What’s Old is New Again, Legal Education Edition

“Law Students Leave Torts Behind (for a Bit) and Tackle Accounting” in the New York Times (@nytimes) is a jumbled but useful starting off point for this note about new and different modes of legal education.

The story, which describes a handful of new efforts to teach elementary accounting skills to law students, misses an opportunity to point out that (i) many law schools used to teaching Accounting, or Accounting for Lawyers, as a regular and even important part of their curriculum, but gave that up over the last 25 years or so as faculty recruitment and retention shifted to other things; that (ii) some law schools still teach the subject, and not in the “mini-course” or “short boot camp” format that the NYT describes.

The story then jumbles together newer programs like Brooklyn’s, that offer micro introductions to financial concepts, newer programs like CU-Boulder’s, that offer financial literacy training for law students as part of a longer and more deeply structured introduction to business practices for new lawyers, and programs that offer law students training in how businesses work (and how other organizations work) by embedding the students with the organization, via externships or otherwise. These approaches can be mixed and matched, but they represent three separate strategies, with different costs and benefits.

It’s also possible to argue that law schools shouldn’t be in this business at all, because “the real world” offers better and perhaps less pricey formats for this sort of training. Some large law firms offer it these days, though not all do.

My conceptual contribution to this topic is online at SSRN. Download another copy today, and share it!

My practical contribution (shameless promotion ahead) is the Innovation Practice Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, which weaves business literacy threads together in its own unusual way.  I explained the program yesterday to a colleague at a different law school:

[Our vision is growing] a new generation of SV-style flexible lawyers/legally-trained innovators, and entrepreneurs and to build that capacity across the [Pittsburgh] region not only for tech but for non-tech small business, not-for-profits, arts/culture/entertainment, and social enterprise.  So we’re not focused as much on helping clients; we’re focused more on growing a new legal culture. Programmatically, we work in partnership with a range of campus- and community-based enterprises (Pitt, CMU, and unaffiliated) to embed our students in teams with their peers in CS, engineering, business, and social enterprise/not-for-profits, where they learn about legal challenges and opportunities, give a bit of (supervised but non-confidential) legal guidance (entity formation, finance, IP, and employment law, mostly), and absorb the ethos of seeing how law and lawyers can enable economic development. Students from all disciplines are meant to “grow up together,” almost literally, and to see each other as partners (rather than as adversaries) from the beginning.  We also support law students as innovators/competitors in local business plan competitions.  We are piloting a leadership development classroom module, which I teach, which I hope will form the basis of a series of professional development courses organized along the lines of the program that Bill Mooz directs at CU-Boulder [the Tech Lawyer Accelerator], but without being focused on tech companies. And we offer weekly lunch-and-learn sessions with guests from the legal profession who have built careers doing unorthodox things in law, business, the nonprofit sector, government, and so on.

Underlying all of this is the sense that the classical or traditional model of the lawyer as a service professional working as a craftsperson for clients large and small is increasingly outdated, both in the sense that this is an ever-smaller portion of what most lawyers in private practice do, and in the sense that it is a fading model of employment and career development for our new graduates.  I don’t know what model will take its place (or, more likely, models – plural), but I want to do what I can to prepare my students in new ways so that they can succeed in whatever environment develops.

For more, read about the IPI at innovation-practice.net.

#FreeLeftShark #3DLeftShark #LeftShark Updates

IP lawyers around the US are enjoying a guilty pleasure: watching a battle of wits between lawyers representing Katy Perry, the pop star whose Super Bowl halftime show gave the world the Internet phenomenon known as “Left Shark” (a man in a shark costume dancing next to Katy Perry but bouncing and flapping, as it were, to his own beat), and the lawyer representing an artist who created a design for a 3D-printable figurine of a small Left Shark.  (That lawyer is Chris Sprigman, @CJSprigman, from NYU Law.)

Katy Perry claims that she owns a copyright in the Left Shark costume, and she has demanded that the design for the figurine be removed from Shapeways, an online market.

Responding, Chris Sprigman makes “there is no copyright in Left Shark” arguments as clearly and carefully as they can be made, but he makes them so skillfully and with such awareness of the stakes (for the Princess? to the death?) that his side of the exchange with KP’s lawyers is nothing less than a jewel of great lawyering, presented on a public stage.  He possesses, in other words, an immunity to iocane powder.

The best way to follow along is to read the blog posts of Fernando Sosa, @Amznfx, the artist.  The blog includes copies of all of the correspondence.  The CBC has a nice radio program covering the topic, beginning with Left Shark and expanding to a discussion of the IP aspects of 3D printing.

Left Shark figurines are available at https://www.etsy.com/shop/amznfx.

Innovation and Experience in Legal Education

What’s the point of “experiential” legal education?  Anecdotes and a bit of data are surfacing. Note:

The same batch of messages that brought these to my attention also brought me a link to the upcoming ABA Techshow, which struck me as being enormously important to the future of lawyers but not much in the sights of the bulleted experiential legal education programs. Continue reading Innovation and Experience in Legal Education

Changing Rhetorics of Copyright

People with a taste for the finer details of copyright law pay attention to the language in notices of claimed copyright, the rhetoric of claims to enforce software licenses, and related things.

Book publishers, for example, routinely insert copyright notices that forbid any and all reproduction of any and all material, sometimes explicitly allowing for selections used in a review, but sometimes not. More than a decade ago, Alchemy Mindworks was celebrated (that link goes to an article by Lydia Pallas Loren) for threatening to unleash “a leather-winged demon of the night” on unauthorized users of its software.  (I just checked.  That demonic language is still there!) Creative Commons notices, of course, turn this idea on its head. In the spirit of Abbie Hoffman, perhaps (and with apologies to Rebecca Tushnet), a CC work says: Copy me, please (with conditions)!

The interesting stuff, to me, lies in the rhetorical space between “copy and you’re a thief” notices and “copy and you’re a hero” notices. This post is prompted by one of these, from William Gibson’s new novel, The Peripheral (Penguin 2014):

“Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.”

There are all sorts of rhetorical moves there, technical problems, and legal ambiguities. Have some fun, for example, by substituting the phrase “the public domain” for “copyright” every time it appears in that paragraph. Copy a bit of the text, as I just did, and persuade yourself that it constitutes fair use, as I just did.

“Penguin supports copyright.” I never imagined that it does not, but copyright ordinarily isn’t something that one supports, just as ordinarily, copyright isn’t something that one believes in – or does not.  Copyright is a fact of the world.  “Do you believe in infant baptism?,” Mark Twain supposedly was asked. And he is supposed to have replied, “Believe in it? I’ve seen it done!”

In Pittsburgh: Kevin Sousa is Right!

Kevin Sousa, Pittsburgh chef and entrepreneur extraordinaire, has a plan to rescue the Pittsburgh region’s signature communal failure, Braddock, Pennsylvania, by opening a high-end restaurant there. It will be an unusual restaurant, “Superior Motors,” with some local sourcing and some local hiring, but a high-end restaurant nonetheless.  The other day, EATER magazine published an interesting overview of Sousa’s prospects — can culinary tourism bring hipster credibility and economic success to Braddock? — and EATER included some quotations from me, expressing skepticism. I have my doubts about Kevin Sousa and Braddock.

But Kevin Sousa is right about something else and something bigger. Even if I believe that Superior Motors and all that won’t bring Braddock back, I’m cheering for Kevin Sousa and people like him.

Here’s why. Continue reading In Pittsburgh: Kevin Sousa is Right!