iPIP Clinic teaches students to tackle socio-technical legal issues and build confidence in their advocacy skills.
Georgetown Law’s Intellectual Property and Information Policy (“iPIP,” pronounced eye-pip) Clinic advises justice-minded artists, nonprofits, and coalitions on how iPIP law can serve their missions. Clinic students tackle cutting-edge issues at the intersection of technological advancements and social justice.
Currently, one team of students is advising an artist on Supreme Court intellectual property cases and how that precedent might affect her project, the Genuine Unauthorized Clothing Clone Institute, which was recently featured in the New York Times. Other recent Clinic work involved advising a coalition of local domestic violence support services on how they can use copyright law to remove non-consensual intimate imagery from the internet, counseling an open knowledge organization on how to navigate the use of open source works for AI and face surveillance, and helping a nonprofit navigate public intellectual property databases to uncover technologies that can surveil library patrons. These projects drew on Professor Levendowski’s scholarship.
“It was really important to me when founding the Clinic to make clear to students that there’s an intimate relationship between intellectual property and information policy that can be used creatively to serve clients,” Professor Levendowski said. Along with introducing students to the overlap between intellectual property and privacy issues, the Clinic teaches students to think beyond just legal issues. Many issues technology lawyers faceinvolve sociotechnical concerns, as well.
In Clinic seminars, particularly its iPIP x Social Justice sessions, students learn how to consider not just legal, but also social, moral, political, and economic factors that may influence clients’ matters and how to provide a broad spectrum of options to clients that take these factors into account. Professor Levendowski is currently working on a book, “Full SLATE: How Lawyers Can Shape Better Technologies,” that will serve as a guide for technology lawyers to provide the best client-centered counseling possible with the SLATE mnemonic (sustainability, labor, accessibility, transparency, ethics) in mind. Typically, iPIP x Social Justice sessions focus on learning 10 foundational, doctrinal principles of intellectual property and information policy law through a social justice lens. For example, clinical teaching fellow Shweta Kumar, who has a background in pharmaceutical patent litigation, brings her experience to the Clinic’s unit on patent law and social justice to explore how patent thickets and other loopholes in the system inhibit patient access to medicine.
Preparing students to analyze these various social, moral, political, and economic factors and how they apply to both social justice and technology issues also occurs through case rounds, which are workshops that focus on collaborative problem-solving and are themed around professional ethics issues. In case rounds, students analyze ethics issues ranging from scope of client representation to social justice. In the Clinic’s Competency, Confidentiality, and Cybersecurity case round, students are asked to audit every technology they may use for client work throughout the semester for potential issues involving who can access their data, how their data is processed and stored, how the technology is updated, and more, to inform clients about potential risks and obtain client consent. Additionally, through case rounds, students prepare memos and engage in class discussions to solve ethical issues they are actively grappling with together.
“It’s a transferable skill that I would love to see a lot of these students bring into their practice, but I also think that it’s just great from a cohort perspective of feeling like you have advice that’s useful not just to a client, but also to a colleague,” Professor Levendowski said.
In conjunction with encouraging teamwork through case rounds, Professor Levendowski tries to create an overarching environment of collaboration and trust in the Clinic. On one hand, a healthy, productive work environment helps promote Professor Levendowski’s goals for students upon leaving the Clinic: that they will be able to lead with confidence in their skills and comfort in themselves, both as lawyers and as people. Additionally, it’s necessary due to the huge role that social justice issues play in the Clinic.
“In order to have difficult conversations about how the law affects people on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, disability, and class, you have to be comfortable being yourself, which includes knowing your limits and not being afraid to ask questions of your colleagues when you’re not sure what the right answer is,” Professor Levendowski said. Part of how she fosters this self-confidence and comfort is through modeling that “professionalism” is personal, different for everyone, and not necessarily confined to a rigid, traditional conception of the word.
“The clinic environment is cordial and close-knit, but always competent, confident, and compassionate,” Clinic Fellow Shweta Kumar said. “We take our work very seriously but don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Parallel to developing comfort and confidence in the students as people, students’ forge confidence in their skills as attorneys by putting what they learn in seminars and case rounds into practice. Along with the above-mentioned client-based projects, Clinic students harness their legal-reasoning and writing skills through editing Wikipedia. Professor Levendowski, who has experience editing Wikipedia, had concerns about the ethics surrounding access to credible legal information and literacy around legal information. She wanted to get students thinking about where their legal information comes from and whether they could be part of a system to create a better source of legal information. Wikipedia frequently serves as a foundational source of information for non-lawyers and lawyers alike; every circuit Court of Appeals has even cited Wikipedia. As the preamble to the ABA Model Rules discusses sharing knowledge beyond cases as an ethical imperative, making Wikipedia more reliable seemed like an ideal way to provide a source of legal knowledge to the broader community, Professor Levendowski said. This Clinical work led to her collaboration with other Georgetown Law Professors Eun Hee Han and Jonah Perlin, which produced the journal article “Disrupting Data Cartels by Editing Wikipedia.” The piece documents their pedagogical methodology for other clinical and legal practice professors to adapt for their own teaching.
In creating practical scholarship applicable to real-world socio-technical issues and teaching students how to be confident, skillful technology lawyers, Professor Levendowski is accomplishing the work she set out to do in founding the iPIP Clinic.
“I didn’t even really have the vocabulary to articulate this hope . . . but I really wanted my scholarship to be grounded in practical things that real people could use,” Professor Levendowski said. “I just didn’t even have the ability to hope that those people would be my clients, and I’ve been so lucky to see multiple clients come and say, ‘We saw your work, and we want to put it into practice to help people, and we want your students to do it for us.’ That’s a great feeling.”