The ABA Journal’s lead article: “Making Space Matter.” No, it’s not about organising your desk – it’s about space law. It’s the new, hot area in the legal profession that, until a few years ago, was virtually unknown.
In fact, it was so unknown that interviewers (well, one in particular) at Northwestern School of Law felt totally justified in openly mocking interviewees (again, one in particular) who mentioned the topic. Let’s flash back to March 2004.
The scene: yours truly and an interviewer, mid-30s, NW Law grad, undergrad in poli sci. The last part made this entire venture slightly problematic. He had already asked a series of questions like, “Why did you work on a poetry magazine in college? Engineers don’t write poetry.” You can just imagine the fun we had when he asked about this project (which, at the time, was front and centre on my resume – wrote the final report, did most of the research in the lab, went to the conference, presented at MRS). After he had told me, no less than a half dozen times, that this project was really, really weird (no kidding – it came straight from science fiction), he asked, “Why do you want to go into law?”
Silly me, I thought that a totally logical response would be to discuss the cutting-edge legal issues that surround cutting-edge technology. Make new stuff, and the very retrospective, reactive legal system has to adjust. The new stuff does not always fit within the paradigms that simply did not contemplate it when the laws were made. The second the term “space law” was out of my mouth, he flipped.
“Space law? I’m a lawyer and I’ve never even heard of space law. Does that even exist?”
Pachyderm: “Yes, it does. There is a woman at Ole Miss who runs a space law centre. She came to speak at the Space Elevator conference to discuss the legal issues.”
Mr. Poli Sci: “But how can you regulate the planets and the stars and the heavens?”
Pachyderm, to self: “You know, that’s a great point! I have no idea how maritime law regulates the dolphins and the oceans and the seashells! Aviation law – those poor, over-regulated birds!”
Pachyderm, out loud (and inner response probably not hidden well – whoops): “Well, you can regulate what you put up in space. The relevant rule, that I know, is that you are bound to ensure that whatever you put up into space avoids everything that is put up there before it.”
Mr. Poli Sci: “I guess that’s a good point. You can’t have satellites colliding into each other. But how can you get nations to agree on this?”
Pachyderm, to self: “You sign a *(&&$ treaty, which, last time I checked, can apply to big, scary scientific-sounding projects just as easily as it can apply to anything else.”
Pachyderm, out loud: “Sign a treaty. I imagine that ‘all of the nations’ is somewhat inaccurate, though, as Ghana probably doesn’t have much of a space programme.”
Mr. Poli Sci: Big sigh. “I guess that could happen. It’s still really weird. I’ve never heard of this.”
Well, Mr. Poli Sci, it’s on the front page of the ABA Journal this month, and it’s not an April Fool’s joke. How do you feel NOW?