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The Right Stuff: What Makes a Space Lawyer?

QUEBEC CITY, 16th April 2014, (SPNW) - The Internet is quickly filling up with news and blogs about "space lawyers". In 2008 the American website space.com featured a story about the graduation of "the first space lawyer" at the University of Mississippi. An increasing number of websites- both attorney-related and purely academic- are offering expertise in space law. However, hard facts about what the space industry actually needs and an exact definition of what expertise is required of a space lawyer are far more difficult to come by.

Several of the top scholarly and legal minds in the space industry shared with SPNW Newswire their views on what they look for in anyone purporting to be a space lawyer or an expert in space law.

In her e-mail, Professor Emerita Joanne Gabrynowicz of the University of Mississippi School of Law, an acknowledged specialist in space law, wrote: "In my view, a space law expert is a person who has earned the advanced postgraduate law degree as defined by the education system in which it was earned and who has a specialized knowledge of the laws pertaining to space and space activities. "

Edmond Boulle, executive secretary for the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL) stressed in a written statement: "Expertise in space law means more than just a sound understanding of the principles of the UN space treaties. A space law expert will usually come from a background of public international law of which international space law, properly so-called, is a sub-sect."

Both scholars agree that a sound knowledge of related legal fields, including intellectual property, contracts and international law is essential for experts in space law. Boulle is not alone when adding that a bona fide space lawyer needs a knowledge of legislation and conventions governing the radio frequency allocations so central and elementary to any space mission.

Dr. Marco Ferrazzani, head of the Legal Department of the European Space Agency (ESA) and who currently leads a staff of 23 space law specialists agrees that space lawyers need practical legal skills in addition to scholarly merits. Dr. Ferrazzani told SPNW in a telephone interview: "I'd expect to see advanced academic studies in space law, a decent amount of publications and work experience advising clients in a law firm, space agency or government administration."

No Impending Hiring Spike at Space Agencies

Neither Dr. Ferrazzani nor his colleague Alexander Soucek who is a legal officer at ESA perceive any current or future rush to hire large numbers of space lawyers or consultants at the European Space Agency or at any of the various space agencies around the world. Smaller commercial satellite launching and maintenance enterprises are an exception to this.

Both Dr. Ferrazzani and Mr. Soucek wish newcomers welcome to the field. But their words of advice may be rather unexpected for some who focus mainly on the space aspect of space law.

"Space Law is not just space law. Become a good lawyer first. Master the various classical areas of law. Develop an understanding of space, This has helped me in my personal career a lot, because having learnt to understand the language of aeronautics and engineering, I can interact with our space mission managers, easier" Alexander Soucek summarizes.

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