The Innovation Practice Institute Reboots

Enough about you, Pittsburgh. What about me?

As of January 1, 2011, over at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where I've been on the faculty since 1998, I shifted gears a little bit: I became the Faculty Director of a little enterprise called the Innovation Practice Institute. I've been blogging and kibitzing around the innovation space in Pittsburgh for many years. Finally, I have something semi-official to do with it. And with this post, I'm going to kick off a series of occasional notes that describes what the Institute, or the IPI, as we call it, is about.

The IPI was founded in 2009 with seed funding from the Heinz Endowments' Innovation Economy program. The basic game plan was -- and remains -- to equip new lawyers with the knowledge and skills that they need to effectively serve the region's innovators. Our hope is that focusing sustained attention on the legal community that deals with innovation will broaden and deepen the pool of legal talent in the region, leading to a better, cheaper, and more robust infrastructure of professional services here.

Some of that has to do simply with intellectual property law, but a lot of it does not. There's a lot more to the law and policy of innovation than IP rights, and the IPI is going to take up all of that, and specifically the ways in which different bodies of law and different areas of law practice interact to support an innovation economy: IP law, corporate law, securities law, tax law, employment law, immigration law, and bankruptcy law, among other things. The IPI is naturally interested in a lot of high tech-y, IT-y stuff, but we won't be limited to that. "Innovation" encompasses a broad range of products and services, and it encompasses the need for the new in not-for-profit and government spaces as well as in the commercial sector.

The most optimistic view of all of this is that our approach to law and lawyers is good for innovators and their collaborators across a wide range of enterprises, from garage inventors to start-up entrepreneurs to grad students to universities to innovators in large-scale for-profit enterprises. It should be good for those who want to invest in these ventures and for those who want to work for and with them. And it should be good for the lawyers themselves, because the job market for new JD graduates these days is crammed with people who haven't been trained to participate in the kind of fast moving, dynamic, cross-disciplinary economy that we all now inhabit.

Pittsblog readers may remember that last Fall, I posted a note about a job posting that solicited applicants for a new Executive Director of the IPI. We filled that position with my new colleague Justine Kasznica, who has been working with entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh and who has, in the few weeks since she came on board, seized the energy and buzz that had taken hold around the IPI under the leadership of its initial Director, Max Miller, and pushed it to a new level. The IPI is a vision of how the legal community can add value to innovation in Pittsburgh, but it is also going to engage concretely -- with students, with local lawyers, with innovators, with innovation-oriented institutions and organizations, and with researchers and scholars. That's the big picture, anyway. In future posts I'll try to break down what it might mean in more concrete terms. And as some of those concrete things start to roll out -- look for some of them this Spring -- I'll flag them here.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

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