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Summer Law Program Focuses on Business and Technology Development
Microfluidic bubble bioreactor for cell capture is not a description one would expect to hear for a project being researched in a law school, but that’s exactly what Heather Roark Parker L’16 was explaining to Assemblyman William Magnarelli during a recent visit to the Technology Commercialization Law Program (TCLP) at the College of Law.
The technology Parker was introducing came from a pair of researchers at the University of Rochester who developed a new device that could be used for diagnostic, therapeutic and investigative research. Parker is compiling a research report focusing on the intellectual property landscape and market landscape for the clients to use as they decide how they might take their technology to market. It is just one of over 20 projects underway this summer at the TCLP, a program created 25 years ago by the late Ted Hagelin to provide law students with a robust legal background that integrates business and science.
The philosophy of the program is that to be a successful intellectual property or corporate attorney, students need a practical introduction to the types of legal and regulatory issues, as well as the business case, for critical business decisions such as applying for patents and negotiating licensing deals. Students in the program have completed over 200 projects for clients trying to commercialize new technologies that vary from individual university researchers and technology transfer offices to startups and established companies like JP Morgan Chase.
Parker is one of three law students and one recent Maxwell/Whitman graduate who are spending their summer in the program. They divide their time between researching the intellectual property, market landscape and regulatory issues related to new technologies and meetings with clients, representatives of economic development organizations and interested parties like Assemblyman Magnarelli.
Each student has a unique background that brings an important perspective to the work. Parker studied biology and biotechnology as an undergraduate and is also studying to take the patent bar this summer. Andrew DiPasquale L’16 has a background in history and political science; Justin Lee L’17 earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and is also planning to take the patent bar; and Austin Miller ’15 studied economics and emerging enterprises while winning over $10,000 in research and development funding for his own medical device startup during his undergraduate study.
The mix of experience is useful with a queue of projects that is just as diverse. The technologies being researched range from the University of Rochester’s micro-well array that allows for the screening of rare cells used in biotechnology-derived drugs, to clean energy innovations from the Rochester-based NEXUS-NY program and a Bluetooth-enabled “smart” frying pan that’s being developed by a startup in the local StartFast Venture Accelerator. Each project requires specific research into a different technology area or regulatory issue that provides a broad experience for the students, who are acquiring and honing real-world skills.
“Dealing with clients on a day-to-day basis has not only given me more knowledge about such an interesting field, but has also helped me develop communication skills, which are so important in the practice of law,” DiPasquale says.
Lee agrees. “The work we do in the center is exciting because it dovetails law with business. I spend most of my time analyzing patents and putting together patent landscapes. We also get opportunities to meet with clients, visit clinics and incubators, and perform research for new businesses. I am preparing for the Patent Bar this summer, so my work here provides great hands-on experience for what I hope to specialize in later in my career.”
While the program was developed to provide practice-ready skills for law students, the benefit to the clients is just as real.
“One of the easiest ways to explain what we provide for clients is to say that we’re here to let them know what they don’t know,” explains TCLP director Jack Rudnick. “In the legal and business world the entrepreneur needs information, and that’s what we provide. We aim to take a look at a client’s new technology and let them know all of the potential problems, and opportunities, surrounding it so they can make the best choices moving forward.”
DiPasquale and Parker will be able to leverage the additional experience from the summer program for the TCLP’s academic program this fall as senior research associates. In this role, they will oversee teams of students enrolled in a year-long 6-credit course, LAW 815, who will be learning the basics of commercialization research and working on similar projects.