Monthly Archives: March 2013

How to Have a Great Cooley Foreign Externship Experience

Melanie GloverMelanie Glover is a 2010  Cooley alumna who practices immigration and naturalization law with the Dallas-based law firm of Davis & Associates.  In this post, Melanie recounts her wonderful externship experience in Spain and offers advice for current Cooley students.

 While at Cooley, I was able to work as an extern at a law firm in Madrid, Spain. Identifying the right placement may take a bit more time, but I strongly recommend that students interested in international or comparative law take advantage of this opportunity.

To prepare for my externship, I first checked with the Externship Office where I learned that it was possible to satisfy the externship requirement abroad. Since the School’s database did not yet contain a firm or contact in Madrid, the Externship Office directed me to use the mechanisms for having a new site approved. This may take a bit more time, but it is very well worth the effort.

Next, I identified several web sites that list firms and lawyers in different cities around the world. The search engines at these sites permitted the selection of parameters such as the type of law that a firm or lawyer practices, the city, country or region being searched, and even the size of the firm (www.hg.org or www.martindale.com). I identified about 20 firms and sent resumes and cover letters to attorneys at each location.

I suggest that an interested student should send an externship request to the listed hiring or managing partner if there is one or to a partner or associate at the firm who does the kind of work that is of interest. In addition, it is useful to clarify from the beginning that the position sought would be unpaid. Another helpful tip is to follow up methodically to schedule phone interviews. It is important to remember that lawyers and law firms receive numerous resumes and that success requires making yours stand out – professional follow-up is one of the best ways to do this. Finally, I narrowed my choices to three firms, and I found myself in the difficult but fortunate position of having to choose among three offers for an externship position. In the end, my choice was to extern for a law firm, Mariscal Abogados & Asociados, whose primary practice is corporate and commercial law.

Melanie and Her Mentor
My foreign-externship experience was invaluable because of the variety of hands-on legal work that I was permitted to do.  My tasks were varied and meaningful. I researched and wrote memorandums covering issues concerning commercial contracts and employment agreements. I attended informal meetings with governmental officials, and I also was allowed to handle corporate filings at the Madrid Commercial Registry.

Spanish Post Office

A significant amount of my work also included translating articles about international-law topics including intellectual property, debt collection, contract, and employment issues. While “translating” may seem a bit mundane, I learned that it was a much-needed skill that opened the door to many of my “legal” assignments. This is because translating, I found, can be used as a learning tool to help quickly and concisely bring the translator up-to-speed on a developing legal issue. I was even able to observe client interactions and pre-trial negotiations. I was also fortunate to have Dean Toy conduct the site visit, and the firm was very impressed the professionalism of Cooley’s externship-review process.

Would-be foreign externs should be aware that foreign law firms have the greatest need for locally licensed attorneys, which means that a post-externship position may not always be possible at first. Nevertheless, forward-thinking externs can secure great recommendations, life-long friendships, new skills, and an eye-opening experience that changes you for the better. To this day, I maintain contact with the lawyers I worked with at Mariscal Abogados & Asociados and even help with short legal articles that the firm uses as part of its promotional materials. I also try to encourage others to extern for the same firm. For example, I have heard that a Grand Rapids student may be externing at the law firm this summer. Whatever foreign externship experience you decide to pursue, a little investment in time and effort can shape the rest of your legal career in ways you did not anticipate.

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Professions Moving in Opposite Directions

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

By Nelson P. Miller

Associate Dean, Grand Rapids Campus

The medical profession and law profession are moving in opposite directions.

Hospital systems, healthcare insurers, or hybrid entities like managed-care organizations have been hiring physicians at record pace.  Fewer new physicians enter private medical practices, especially solo practices, where they would get to know and care long-term for individual patients.  More physicians work directly for massive corporate employers within regulatory and business systems that influence, dictate, and constrain care.  With this trend, the day of the family doctor passes quietly.  We now administer our own healthcare through networks of labs, clinics, and specialists, or rely on family members, social workers, and nursing homes to do so for us.  Medicine is no longer about access to a doctor.  Our medical care depends instead on our ability to move timely and efficiently from service provider to service provider with the right healthcare program and personal health information.

While medicine becomes centralized, law decentralizes.  Corporate clients see inefficiencies in the centralized cost structures of large law firms.  Large downtown offices under expensive leases, filled with layers of lawyers and non-lawyer staff, seem no longer so necessary.  Unlike hospitals and healthcare, law firms do not depend on huge pieces of medical-imaging equipment, expensive surgical suites, or even electronically monitored bed wards.  Lawyers now work productively anywhere an electronic signal reaches.  Law firms now assign lawyers to work in their corporate clients’ offices and permit other lawyers to telecommute.  Law firms maintain show offices in city centers but move the workforce to less-expensive warehouses and suburbs.  Large firms either get larger in order to offer more clients more offices in more locations or get smaller in order to serve fewer clients in narrower niches more locally.

Likewise, while medicine becomes a faceless set of technical procedures, law instead depends more than ever on the individual lawyer’s practice and presence.  Both individuals and corporations want and need trusted advisors.  They need individual lawyers who see their lives and concerns holistically, helping them make informed judgments while awash in masses of data in seas of uncertainty.  As information explodes and finance, business, sales, trade, employment, and regulation grow exponentially more complex, more procedures and information simply will not do.  To make sense of lives, relationships, trends, interests, and events, clients instead need individual counselors wise in the world’s ways.  Clients need face time with their lawyer.

New lawyers sense and grab this opportunity.  New law graduates return to school with eyes wide, sharing stories about the help they were immediately able to provide individual and corporate clients facing complex problems.  They know the satisfaction of supplying individual expertise at critical moments in their clients’ concerns.  They see the client wealth and welfare that their counsel preserves, promotes, and generates.  Before long, they will have the pleasure of witnessing the rising arc of their clients’ lives and interests long term, as their own practices grow and mature in step with their long-term clients.  This opposite trend makes me glad to be a lawyer and not a doctor.  Nothing against medical practice, but law practice looks pretty good right now.

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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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