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EDUCATION–Trends Create Shift in Educational Focus

Law School Centers Evaluate Changing Legal System

The Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego announced the addition of three new centers to address the changing landscape of law.

The Center for Law, Technology and Communications; the Center for Law and Social Justice; and the Center for Global Legal Studies opened in the fall.

“These centers reflect the trends that are transforming traditional areas of practice, and few fields of law are unaffected by concerns involving technology, globalization, or the desire for social justice,” said Kenneth J. Vandevelde, dean of the school.

Each center will combine faculty research, extensive coursework and speaker programs to examine the ways in which law is being reevaluated due to a rapidly changing society. The centers will also sponsor activities such as conferences, faculty roundtables, community service projects and scholarships.

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The Center for Law, Technology and Communications will explore fields of law related to advances in high-technology. The curriculum will include courses in the areas of biotechnology, cyberspace law, intellectual property, mass media and telecommunications.

Professor Raymond Ku, director of the Center for Law, Technology and Communications, said, “Biotechnology, telecommunications, Internet and software development are just a few of the important industries that have found a home in San Diego.”

– Technology, Courts

Keep Changes Rolling

As evolving technology and court decisions keep this area of the law in a state of constant change, Ku said that the Center for Law focuses on teaching students skills that will be applicable and useful throughout their careers.

Instead of focusing on current laws or decisions, the school is concentrating on teaching students how to find new or changed court rulings, he said.

In addition, students will learn how to advocate for changes and other skills that can always be used, Ku said.

Since San Diego has become a center for technology, Ku said that students will also have opportunities to gain hands-on experience through internships or other programs.

While the center is relatively new, the reaction from students, the community, and local businesses has been positive so far, he said.

The response to the school’s Center for Law and Social Justice has also been very positive, according to Professor David Steinberg, director of the Center for Law and Social Justice.

The center will focus on the study of public policy and law dealing with civil and human rights, civil liberties, and equal access to justice while exploring ways to preserve the values of liberty and equality.

Students learn about topics such as employment discrimination, constitutional law, and international human rights law.

– Site Complements

Educational Topics

Steinberg also believes that the school’s location is beneficial since local residents are familiar with issues that the center will address.

“For example, law students learn about immigration issues and human rights in the classroom,” he said.

“But they will gain more understanding of their studies if they are walking down the street and come into contact with a disadvantaged person who is truly affected by those issues.”

The goal is to have students learn about public interest law inside and outside the classroom, he said.

While the issues that the center addresses have always been around, Steinberg said that there is greater public sensitivity regarding these topics.

Student input will also be used to determine which projects or programs the center will pursue. Already, a number of projects, such as a beach clean-up, have been generated by students, he said.

– Global Studies Promote

Transborder Understanding

Student involvement will transcend the local community as well. The Center for Global Legal Studies will promote the study and understanding of globalization and transborder aspects of contemporary legal practice.

The center will explore topics such as the pollution of international rivers, the role of international investment law in economic development, and the protection of intellectual property in foreign countries.

“Law students who take advantage of this center will prepare for careers in international law, not only by studying legal issues, but also by participating in debate and discussions of those issues through forums such as the cross-border conference,” said Professor Aaron Schwabach, director of the Center for Global Legal Studies.

Believed to be the first of its kind, the center had five law professors from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California in Tijuana teach an “Introduction to Mexican Law” course last summer.

The center also hosted a conference titled “Cross-Border Urban Integration in the 21st Century: The San Diego-Tijuana Model” in March. Attorneys, scholars, government officials, and representatives of international organizations debated and discussed issues that confront the two border cities.


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