From the ivory tower to the real world
By Monica Zhang (China IP)
Updated: 2013-04-16

From the ivory tower to the real world
Prof. Dolores A. Donovan

The University of San Francisco School of Law (USF) is a private university and American Bar Association (ABA) approved law school located in San Francisco. Established in 1912, today there are nearly 700 enrolled students in the law school and approximately 200 students receive the Jurisprudence Doctorate (JD) degree from USF each year. During its 100 year history, USF Law has cultivated the most judges among law schools in California. A large number of Berkeley and Stanford undergraduates come to study law in USF. USF’s McCarthy Institute for Intellectual Property and Technology Law (McCarthy Institute), which is the premier trademark law institute in the world, is especially famous for its high quality education.

Recently, China IP magazine interviewed Prof. Dolores A. Donovan, the Director of International Programming of the USF Law and university professor, to learn more about USF’s legal program. When asked about why USF Law is so appealing to students, Prof. Donovan pointed out two reasons. Firstly, the education of USF Law is highly personalized. It is tailored to each student rather than delivered as a package. With an average class size of 25, USF Law allows students greater access to professors outside of the classroom. Secondly, San Francisco, where USF and many other world renowned universities is located, also helps attract students. The topic then moved on to USF’s legal teaching methods.

Teaching law in an Interactive way

According to Prof. Donovan, legal education in the US is very different from most part of the world because it is an interactive process. Professors at USF ask a great deal of questions so that the students are involved in the teaching process. Meanwhile, each question asked by professors is carefully calculated to make the student think about the legal principles of the law. In that way, students stay active in the classroom. “They can not sit in the back row and do nothing. They must have done their reading before they come to class, and speak on the topic,” said Prof. Donovan. Alongside education inside the classrooms, USF Law also inspires students to participate in school activities and learn outside of the classroom. The school sponsors many publications, including the USF Law Review and the Intellectual Property Law Bulletin, some of these programs were even started before the establishment of the IP institute. The students can participate in the publication by writing articles under the supervision of Prof. David Franklyn, the Director of the McCarthy Institute. By authoring articles themselves, students can not only obtain more knowledge about IP, but also gain the opportunity to work closely with other authors, well-known IP scholars as well as people who practice IP in the real world. In addition, students can also put the publications on their resumes to increase their chances of finding better jobs.

USF Law is also known for its extracurricular activities. For example, in October 2012, USF law students taught more than 60 Redwood High School music students the basics of copyright law in Marin County. As part of the Intellectual Property Rights Lecture Series, the visit was organized by the Marin Bar Association Pro Bono Committee and USF Law.

“USF specializes in IP law among other areas of study,” Prof. Donovan said with pride, “We were a pioneer in the field of IP.” According to her introduction, USF’s leading position in the IP field should be attributed to its geographical advantages. “We are on the edge of the Silicon Valley, so when Steve Jobs created Apple and built his empire, and the Silicon Valley began to form in the 1970s, we began to pay attention to IP. Our faculty member, J. Thomas McCarthy, is one of the first people to emphasize the importance of IP concepts and IP law. Thus, we got a head start over other universities to build our fame in that area. Our IP Institute is named after Prof. McCarthy to, honor his achievements.”

As the founding director of the McCarthy Institute, Prof. McCarthy has served on the faculty for more than 40 years. Being recognized as a pioneer and pre-eminent expert in the IP field, Prof. McCarthy has won many awards, such as the 2011 and 2003 Presidents’ Award of the International Trademark Association, the 2000 Pattishall Medal for excellence in teaching trademark law from the Brand Names Education Foundation, the Centennial Award in Trademark Law from the American Intellectual Property Law Association in 1997, etc. In 2012, he was inducted into the Intellectual Asset Management’s Intellectual Property Hall of Fame. Although he has ceased teaching, he still carries on with his academic activities, and is devoted to advancing knowledge about trademark law around the globe.

Encouraging entrepreneurship

Another factor that has contributed to USF’s fame lies in its policy of inspiring students to start their own businesses. This is also true with its law school—the alumni of USF Law have established many well-know law firms such as the Thelen Reid and Priest LLP, Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP, Morgan Lewis and Bockius LLP, etc. How does the school inspire the students to crave to seek out success?

Prof. Donovan told the journalist, USF Law’s first and foremost emphasis is on teaching students to think for themselves. In that way, students can always engage in self education no matter where they are. Independent thinking also provides the students’ initiative. Secondly, the school teaches junior and senior students how to practice law in the real world by letting them work with real clients and practice in the courtroom under the supervision of teaching faculty. Students need to put in a minimum period of time before they can earn their degree. “Once they learn how to actually practice law, they will become more confident in their ability to do so,” said Prof. Donovan. Moreover, USF Law is starting a new program teaching students the mechanics of starting one’s own office. Detailed issues are taught in the class, such as what basics are needed to start a law office, what kind of preparation work is necessary and other practical matters.

USF also provide internships, which allows students to work for a judge for a semester. Alternately, some students will choose to work for non-profit organizations and get law credits for their time. When talking about this issue, Prof. Donovan had very positive feelings about the university’s diverse teaching opportunities. “In addition, we have a summer program under which we send students to work with law firms and NGOs around the world. We have one of those programs in Beijing and Shanghai.” She noted that the law school partners with leading IP firms in China, such as Unitalen, King & Wood and Jun He, to allow their students to gain international work experience before graduation.

For those who are not seeking in starting their own businesses, USF Law spares no effort in helping students find great jobs. “We work hard to provide a wide variety of placement assistance that may benefit students, from inviting employers to come to campus and directly recruit students to helping students prepare their resumes. Thanks to our powerful alumni association, very often an alumnus will hire a USF student. That is a good tradition at our school which contributes to the high employment rate,” commented Prof. Donovan.

Cooperating with Chinese partners

By destiny or circumstances, USF has developed a unique connection with China and Chinese students. Among its most accomplished alumni, many are Chinese students. For example, both Wang Yin (Vice President of China Resources Land Limited) and Shan Weijian (Managing Director of JP Morgan) graduated from USF. USF cultivated so many successful Chinese business men that it has earned the reputation of “the cradle for Chinese entrepreneurs.” USF Law continues the tradition. To date, dozens of Chinese lawyers continue to seek further education at USF.

While Chinese students rush to learn how to practice law at USF, the university also seeks to understand more about the Chinese IP system. As early as twenty years ago, USF Law entered into a cooperation agreement with China’s present Procurator-General of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Mr. Cao Jianming, who then served as the President of the East China University of Political science and Law (ECUPL). From then on, USF and ECUPL have conducted frequent academic communications. Professors from the two universities are sent to lecture in each other’s classrooms.

As a visiting professor at ECUPL herself, Prof. Donovan has noticed the differences between the education models: “The tradition of Chinese legal education is for the professor to lecture while the students listen. The students take notes and study from their notes. However, in the US, students must read certain materials and books before they come to class, and are required to discuss them with the professor. The professor will ask questions to guide them to think more about what they have already read. Through this interaction the students will be able to take what they have learned further through dialogues.” In Prof. Donovan’s opinion each method has its own advantages. So long as the method suits the learning habits of the students and helps students to enhance their ability to practice law, it should be adopted.



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