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New law clinic to tackle intellectual property cases

by Michael Kirk - October 9, 2006

The Law School plans to open a new legal clinic in the spring that will give students an opportunity to represent clients in cases involving a growing legal field known as intellectual property law.

Intellectual property covers intangibles, such as ideas and information. According to Professor Paul Chill, associate dean of the Law School for academic affairs, technological advances and changing times have led to growth in this area.

"In our post-industrial society, where access to and control of information are increasingly sources of status, wealth, and power, and where the forms of intellectual property have become increasingly varied and complex, the law in this area has truly burgeoned," Chill says.

The clinic was born from legislation passed by the state General Assembly last spring establishing a Center for Entrepreneurship at UConn.

According to the legislation, the center's purpose would be to "train the next generation of entrepreneurs in an experiential manner that would assist businesses in the state today."

To help accomplish this, the legislature also mandated that the center include an intellectual property law clinic.

The Center for Entrepreneurship will be a joint effort of UConn's Business School and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, located in East Hartford, where the clinic will be housed.

"Clients' problems do not arrive separated neatly into legal issues and business issues," says Kurt Strasser, interim dean of the Law School.

"Rather, they are just problems. The partnership with the Business School will enable students from the different disciplines to work together to solve them. When law students are able to work with business students on all aspects of a client's problems, both groups of students see them as a whole, rather than fragmented by the different academic disciplines."

The Law School is now searching nationally for both a supervising staff attorney and a tenure-track clinic director, and also hopes to be able to hire a second supervising staff attorney later.

Chill says administrators expect to be able to enroll between six and 10 upperclass law students in the spring and expect to eventually have three faculty members devoting all or most of their time to the clinic, in addition to current faculty who will contribute as needed.

He believes the clinic will build on the Law School's existing strengths in clinical legal education, as well as intellectual property law, and provide valuable opportunities for students.

"Clinical legal education is the most important and positive development in legal pedagogy in the last half-century," he says.

"In a law school clinic, students represent clients, under close supervision by faculty. There is no better way of learning the complex and varied set of skills it takes to practice law.

"Clinics are crucibles of learning in which theory and practice interact on a daily basis," Chill adds, "yielding rich insights for students and faculty members alike into the nature of the lawyering process, the legal system, and society at large."

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