Ambulance chasing only gets you so far. Hitching a ride, metaphorically speaking, on rockets funded by private corporations seeking fortunes beyond Earth’s atmosphere is where it’s at for eager legal pioneers.
There are stellar opportunities for lawyers specializing in space exploration. Space law is quickly becoming an integral part of the evolving aerospace industry. These lawyers exist in a tightly knit industry that deals with all kinds of practical issues and some that seem cribbed from science fiction. Depending on whether the space lawyer is in private practice or academia, he or she could handle anything from liability laws pertaining to litigious space tourists to the legal framework surrounding human encounters with E.T.
“Space tourists are usually high-income earners whose survivors can use high-powered lawyers–insurability for private space travel flights is a big issue at this time,” says space lawyer Doug Griffith, a former Marine Helicopter pilot now working within the commercial space industry. Like him, lots of space lawyers are veterans. And nearly all of them are space and science geeks who found a way to combine their passion for outer space with legal practice.
Space lawyers even have their own legal journal and university programs. The marvelously titled Journal of Space Law is published by the University of Mississippi Law School’s National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law. Articles in the current issue deal with, among other things, death liability in commercial space flight accidents, international law relating to suborbital flights, and mineral rights for lunar mining. Students interested in space law also have the option of studying in the Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications Law program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; other law schools also offer space law courses within larger programs.