Teaching Would-Be IP Lawyers to ‘Speak Engineer’: An Interdisciplinary Module to Teach New Intellectual Property Attorneys to Work Across Disciplines

35 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2015

See all articles by Cynthia Dahl

Cynthia Dahl

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Date Written: June 1, 2015


More than ever before, law school graduates interested in business law enter a workforce where they must effectively interface with professionals from other disciplines. Yet there are precious few opportunities in law school for students to practice the skills required to perform on an interdisciplinary team. This is especially true regarding mixed teams of law and technical students.

This essay explores a model for integrating an interdisciplinary practicum module into a free-standing class. The module challenges teams of law and engineering students to work together to perform a prior art search, interview an inventor, and draft patent claims over a new technology. But beyond developing technical skills, the module also forces students to think more broadly. Students begin to consider patenting in context, seeing patents as a business tool rather than simply a legal formality. Even more importantly, because the students must handle a difficult assignment with a partner trained in a different discipline, it calls upon them to consider the varied skills and perspectives of each team member and leverage those skills to improve the collaborative work product.

The essay first presents an argument for why an interdisciplinary module can be an important pedagogical device. It then explains the module in detail, including changes implemented from lessons learned. The essay then highlights some critical observations about the module’s design that could be helpful when replicating it at another institution. It then concludes with analytical data and remarks collected from past students, in order to measure the module’s effectiveness and relevance to the students’ post-graduation careers.

Keywords: Clinical legal education programs, transactional clinics, practical studies, cross-disciplinary teamwork, multidisciplinary collaboration, different skill sets, intellectual property law, IP, patents, communications. technical client

Suggested Citation

Dahl, Cynthia, Teaching Would-Be IP Lawyers to ‘Speak Engineer’: An Interdisciplinary Module to Teach New Intellectual Property Attorneys to Work Across Disciplines (June 1, 2015). Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 19, Pg. 361, 2015, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-19, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2631651

Cynthia Dahl (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/dahl/

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