John Bergmayer ('09)

Careers In House Profiles Dec '12

Senior Staff Attorney, Public Knowledge

Originally drawn to law school in order to enhance an interest in technology with a skillset that would complement his liberal arts background, John Bergmayer is now Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge, where he is involved with advocacy at all levels from blog posts to policy briefs. "Public Knowledge is a nonprofit group that focuses on citizens' rights online. We primarily deal with intellectual property and telecommunications issues, before the FCC, Congress, international organizations, and the courts."

Q. Why did you go to law school? Law school seemed like a good way to combine my interests with my abilities. I've always been interested in technology and the Internet but my skills were more in the liberal arts direction. Internet, copyright, and telecommunications law allows me to combine these things. Prior to law school, my major interest was digital copyright and how to balance technology, culture, and creation. In law school I learned that telecommunications is just as important a field. In fact, I learned that the different layers of the Internet—physical, technological, cultural, economic, and legal—can't really be separated.

Q. Tell us about your current work. My position involves advocacy at all levels—communicating with the public through blog posts and media appearances, representing Public Knowledge at conferences like Netroots Nation and South by Southwest, talking with Congress and agencies, and writing legal and policy briefs. In addition to focusing on the pressing needs of the day I am able to work on longer-term projects, and talk about the "big picture" future of different policy areas.

Q. What about Colorado Law helped prepare you for the position? Law school taught me how to modulate arguments to different audiences, and I think this is very important to my job today. Just as, for example, a professor is an audience of one and you should write your exam answers to fit her requirements, you need to tweak your rhetoric depending on whether you're talking to a staff person or an FCC commissioner, a Republican or Democrat, and so forth.

Q. Tell us about your professional networking experiences? Just finding interesting people and talking to them about interesting things. Of course, "interesting" means different things to different people.

Q. What final piece of advice do you have for current and prospective law students? I think books that give a historical background to different topics end up being more valuable in the long run, than books that are essentially long policy arguments. So I recommend Steve Coll's The Deal of the Century, which is a well-written narrative about the breakup of AT&T, and Authors and Owners: the Invention of Copyright by Mark Rose.