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The trademark profession wants YOU!

Peter Leung previews today’s session on developments in education and teaching in the U.S.

The so-called crisis in American law schools has changed how lawyers of all stripes are taught, and today’s session on developments in legal education will discuss how some of these changes may help to make new trademark lawyers more prepared than ever before.

The panel will feature law professors from around the U.S. as well as Puerto Rico to discuss how legal education is changing and why private practice lawyers are needed more than ever.

Criticisms of legal education

One of the most common criticisms of American legal education is that fresh graduates often know very little if anything about the practice of law despite three years of rigorous postgraduate study. Though these criticisms have been around for many years, they took on a particular urgency during the financial crisis, when clients grew increasingly resistant to paying for what they considered to be on-the-job training for their outside firm’s first and second year associates.

As a result, law schools have adapted. According to panel moderator Megan Carpenter of the Texas A&M School of Law, one of these changes is the growing popularity of clinical legal education.

“Clinical programs are increasingly important and they really strive to educate the students in a way that goes beyond the traditional legal education model,” she explains. “Now law students are not just lectured on doctrinal material, but are actually engaging in the practice of law.”

“And particularly in IP, there are a lot of opportunities for students to learn in a clinical setting.”

For example, the USPTO has its Law School Clinic Certification Programs which partners with law schools to allow law students to represent clients on a pro bono basis in matters before the USPTO. The student advocates represent their clients, who are mostly individuals and small businesses that meet certain financial criteria, on a range of matters, including registration, clearance, office actions and general trademark law and registration strategy.

Clinical programs

The USPTO has both trademark and patent student clinical programs, and several schools, including Texas A&M, have both.

Carpenter points out that as clinical programs become increasingly popular, law schools are beginning to adapt their staffing strategies. For example, she says that in the last five to 10 years, it is more common for schools to have a full-time clinical professor whose job is to manage and guide the students in the clinics. In the past, law schools usually did not have faculty dedicated solely to the clinical programs.

Despite the increasing attention to clinical programs, Carpenter says that their success relies on practicing attorneys who can help manage and direct the students. Even with a full-time professor running the clinics, she points out that the adjuncts’ real world experience is something that most professors cannot replicate, and that this experience is invaluable to the development of future trademark lawyers. And of course, more adjunct professors also means additional capacity to take on extra students.

“These programs make legal education relevant, and gives the students a chance to apply their learning in real ways,” she explains. “And this is why I want to reach out to the bar, because these attorneys can provide something that we as professors cannot provide.”

“Professors and attorneys working together—that’s a potent combination.”

The Times They Are A-Changin’: Developments in Education and Teaching will take place at 11:30 am today.

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