by Professor Andrea Johnson
A career in telecommunications can encompass many different aspects of the law. The range can be from specialized areas such as antitrust, administrative practice before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or state public utility commission, patent or intellectual property; to more basic areas such as corporate law or civil litigation.
The field is wide open for aggressive, self-directed persons who are willing to immerse themselves into cutting edge technologies, and complex regulatory and policy issues. With congressional passage this past February of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC is implementing new rules for competing in all areas of telecommunication: mass media, common carrier, cable, and new technologies. The result has been a focus on new global markets for information, communication, and on-line services; and a wave of consolidations, mergers and acquisitions, and diversification into previously restricted areas. Old delineations between industries have become blurred. Voice, data, and video can now be offered by a variety of providers.
These trends have prompted new opportunities for lawyers, as well as demands that graduates have more creative problem-solving skills. To compete for these opportunities, law students should follow a 4-step plan. First, students should undertake a diverse curriculum to obtain a broad exposure to corporate and telecommunications law. Students should take courses such as Business Organizations, Administrative Law, Antitrust, Business Planning, Taxation, Mass Media, Copyright/Patent Law, Telecommunications, Entertainment Law, and International Business Transactions.
Second, students should plan to do an internship or externship in some area of interest in telecommunications. CWSL students have been very successful in externships at the FCC and National Association of Broadcasters, to name of few. These opportunities allow students to get hands-on training and to meet the players in the industry, which is critical to finding a job in this field.
Third, students need to write a scholarly writing paper in the area in which they have an interest to get a writing sample that will show a knowledge of the industry, an understanding of technical issues, and an aptitude to work through legal and policy issues. This can be done through an independent study or seminar course.
Fourth, students should try to get a summer job working in some area of the industry. This is critical because often it is through summer jobs that offers are made for permanent employment. Understand that the while some opportunities such as in-house counsel are generally not available right out of school, the state and Federal government can provide excellent training grounds and introduce graduates to key regulatory players. These contacts will make students that much more marketable in private industry later. There are also opportunities through the CWSL Center for Telecom to work on special projects that can give students similar experience.
A career in Telecommunications can be exciting, rewarding, and financially prosperous. More and more students are beginning to look at this field. This will undoubtedly mean more competition for jobs. Students will need to develop a plan early as to how they will create or take advantage of opportunities that will arise. CWSL has resources that students can take advantage of and students need to be aggressive about pursuing them. CWSL is committed to ensure students have the training and exposure needed to pursue their dreams.
FCC internships in Washington, DC are available for each semester. Positions are available in the Office of the General Counsel, Mass Media Bureau, International Bureau, Cable and Common Carrier bureaus, and with Commissionersí offices. Interested students should expect to apply the semester before they are interested in interning. Students should take Administrative Law, Telecommunications Law, and/or Copyright, and have a writing sample on some current issue in the industry before applying for an internship. The Center has enjoyed 100 percent placement of students in internships.