Tag Archives: international study

Five Things Future Attorneys Can Learn From Kiwis

TeddyEisenhut
Teddy Eisenhut is a third-year Cooley student participating in our study-abroad program in New Zealand.  She has obviously learned some important lessons about life — lessons that will hold her in good stead as a lawyer.

The common perception of foreign study is total immersion into another culture to live and learn somewhere far from home. This is completely true. But the most beneficial aspect of the whole experience is not just the memories and life-changing experiences, but the lessons you take away from them.

Studying in New Zealand for the past six weeks has provided me with the opportunity and pleasure to get to know a few Kiwis (New Zealanders). In addition to their love of rugby and knack for creating adrenaline-releasing sports, I learned a few important lessons that I think are beneficial to someone who is looking ahead as a future attorney.

1. It’s not always better to be safe than sorry

While visiting a town in the Coromandel Peninsula, I had the opportunity to try my hand at some cliff diving (or in my case jumping). I found myself at the top of the 30-foot plunge, with only a rope to abseil myself down to the jumping point. My strategy revolved around two possible endings to the whole situation. Either I was going to successfully propel myself down the rock wall or I was not. If the latter, I planned to keep up the forward momentum and jump off, hoping to not land on the rocks below. Thankfully, the ordeal ended in the former. Looking back, the whole situation was a little absurd and mostly dangerous, but it was one of the best experiences I’ve had on this trip. Looking ahead, I realized it’s sometimes important to take a leap, even if the landing is uncertain. The view is great from the top of the cliff, but the story isn’t half as great as it is from the water below.

Teddy's Dive

2. Give without expectation of return

One of the most moving aspects of Kiwi culture is the deep-rooted presence of this rule, a mantra often repeated yet rarely practiced in the U.S. Throughout our New Zealand experience, friends would pick us up, invite us into their homes for dinner or a swim, and even offer us places to stay on our travels. The gift that left the biggest impression on my mind, however, came from a Kiwi we met socializing on the beach one night. Being in a somewhat remote area and at a loss of what really to do there, we asked him where the best places were to visit. He offered to show us a number of places the next day. Holding true to his promise, he spent his entire day off showing complete strangers not only some beautiful tourist spots, but also some hidden secrets. In an economy where advancement, both monetarily and career-wise, is in the forefront of everyone’s mind, it becomes easy to forget the reward of helping someone “just because.” However, serving others is the core of the legal profession, and we, as future attorneys, make a commitment to put others’ needs before our own. In our careers, it is important to move forward, but it is as equally important to consider at what cost.

3. Take time to just think about things

As Americans and especially as students, we have grown accustomed to the instant availability of information via the Internet. I never realized the degree of my attachment until I was deprived of late-night library hours and the cost of purchasing Internet by the gigabyte. One of the most important lessons I learned in New Zealand was the power of just thinking things through. As law students, we often jump right into research by firing up Westlaw and punching in keywords that somehow relate to a topic, hoping that one of them will come back with a winner. What we often skip over is the process of actually thinking a problem through, coming up with possible solutions, then looking for precedent to match the best ideas. This process not only saves a lot of time, but also helps to clarify and uncover weaknesses in an argument. We often forget that our most powerful asset is our mind and its ability to see outside the confines of drawn boundaries.

4. Make a point to learn someone’s story

Perhaps a socially shy person like myself would rather meticulously map out an area before visiting than have to stop and ask for directions. Given the lack of Internet I mentioned earlier and the remoteness of New Zealand in general, you simply can’t do that. If anything has changed about myself in the past six weeks, it has been my ability to just talk to people. Inextricably attached to this ability is the ability to listen. Just listening to the stories of the people I met, I learned so much more about New Zealand than I ever could have learned visiting the many landmarks and museums. As students of the law, we are often two steps ahead of ourselves with an answer – not actually taking time to listen to a problem or the arguments against it. Unfortunately, this characteristic, though important in moderation, often causes us to miss information or fail to see the whole picture. Most importantly, it often makes us appear overbearing or uncompassionate. Choosing a field that essentially makes us problem-solvers, clients will come to us at some of the hardest moments in their life. Our inability to listen and communicate might not only lose a case, but also a client.

Whitianga

5. Work hard and then watch the sunset off the end of your surf board

Many Kiwis commuted to the town of Hamilton, the place we called our home for six weeks. Most of them came from a small surf town called Raglan located about forty minutes away. One of the biggest adjustments we, as American students, had to make was the fact that most stores adhered to a strict policy of closing at 5:00 p.m. We learned that this was to accommodate the value Kiwis put on a relaxing end to their day – mainly catching the evening surf swell. I believe there is a bigger lesson to take away from this, though. Kiwis are committed to the most important part of life – just living. The five o’clock rule isn’t so much about ending the workday as soon as possible; it is about enjoying the last bit of a long day with friends and family. Going into a profession that requires a considerable amount of our time and resources, it’s important to remember the importance of sometimes leaving work behind and enjoying the sunset or the company of friends over a few drinks and a nice meal.

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Filed under Student Experiences, Student News, Achievements, Awards, study abroad, The Value of a Legal Education

Supreme Court Limits Federal Court Role in Patent-Related Disputes

Professor David Berry

Professor David Berry

 Professor David Berry teaches Intellectual Property courses in Cooley’s J.D. and LL.M. programs.  In this posting he discusses an important recent U.S. Supreme Court case involving federal jurisdiction.

In February’s 9-0 decision in Gunn v. Minton, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state law action that includes a substantive issue of federal patent law must be heard in state court, not federal court. The decision may allow state courts to determine patent issues which in the past were the exclusive province of the federal courts.

Gunn involved a state-court action for legal malpractice relating to a failed patent infringement litigation. The patentee, Minton, lost the infringement case when the trial court ruled that his patent was invalid for violating the “on-sale” bar. Gunn, Minton’s attorney in the infringement action, argued that the on-sale bar did not apply under the experimental use exception. Minton subsequently sued Gunn for malpractice under Texas state law. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that because the malpractice claim turned on whether the experimental use exception would have saved the patent, Minton’s malpractice claim “arose under” the federal Patent Act, and thus was subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a).

The Supreme Court reversed. The Court held that the patent issue was not “significant,” because the outcome of the issue would not affect the “federal system as a whole.” Essentially, the Court reasoned that Minton’s patent was invalid, and the state court’s determination of the experimental use issue could not change that result. Second, the Court ruled that allowing a federal court to hear the malpractice claim would disrupt the balance between federal and state courts established by Congress. Specifically, the Court noted that state courts have a special interest in deciding cases relating to the conduct of attorneys licensed in the state. Thus, the federal court lacked jurisdiction, and Minton’s claim must be decided in the Texas state courts.

Under Gunn, other cases involving patent issues which are currently heard in federal courts may be sent to state courts. These include breach of contract actions relating to patent licenses and commercial disparagement cases based on allegations of infringement. For a fuller discussion of the Gunn v. Minton case, and whether the Court’s decision addresses the practical and policy concerns resulting from state court jurisdiction over patent law issues, read Prof. Berry’s paper, “Gunn v. Minton: The Supreme Court Pokes Another Hole In Exclusive Federal Jurisdiction Over Patent Rights,” available on SSRN ID 2232879.

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Greetings From Hamilton, New Zealand

Prof. Otto Stockmeyer

Emeritus Professor Otto Stockmeyer is teaching this term in Cooley’s study aboard program in Hamilton, New Zealand.  He received the Socrates Award from the Hellenic Bar Association for effective use of the Socratic method of teaching and was the first recipient of the Cooley Student Bar Association’s Barristers Award for contributions to student-faculty relations.

 What a pleasure it is to be teaching in Cooley’s study abroad program in New Zealand this term.  Let me take you on a short photographic tour.

First is a photo of my Equity & Remedies students in the classroom we are using at the University of Waikato, where I also enjoy the use of a well-equipped office.

Class

Next is the lovely entrance to the law school building.

Law School Entrance

Students enjoy lunch and the chance to relax on a patch of campus near the law school building.

Lunch on the Lawn

Outside our apartment on Victoria Street in downtown Hamilton, which is party central for the 30,000 college students who attend its three institutions of higher learning.

Apartment

Our students enjoyed the Cooley-sponsored trip to the black-sand beach at Ragland on the Tasman Sea, which is renown for the finest left-curling surfing waves in the Southern Hemisphere — no, it has nothing to do with how water spins down the drain!

Beach

As Professor Terry Cavanaugh constantly warns me, one must always remember to look right, not left, for oncoming traffic before crossing the street.

Look for Cars

It is 80 degrees here today, a splendid early summer day.  All is well.  — Otto

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A Great Experience With an International Externship

Dino Gojac

Dino Gojak

Cooley student Dino Gojak is having a great experience with an international externship.  In this post, he offers insightful thoughts to fellow Cooley students.

When considering choices for the practical experience (externship, clinic) the law school requires, I thought about using the opportunity to learn about law in the country of my birth – Serbia. Information about how to have a new externship site approved was on the portal, and I began to look for law firms that might accept me.

A simple web search turned up numerous small- and medium-sized law firms, mostly local and not “international” ones. After talking to others and thinking it over, I decided that the best plan was to look for a medium-sized local firm with foreign clients in the hope that it was there that I could do the most good. The law firm agreed, and the externship office approved the site.  In the two months that I have been at this law firm located in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, I realize that I had made the right choice.

The strategy was to find a law firm that had great lawyers but needed some of the skills that I could bring in order to more effectively compete with the large, and more expensive, international law firms with home offices in London, New York, Vienna, or Berlin. After the initial period of getting to know each other, I am now helping to translate legal documents from Serbian into English (the other way around is a bit harder for me), to proofread important client letters, due diligence reports, and as the partners at the firm have begun to trust my abilities, to research commercial and labor/employment laws (the firm is a business law firm). I also am trusted to file legal documents at government offices since I speak enough Serbian to do that right.

A big break came when the formatting on a due diligence report failed, and I spent long hours reformatting because I had the right knowledge of the software. Now I am helping to create a legal database of information that is easily found on websites for firm-wide use.

This week, a partner asked me to proofread some work on “personal liens” and “real liens” for a German client. These sounded familiar to me and after some thought, I remembered that common law countries call these easements in gross and easements appurtenant, which we learned in Property class. This allowed me to explain myself well and to recognize those aspects of Serbian lien law that differ from the American forms and traditions. Now that my colleagues see that I know what I am doing, I am getting really busy at the firm.

There are special challenges with remote externships. Luckily, I have family in Belgrade that I could stay with, which meant that I was not faced with what is probably the hardest thing to negotiate in a foreign language –  rental agreement. (Similar-minded students may be able to work with the law firm to at least get help with this process). Despite the difficulties, the opportunity is a great one and is worth the extra effort. Speaking Serbian was not a requirement,  though it has helped, and so other students who consider this kind of option can find a way. I am truly amazed at how rewarding this experience is turning out to be.

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