Innovation Is in Our DNA
In the tradition of the late C. Hugh Friedman, the law school increases its practical offerings in today’s most exciting legal fields
In 55 years of teaching at USD School of Law, Professor C. Hugh Friedman rarely missed a class. Even near the end of his battle with cancer, in the spring of 2013, he was still teaching Business Planning. But he knew his illness might keep him from finishing the semester, so he enlisted help: Dean Stephen C. Ferruolo agreed to take over the class if Friedman couldn’t make it. When the longtime professor was hospitalized, Ferruolo was prepared to step in straightaway, but to his surprise, he got a call from Friedman, who wanted to chat about the upcoming class. He laid out his approach to the class for Ferruolo, detailing the key topics to be covered for over an hour.
“People ask me why Hugh Friedman never became an emeritus professor,” Ferruolo said. “To become an emeritus professor, you have to retire!” Ill as Friedman was, the law school’s longest-standing professor wasn’t about to give up the reins without making sure his students would still get all the benefits of his rich teaching and professional experience. Just a few days later, Friedman passed away.
In his 81 years, the Yale and Stanford graduate was known for his tireless professional and civic contributions. He served as California’s deputy attorney general and president of the state’s Securities Regulatory Reform Commission, and he held posts on a number of local, state and national political bodies, all while teaching and consulting. An esteemed business lawyer, Friedman brought his experience to the law school, where he laid the foundation of its corporate and securities law concentration.
“Many alumni I’ve met say that they got through law school because of Hugh Friedman or do what they do because of him,” Ferruolo said. Friedman was passionate about teaching, generous with his time and encouraging to students, Ferruolo added, but his legacy extends beyond his dedication as a mentor to the way he molded the institution he loved.
Friedman emphasized practical instruction and hands-on experience, assigning students work focused on realworld situations. Friedman also used his deep ties to the San Diego law community to bring experienced practitioners into his classes, such as his In-House Corporate Counseling seminar.
Today, the culture of innovation that Friedman fostered continues. New concentrations in health and employment law prepare students to enter these fertile areas of practice, and expanded corporate and securities courses enrich that concentration. “I’m practically oriented,” Ferruolo said. “I look at where I see good job opportunities and where we can further strengthen our outstanding faculty.”
Focus on Health Law
Health law is one of the fastest-growing areas of legal practice, and USD School of Law students have taken notice. They’ve banded together with faculty members to create a new health law concentration. “The demand hasn’t been greater—in my memory—for lawyers with skills in health law,” Professor Dov Fox said. “The concentration will help to both prepare and distinguish our grads to fill this critical need.” The field is particularly relevant in San Diego, Fox said, because of the abundance of hospitals, biotech firms and pharmaceutical companies. Since he joined the faculty two years ago, Fox has introduced two innovative health law courses, one on bioethics, another on reproductive technologies.
Fox credits national shifts for adding to the demand for lawyers with this specialized knowledge. “Health care reforms at the federal level have evoked new and complex questions that lawyers are needed to help answer,” he said, and the law school is positioning itself to offer students the skills to be pioneers in the field. The school has done so, in part, by hiring new faculty, including Fox and Mila Sohoni, who teaches a seminar dedicated to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “We evaluate the ACA by looking at it as a novel instrument of public law,” Sohoni said. Each week, students analyze a different aspect of the act, from the history of its passage through its many regulations.
Whatever the topic, Sohoni and Fox’s goal is to give students a concrete handle on complex material. In Sohoni’s seminar, for instance, when the class tackled the ACA’s individual mandate, students practiced advising fictional clients on how to avoid paying a penalty. “We combine practical and theoretical knowledge,” Sohoni said, “and they walk away with a sophisticated understanding of the ACA.” Since the ACA touches so many facets of society, understanding it is a boon to any young lawyer, she says, but her students also learn something even more fundamental: “It’s a class about how federal law is made, enforced and interpreted,” Sohoni said. “That’s a general skill they can take into any area of practice.”
To further reinforce students’ practical know-how, the school is expanding offerings from health law expert and Adjunct Professor Richard Barton. The administration is also working to augment the health law opportunities available to students through internship programs. USD School of Law has partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., and several Southern California institutions to provide students practical experience. As a result, an increasing number of students are pursuing health-specific opportunities. “It’s an area of growth in which our graduates can continue to have a lasting impact,” Fox said.
Employment Law Expansion
The law school has recently established a new employment law concentration to seize upon expanding job opportunities in this field. The effort began three years ago, when student David Greco, ’14 (JD), founded the school’s Employment and Labor Law Society. By his third year of school, Greco had developed an interest in employment issues, he said, but didn’t find the classes to match. “I felt like there was a gap in our curriculum,” he said.
“When I did the research, I realized that employment law is huge in California,” he said, noting that employment- related cases account for 40 percent of state court dockets. Greco and his fellow society members began stimulating interest among students by hosting employment law events and drafted a proposal for the new concentration’s core curriculum. A year later, in 2013, the concentration was up and running.
But it wasn’t just Greco and his fellow students who made it happen. “It was a perfect trifecta,” Greco said. A few years before Greco started the Employment and Labor Law Society, the school hired employment law scholar Orly Lobel, whose recent book on human capital law, Talent Wants to Be Free, won the Axiom Gold Medal for Best Business Book of 2014. Lobel has served as faculty advisor to the society since the beginning, and her cuttingedge work on intellectual property law and innovation policy continues to benefit students hoping to break into these burgeoning practice areas.
The administration also brought in esteemed San Diego lawyer Richard Paul. Paul has worked with the law school for the past few years, but now he’s taking a more active role. He recently taught a seminar on employment law and the technology industry, and he will be teaching more classes in the future, Lobel said. As founding partner of Paul, Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton, San Diego’s premier boutique employment law firm, Paul offers students his experience representing major clients like the University of California, AT&T, Microsoft, and the City of San Diego. “They’re a huge player in town,” Greco said of the firm, “and he’s a great teacher.” Lobel calls Paul “a leader in the community and California,” noting that his firm has hired a number of USD School of Law graduates.
Together, Lobel and Paul strike the balance of practical and theoretical learning, an ideal combination. “Our students are already making a difference in law and policy in the private sector and in government,” said Lobel. “The expansion of our course offerings and the many events that our student organization initiates throughout the year give our students a leg up.”
Innovations in Corporate and Securities Law
In the realm of corporate and securities law, change is afoot, too. Course offerings have grown steadily over the years, and the school’s approach to coursework is changing. “More than we ever have, we’re adapting,” said Professor Frank Partnoy, who codirects the Center for Corporate and Securities Law. Partnoy said that in his area of expertise, as in health and employment law, the teaching style is moving increasingly toward co-taught courses that pair a legal scholar with an experienced practitioner.
In the spring, Partnoy co-taught a course on advanced corporate transactional skills with Scott Wolfe, partner at San Diego’s Latham & Watkins, in which students had the chance to explore cutting-edge transactional issues. This fall, Partnoy and Professor Alan Schulman are partnering for a course on securities litigation, with guest appearances by local attorneys Randall Baron and Koji Fukumura, “two of the top securities litigators in the world,” according to Partnoy. The pair will do exercises with the students, including mock depositions and oral arguments. “Rather than having someone come and lecture, we’re creating a very real interactive experience,” Partnoy said.
The move follows the schoolwide trend toward experiential learning. “It’s changing the kinds of things we teach and how we evaluate students,” Partnoy said. For instance, instead of assigning a 20-page research paper, he assigns several 250-word email memos that students have only two days to write. “The assignments are closer to the real world,” he said.
A parallel development is taking place in the school’s Entrepreneurship Clinic, which Professor Margaret Dalton is revamping to give students greater experience working with tech startups. In collaboration with key members of the legal community, like Dennis Doucette, ’86 (JD), a partner at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, and Faye Russell, ’90 (JD), who retired from partnership at Latham & Watkins last year, the administration remodeled the clinic to give students the most marketable experience possible.
Other significant developments come from the Center for Corporate and Securities Law, which Partnoy helped found in 2010. The idea was to have a place where students and faculty could engage with world-renowned experts regarding exciting policy developments.
The greatest coup yet came last year, when the center co-sponsored the Media and Markets Conference with Oxford University. The event drew big names like Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter; former Google Communications Director Raymond Nasr; and financial journalist Herb Greenberg of CNBC.
With every event, the quality improves, Partnoy said. He’s teaming up with Professor Victor Fleischer to bring in prominent regulators and advisors for a conference focused on policy reforms that will include a look at the financial regulatory agenda for the next president. Partnoy also has enlisted 20 hedge fund activism experts to come for a conference in October. The center’s reputation now attracts scholars from top schools around the world: Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown and Stanford, among others. “We got off to a great start, and we’ve been active ever since,” Partnoy said. “We’re steadily building momentum. We have a critical mass now.”