Last fall I was in Palo Alto, California at Stanford Law School completing a placement as part of the Osgoode Intellectual Property and Technology Intensive Program. At Stanford, I was one of two interns at a center called CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, which is a cooperation between the law school and the computer science department.
The main directive of CodeX is to explore the way in which information technology can enhance the quality and efficiency of the legal system. In a nutshell, CodeX is focused on the technology of law (not to be confused with the law of technology), and how technology is shaping the legal landscape. Through this, I was exposed to a great deal of legal technologies and pioneers in the legal information field.
When I first arrived at Stanford I was a little disoriented. Stanford seemed to have a different “feel” than other universities. Having studied law at two other institutions (Bond University, Australia; Osgoode Hall Law School, Canada), it took me a while to adapt to the way in which Stanford works. Being situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford has taken advantage of the resources surrounding the school, and has evolved to provide an entrepreneurial foundation for its students and for the community. The campus itself is an open field that greets anyone who enters, whether someone is an enrolled student or a struggling startup founder, all are welcome. It is this openness that initially threw me off guard. I was used to campuses that excluded unaffiliated visitors rather than welcome them, especially if they wanted to attend lectures and not pay tuition.
It didn’t take long for me to wrap my head around the effects of this open campus mandate. It was clear that through this policy Stanford was facilitating a robust education environment that included individuals from all walks of life and industry. Stanford has grasped the fact that education isn’t necessarily about what happens in the classroom [despite the accomplishments of their faculty], but it is more about the ongoing collaboration between diverse groups of people.
This collaborative importance was very visible while at CodeX. At the Center’s weekly meetings, a new legal startup would present an informal demonstration of their product followed by a question and answer period. Through this, I was exposed to the processes and troubleshooting that these startups face on a daily basis. Additionally, these opportunities lead to vast networking opportunities, making CodeX a hub that links the commercial and academic world of legal technology.
While at the Stanford Law School I audited a class called “Legal Technology and Informatics” instructed by Ron Dolin. Ron has a PhD in computer science, and after working as an early employee at Google, Ron ‘retired’ to go back to school, receiving a JD from the University of California, Hastings. Thus, Ron was very much an embodiment for the class, equal parts law and technology, with a large interest in the intersection of the two.
The class itself was a broad yet thorough look into the many facets of legal technology and informatics. Half of every class was dedicated to a speaker, who would come in and candidly share their experiences and outlooks with us, while being open to questions and reactions by anyone who had a query. The speakers were a collection of industry leaders and academics, such as Don Jaycox the CIO of DLA Piper, David Hornick of August Capital, Anurag Acharya co-creator of Google Scholar, Professor Daniel Katz, and Marc Lauritsen, to name a few. Unfortunately, I had to return to Toronto before the final class where Peter Thiel was scheduled to speak.
Overall, my time spent at Stanford was a blur of code writing, legal tech-ing, computer tracking, documentary making, team cheering, election watching, and privacy hacking madness. The work at CodeX opened my eyes to the emerging field of legal technology, which I believe will ultimately reshape the legal framework in the near future. My experiences at CodeX are a testament to the importance of practical training opportunities and experiential learning programs in law school. This placement allowed me to view the legal landscape from another vantage point, which in turn has influenced my entire outlook on the profession. I like to think that I went to Stanford with a hunger for IP law and have left with a thirst for legal tech.
Maximilian Paterson is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.