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Friday, May 02, 2014

The Adjunct Advantage: Leading Tech Attorneys Boost Faculty Firepower

“At least once a year, a case blows away everything that came before it or re-encapsulates it with the most current thinking on the law. We are definitely at the leading edge of these types of classes.” -- Joseph Gratz of Durie Tangri
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Adjunct professor Charles Tait Graves '98, of Wilson Sonsini

Students tend to remember Charles Tait Graves ’98 very well. They contact him years after they’ve studied California trade secret law in his class to say that they’ve been thinking of him—because an issue he taught them has just come up on the job.

That’s exactly what Graves wants to hear. Along with other UC Hastings adjunct professors—who teach everything from business law for startups to cyberlaw—he aims to give his students a cutting-edge IP legal education.

“Lawsuits involving trade secrets claims and related IP have been growing over the years, and law schools have been slow to address this issue,” says Graves, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. “What we do at UC Hastings is different from what a lot of law schools offer.”

UC Hastings has long turned to adjunct professors in IP practice areas to prepare students for the worlds of high tech, mergers and acquisitions, and patents. These instructors, from some of the Bay Area’s most influential firms, have a wealth of hands-on experience advising local inventors, founders, and investors.

“I love how engaged the students are,” says Chris Mammen, a partner at Hogan Lovells who teaches a seminar on patent law. “And they’re motivated to do things independently, like write an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he says, which they did in connection with a software patent case, Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank.

Joseph Gratz, a partner at Durie Tangri, describes his cyberlaw course as “a tour of everything you need to know to be competent in-house counsel at an Internet company.”

Since he first taught the seminar in 2010, Gratz has overhauled the syllabus to reflect rapid-fire changes in the field. “At least once a year, a case blows away everything that came before it or re-encapsulates it with the most current thinking on the law,” says Gratz. “We are definitely at the leading edge of these types of classes.”

Adjuncts who teach startup classes ground students in legal theory while immersing them in issues affecting tech enterprises. “I treat them like first-year associates,” says Glen Van Ligten ’90, a Gunderson Dettmer partner. “So they have a jump on most folks who join a corporate law firm.”
Van Ligten has been impressed by his students’ practical bent. “Early on, they’re already thinking about solving real-world problems,” he says. “They’re right more often than I’d expect.”

Read more from UC Hastings magazine, The Enterprise Issue, here.

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