Published: July 17, 2014

As part of its commitment to law school innovation, the University of Colorado Law School launched its Tech Lawyer Accelerator program this summer, a program that it intends to continue and scale up through the generous support of the first grant Access Group, Inc. has awarded.

Access Group selected Colorado Law to receive a $100,000 grant, the first awarded by the non-profit organization dedicated to furthering access, affordability, and the value of legal education. The grant will be used to support the development and continuation of Colorado Law's innovative Tech Lawyer Accelerator program—a competency-based training program that provides a substantial advantage to law students who are focused on the technology industry.

To help students secure jobs in technology and entrepreneurship, the Tech Lawyer Accelerator program matches selected first- and second-year law students with local and national technology firms for 10-week summer internships after four weeks of intensive business and technology training. The program was established and is led by former technology in-house counsel and executive Bill Mooz, who previously worked at Sun Microsystems and VMWare, among other firms.

"Students should benefit by advancing both their academic knowledge and 'real world' business and technology experiences," said Christopher P. Chapman, Access Group President and Chief Executive Officer. "More generally, legal education as a whole should benefit through the review, study, distribution, and replication of the results of this 'living laboratory.'" Access Group’s support will allow the law school to evaluate the program’s impact and to add to the field’s evidence base for potential new approaches to legal education.

A core commitment of Colorado Law’s ongoing law school innovation efforts are to broaden the concept of what skills and competencies lawyers need to be effective. Beyond the basic building blocks of legal doctrine and practical legal skills, lawyers need to understand the relevant context and business environment they operate in as well as how to be effective professionals who can work in teams, manage projects effectively, and listen to and learn from clients. 

“The Tech Lawyer Accelerator program is one of several important new initiatives Colorado Law is developing to complement our already cutting-edge clinics, courses like Legal Negotiation, and experiential learning opportunities,” explained Colorado Law Dean Phil Weiser. “There is no substitute for the hands-on learning and exposure to leaders from tech companies—on topics ranging from finance and accounting to project management—provided to students by the Tech Lawyer Accelerator.”

By bringing in experienced technology executive Bill Mooz as a Scholar-in-Residence, Colorado Law is ensuring that students enjoy direct exposure to the best practices used at top technology companies. Traditionally, Mooz explains, “neither law schools nor law firms have had any formal vehicles for training future lawyers on their clients' businesses and on how operational tools can be used to improve the delivery of legal services. For this reason, the vast majority of the Tech Lawyer Accelerator's boot camp focuses on these areas. "

To support this year’s pilot effort, Colorado Law drew on support from a range of organizations supporting the law school. Most significantly, both the Kauffman Foundation and the Daniels Fund supported the Tech Lawyer Accelerator as part of their overall support for the law school’s innovation efforts. Going forward, with the additional support from Access Group, Colorado Law will further develop the program and share the lessons from the program with other schools that are interested in developing similar initiatives.

A total of 16 students and 13 technology firms are participating in this year’s pilot program, with students are interning at early-stage through mature technology firms in Colorado and the Bay Area, including Cisco, NetApp, CoreSite, Intrado, Rally Software, Wayin, and Zayo.

Currently half-way through their internships, students have already seen impressive results.   "On day one of my internship, I was already applying the concepts I learned from the Tech Lawyer Accelerator boot camp," said Andrew Marchant, a second-year Colorado Law student interning at NetApp in Sunnyvale, California. "The Accelerator program made me more confident and able to speak more competently with those at the company, whether they were software engineers or senior corporate counsel."

"The Tech Lawyer Accelerator intern placed with us this summer has been outstanding," David Huberman, general counsel at Rally Software said. "He arrived well prepared and eager to learn, and the business, legal, and professional training he received through the program enabled him to contribute immediately and he quickly became a key member of our team. We are delighted with results and look forward to continuing to be a part of this important initiative."