At a time when debates over technology policy are as significant as they are complex, the University of Pennsylvania Law School and School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) are launching an innovative joint degree program whose goal is to graduate lawyers and engineers able to address issues at the intersection of law and technology. The first cohort of students is expected to enroll in fall 2014.
From the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on the patentability of human genes, to the controversy over the National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program, to the debate over network neutrality and regulation of the Internet, the ability to solve many of today’s most pressing problems depends on a deep grounding in both the law and technology.
Establishment of the Law and Technology program, leading to both a JD and an Engineering Master’s degree, was announced by Penn Law Dean Michael A. Fitts and Penn Engineering Dean Eduardo Glandt.
“A cross-disciplinary approach is critical to preparing law graduates trained to tackle a burgeoning set of complex issues involving technology and the law,” Fitts said. “In patents, copyright, media and Internet regulation, privacy and national security and many other areas, today’s problems are almost always more than just legal problems and require substantive understanding of how the technology works.”
“Engineers have become increasingly aware of the need to understand better the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern the development, implementation, use and monetization of technology,” Glandt added. “Given the growing importance of the high-tech sector, the demand for such interdisciplinary training is likely to intensify for years to come.”
Students pursuing the joint degree in Law and Technology will typically spend their first year at the Law School and second at SEAS. In years three and four, students will take classes in both schools and participate in a capstone course on Technology and Policy co-taught by faculty from both schools. Students may pursue any Engineering Master’s degree, depending on background, qualifications, and interest.
Penn is uniquely positioned among top research universities to develop a cutting-edge program on technology and the law. Committed to “integrating knowledge,” the University stresses interdisciplinary education, and both the Law School and Penn Engineering previously have developed pioneering programs with other schools.
In addition, Penn Law has a core of faculty who are experts on law and technology and is home to the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC), a leading interdisciplinary think tank on technology policy issues, which will serve as strong foundation for the initiative. Students enrolled in the program will also be supported by the Law School’s pioneering Detkin Intellectual Property & Technology Legal Clinic.
Strong ties already exist between Penn Law and Penn Engineering faculty. For the past few years, Professors Jonathan Smith of Engineering and Christopher Yoo of the Law School have co-taught an innovative course on Technology and Policy that brings law and engineering students together in the same classroom.
Smith and Yoo will lead the new Law and Technology program, which in addition to curricular opportunities is expected to support student research fellowships, technology law-related moot courts, technology-related summer public interest fellowships, and the student-run Penn Intellectual Property Group.
The new JD/Engineering Master’s solidifies Penn Law as the most interdisciplinary law school in the nation, with more than 35 joint degree and certificate program offerings. Over the past decade, Penn Law’s academic program has been fully integrated with other professional schools at Penn that are preeminent in their field.
“The joint program in Law and Technology is further proof that a cross-disciplinary approach to legal education is critical to preparing law graduates to navigate this increasingly complex world as leaders and influential decision-makers,” Fitts said.