College of Law Begins Offering New Certificate in Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship

 
By Natasha Lacoste

In the fall of 2014, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law will begin to offer law students an opportunity to earn a certificate in Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship. This new certificate program adds to Loyola’s existing complement of subject matter certificate programs in Taxation, International Law, and Environmental Law and Land Use. The goal of the new certificate program is to help Loyola law students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to become trusted advisers to technology firms or to gain the knowledge and skills needed to become entrepreneurs themselves.

The launch of the certificate program was inspired in part by the recent surge in entrepreneurial energy in the New Orleans area. According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, New Orleans has become a hotspot for new entrepreneurs, with 501 out of every 100,000 adults in the New Orleans metro area starting a new business, a startup rate that exceeds even other fast-growing Southern cities such as Houston and Atlanta. New Orleans was also recently named, along with San Antonio, as America’ s No. 1 “brainpower city,” indicating it is one of the metro areas gaining college graduates the fastest. New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week just hosted its sixth annual meeting, featuring 70 New Orleans-based startups and more than 5,000 entrepreneurs, business executives, prominent investors, and student participants.

Raymond Areaux, J.D. ’85, chair of the Intellectual Property group at Carver, Darden, Koretzky, Tessier, Finn, Blossman & Areaux LLC, has taught Trademark, Tradename and Unfair Competition Law at the College of Law for many years and contributed substantially to the design of the new certificate program. According to Areaux, the timing for the launch of the certificate program is perfect: “In my over 30 years of professional involvement in the New Orleans technology community, you could say, until recently, that tech was just simmering on a low fire. Now it’s boiling. It’s hot, diverse, rich, and abundant. Entrepreneurial tech in New Orleans is the new storyline. And risk capital, the critical fuel to fire that growth, has taken notice. I have waited a long time for this. It is so much fun.”

In Areaux’s view, “with the upheavals and reengineering occurring in the law services delivery model, Loyola Law is sending the right message at the right time to the legal profession and the technology world.”

To earn the Certificate in Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, students must complete 15 hours of coursework, including five hours of business courses, five hours of courses that focus on technology, and five hours of elective coursework. Students must also maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in the certificate courses and an overall 2.5 GPA or higher.

Within the pool of electives, students can choose courses that focus on advising entrepreneur clients or courses focused on training law students who seek to use and understand technology in order to become entrepreneurs themselves. In the advising pool, courses include Securities Regulation, Employment Law, and Real Estate Transactions. In the self-entrepreneurship pool, classes include Patent Law, Copyright Law, Communication Law, and the new Litigation and Technology Clinic.

Currently in its second year of operation, the Litigation and Technology Clinic, which is offered through the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, is led by College of Law Associate Clinical Professor Judson Mitchell, with assistance from local lawyer and Web developer Ben Veradi. Each fall, students represent clients in real cases and use those experiences as inspiration for tech-law projects to develop in the spring. Last year, students in Mitchell’s clinic developed four legal apps and a search engine for Louisiana laws.

Mitchell believes the current job climate that graduates are entering reinforces the need to offer more options to law students. “The legal profession in America is going through a radical shift, the likes of which have never been seen before,” Mitchell says. “It’s traditionally a very conservative profession, but the old, established foundations of law practice – stable jobs with firms, billable hours, and limited competition – are falling down. If we are going to outfit young lawyers to survive in this environment, they must acquire the flexibility and skills that entrepreneurs take for granted.”

Mitchell also points out that Loyola has a 100-year history of producing ambitious and enterprising lawyers. “So it’s no surprise to me that we are the only law school in the South offering a program like this,” he says. “In the near future, lawyers who understand how technology and capital work will have an edge over the competition. We want to put these tools in the hands of our students now so they can be leaders in 21st-century law practice.”

Most coursework for the certificate is already part of Loyola’ s College of Law curriculum, but one new course, Law and Technology, will debut next academic year as part of the certificate. Led by Loyola Associate Professor of Law John Blevins, this course will provide students with an overview of relevant modern digital technologies and the legal doctrines most relevant to them. More specifically, students will obtain an overview of both network technologies and software applications that utilize networks. The course will also cover the intersection of these technologies with aspects of intellectual property law, privacy law, cyber law, business law, and communications law.

“I am very excited to offer this program for our students,” Blevins says. “The classes are not only inherently interesting, but they will help ensure our graduates are prepared for the legal jobs of the future. It’s an exciting time for tech startups in New Orleans, and we want to make sure our students understand that world and have the skills to participate in it.”

In addition to the coursework and clinic, students working toward the certificate will have the opportunity to join the efforts of the recently re-chartered Entrepreneurial Business Law Society as well as the Intellectual Property Law Society. Along with these active organizations, the College of Law intends to complement the certificate program with a regular roster of speakers including entrepreneurs, 501(c)(3) organizations that focus on supporting entrepreneurial activity, governmental agencies and departments that focus on economic development, and members of the local technology community.

Lloyd “Trey” Drury, associate professor at the College of Law, will teach the required Business Planning course in the new certificate program. According to Drury: “New Orleans has become a magnet for entrepreneurs, and we wanted to do something at the law school to recognize that. This certificate program will give students the tools to become part of New Orleans’ new entrepreneurial culture. We also hope to sponsor programs and events that will get our students out into the community and bring local leaders in the fields of technology, law, business, and finance onto campus.”

Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Academic Affairs at the College of Law John Lovett led the administrative effort to gain faculty approval of the new program and helped design the curriculum. “In my opinion, this is one of the most exciting curricular innovations at Loyola in the last 10 years,” Lovett says. “Not only is it going to help put Loyola front and center in curricular initiatives nationwide, but students and the legal community in Louisiana are going to begin benefitting immediately.”

The student interest has been phenomenal, Lovett says. More than 40 students attended the initial launch party for the certificate program, and the enrollment for the first courses to be offered for the certificate in the fall of 2014 required the College of Law to add an additional section of Intellectual Property and double the size of Drury’s Business Planning Seminar.

“I only wish I were starting law school at Loyola right now,” Lovett says.

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