The e-lawyer of diminishing returns

E-commerce law is developing as rapidly as e-commerce itself, but the e-commerce legal "specialist" is soon to become an anachronism, proposes one partner at legal firm Clayton Utz.

According to partner Steven Klimt, all lawyers will need to have an up-to-date understanding of e-commerce and technology in less than four years.

Currently, he said, lawyers specialising in intellectual property, privacy and the technology industry are seen as the natural legal advisors for e-commerce. However, lawyers specialising in tax, banking and other corporate activities are about to follow suit.

"In three to four years time, everyone in the firm will have handled something to do with e-commerce," he said. "You really have to keep abreast of the technology."

Clayton Utz is the only law firm to represent Australia in the Global Alliance for eCommerce Law that was announced yesterday. The alliance, which has representation from 11 countries, was designed to provide legal practitioners with access to legal advice in relation to e-commerce.

The alliance plans to soon add a further five countries to its membership.

Clayton Utz officials said the alliance was designed to give law firms around the world direct access to the e-commerce legal incidents in overseas countries.

Klimt said Australian legal firms would benefit from the alliance because they could obtain information regarding similar overseas cases -- particularly those in the more web-advanced US.

He said the borderless nature of the internet was seeing e-commerce-related legislation shift towards a global standard, although he warned Australians not to always expect the same outcomes as in US cases.

Although Clayton Utz is the only participating law firm to represent Australia, it will advise other local firms based on information obtained via the alliance.

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