under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, it is a federal crime for a person who "knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law."
The Theft Penalty Enhancement Act in 2004 increased penalties for "aggravated" identity theft, requiring courts to impose additional sentences of two years for general offenses and five years for terrorism-related offenses."