Sea Change: The Rising Tide of Pro Bono Legal Services for the Creative Community

IP Theory Vol. 9 : Iss. 1 , Article 6, 2020

9 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2020

See all articles by Victoria F. Phillips

Victoria F. Phillips

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: August 10, 2020


Despite the ubiquity of the internet economy and the increasing importance of the creative sector, pro bono legal services have not generally been available to those needing assistance in intellectual property, technology and related fields of the law. Client services available from traditional legal services entities and law firm pro bono hours typically offer general civil and sometimes criminal representation but not more specialized legal help. Little to no relevant intellectual property or related pro bono expertise has been widely available from private law firms, state, local, or national bar associations or legal services entities. Pro bono legal assistance at law school clinics has historically mirrored these generalized offerings. Until recently, very few law school clinics were engaged in any kind of practice serving the creative clients in their communities. In addition, public interest and consumer policy advocacy and impact litigation in IP and technology law by nonprofit groups and academic centers has only recently emerged.

The creation of the earliest pro bono intellectual property law school clinics was revolutionary and the clinics were somewhat controversial in clinical legal education when they first arrived on the scene. However, the vision for these new clinics was simple and modeled on the goals of existing clinical programs. Law students would represent clients in the creative community who had real IP and related legal problems for no fee. Students interested in intellectual property, technology and related areas would finally enjoy an experiential opportunity long available to their classmates in other fields of law. These students would also gain an understanding and appreciation for pro bono service and the public interest dimensions inherent in the intellectual property regime. Most importantly, the new clinics would be a resource for specialized pro bono legal advice to the many communities of creators and those hoping to enter the new internet economy but unable to access assistance in the traditional legal marketplace. In other articles I have explored the growth and maturing of this new and vibrant community of law school intellectual property law and technology clinics. In this Article, I suggest that the rapid growth and success of the work taken on by the new IP clinic community and the community’s innovative collaboration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is inspiring a rising tide in the availability of pro bono expert legal assistance for the creative community throughout the wider legal marketplace.

Keywords: intellectual property, pro bono logal services, law school clinics

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Victoria F., Sea Change: The Rising Tide of Pro Bono Legal Services for the Creative Community (August 10, 2020). IP Theory Vol. 9 : Iss. 1 , Article 6, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Victoria F. Phillips (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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