Studying and Practicing Technology Law at Yale

April 6, 2010

J.L., 1L

Yale Law School is an intensely innovative place. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its programs on technology law. Professor Jack Balkin and the rest of the faculty and students associated with the Information Society Project (ISP) are trying hard to make YLS a center for the study of technology and the law, so there's a sense of urgency about growing the program that I think can only be a good thing. There are weekly "ideas lunches," in which we bring in a practitioner or academic to talk about current issues in tech law (last week was a professor discussing the Google Books settlement from the perspective of free speech, antitrust, and copyright), and I don't think a month has gone by since I got here without at least one major lecture or conference on tech and new media.

In addition to general programming, the ISP supports several student practice programs (like clinics) that focus on technology and new media issues, including the Media Freedom and Information Access Practicum (MFIA) – of which I’m a member - and the Access to Knowledge Practicum, which focuses on supporting the development of sound intellectual property regimes in developing countries. The ostensible focus of MFIA is new media technology and the First Amendment, but needless to say that brings in a ton of cases. So far we've tried to limit it mostly to two separate groups: cases involving free speech online and those supporting the press. The most recent thing I worked on was a really interesting online anonymity case, in which we wrote an amicus brief in support of a citizen who made some critical comments about a politician on a newspaper website. Check out this link for the story

The MFIA experience has been more rewarding than I ever thought it could be. I've only been in the clinic for about three months, but I've already contributed to briefs for the New York and Illinois Courts of Appeals, both on really interesting topics. I've even had the chance to write my own brief, something that definitely doesn't happen so soon at other schools (since we're the only school in the country that lets students join a clinic in their second semester), and I've gotten a ton of fantastic supervision from actual attorneys.

My work with the clinic has been about as practical as you can get, but that's not to say there isn't some theory - or at least some thinking hard about these issues - if you want it. While much of the anonymous online speech jurisprudence is settled, there are several areas where the law really isn't clear yet, so we were able to tell the court in our brief what we thought the law should be. It’s all pretty liberating, very challenging, and insanely interesting.