One recently created College of Law class, the Innovation, Business & Law Colloquium, is bringing students and scholars together to explore the role the law plays in resolving contemporary issues in the world. This fall, the IBL Colloquium’s topic is “The Private Law of Privacy.”

Professor Jason Rantanen, the organizer of the Colloquium, describes the overarching premise of the Colloquium as being “to encourage students to engage directly with academic scholarship.”  Students are encouraged to not just evaluate the scholars’ works, but to also incorporate the lessons learned into their own writing and practice.

Students in the course are expected to vigorously critique the scholarly works presented and provide constructive feedback to the scholar following their presentation. This dynamic interaction benefits both the students and the scholars in numerous ways. The scholars will receive different perspectives on their respective works, while students have the unique opportunity to interact with experts who are active in various fields of legal scholarship. Students also are able to hear presentations interpreting specific areas of the law through various scholarly lenses. For example, one speaker may present a topic that emphasizes a historical perspective on the subject, while another may analyze a subject via a policy approach. This wide array of interpretative models grants students a unique chance to thoroughly learn about an area of the law as well as analytical methods they can apply throughout their careers.

Beyond their active participation in the preparation and presentation sessions, students are required to write a short paper after reading each work explaining their reaction to the material. Professor Rantanen’s goal for the reaction papers is to get students to draw connections between the academic work and their own lives. The short reflection papers allow students to digest and apply each subject individually, rather than reflecting on the course as a whole. 

The Colloquium first ran in fall 2015. That series focused on “Intangible Assets and the Firm.” Casey Kidwell, a student who participated in the 2015 Colloquium, said that he “gained an understanding of the contemporary problems facing this country in intellectual property” through his participation in the Colloquium. “Equally as important, I learned how to look critically at current legal structures and ask the question, ‘is there a way that we can do this better?’” Brandon Cole, another student participant of the 2015 Colloquium, believes the Colloquium has prepared him to be an effective future practitioner: “many of the topics involved the next wave of legal issues, so it was particularly helpful to learn in areas that will become increasingly important.”

One of the Colloquium’s most beneficial aspects is its focus on an area of the law that students usually do not have the chance to fully explore while in law school. For example, while the legal issues for this year’s “Private Law of Privacy” topic may be come up in other courses taught at the College of Law, those courses rarely have time to focus on them in great depth. The scholarly works presented will take an in-depth look at current issues in privacy law and the role lawyers play in crafting policy that responds to those issues, giving students a nuanced understanding of challenges they will face again and again over the course of their careers—whether they become transactional lawyers, litigators, or legislators.