Something New for Law Reviews

More than a dozen years ago, students at my law school came to me and proposed that I become the faculty advisor to a new student-edited specialty law journal in technology law and policy. I agreed and navigated the proposed journal through our internal approvals process. Success! I proudly shared my mini-professional success, and my school’s advancing in the IP/technology law ranks, with a senior colleague who had been a mentor to me. Hearing the news that another specialty technology law journal had launched, the response was an underwhelming and almost incredulous “another one?”

Since then, I have worked with the students to make the journal relevant, sometimes with more success and sometimes with less. My message has always been: speak to the regional audience. Pittsburgh (like many re-emerging economies) is in dire need of thoughtful law and policy analysis.

Last Fall, at Concurring Opinions Dave Hoffman wrote a short piece summarizing his three-part advice to law review student authors and editors, including focusing their writing on shorter, more usable pieces. I’m happy to say not only that I agree with him, but also that at TLP, we have all three items on his list already in place and practice. The big one is: write short pieces about recent stuff, not bloated “notes” about appellate judicial opinions.

Over the last three years, Pittsburgh’s Journal of Technology Law & Policy has set its sails properly, and now the winds of progress are blowing in our favor. Beginning in the Fall of 2012, “TLP,” as the journal is known here, has focused much of its effort on publishing student-produced series of short law and policy pieces that address technology topics of interest to the Pittsburgh region. Each one is introduced by a short paper authored by a notable law and/or policy person, both to give the series some higher-level framing and to bring the series some of the public attention that it deserves.

The most recent of TLP’s “Student Article Series” is now online, at The theme is “smart cities,” and the introduction is by Pittsburgh’s Mayor, Bill Peduto.

Farewell to a Contracts Giant, John Murray

The legal blogosphere has been curiously quiet regarding the news that John Murray, law faculty member at Duquesne Law, former faculty member at Pitt Law, former Dean of the law schools at Pitt and at Villanova, and Chancellor and former President of Duquesne University, passed away last Wednesday.

(Thanks to the ContractsProf Blog for a short note.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published this long obituary.)

The relative silence might be a puzzle, because John Murray was the very embodiment of teaching, in the classroom, among his colleagues, and in the public sphere.  (If only I could publish some of the email tributes now circulating on my school’s internal faculty list, and no doubt circulating elsewhere among law faculty who were mentored by John Murray early in their careers!)  Anyone who met or heard John Murray was struck immediately by the man’s presence, which was incredible and powerful and generous.

Perhaps the omission is not so much a puzzle; the latter part of his career was spent leading (and rebuilding) a regional Catholic university.  He was still a law teacher and scholar, but his major contributions to the law were years in the past.  He carried himself with enormous dignity, but he was not, by any means, a “modern” law professor or a name “brand” influencing the current generation of young teachers and scholars.

I teach a leadership course to members of my law school community, and I focus on leadership as voice:  understanding and sharing your sensibility, spirit, and presence in the world, how you cultivate that and share it so that you have the kind of impact and effect that you want to have.  I only met and heard John Murray in person a few times, for he was long gone from Pitt Law when I arrived.  But he had a wonderful voice, in the sense that I just described (he also had a tremendous speaking presence).  And all of Pittsburgh, its legal community, and the contracts and sales parts of the legal profession benefited mightily from it.  He will be missed.

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

#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

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