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In April 2000, Kathleen Sullivan, the dean of Stanford Law School in California, accomplished a major feat — the hiring of Lawrence Lessig. But he didn’t come easy. Sullivan had to wrest Lessig away from his position with Harvard Law School and fend off No. 1-ranked Yale Law School’s attempts to lure the constitutional and cyberlaw scholar to its home in New Haven, Conn. But Sullivan wanted him, and badly. “I promised him that if he came, we would build a great center for Internet law and society,” she said. A center in the heart of Silicon Valley provided an incentive hard for even Yale to match. “There was a lot about Stanford that appealed to me,” Lessig said. “In this environment, it’s a great place to be talking about these issues.” With Sullivan’s offer extended and his wife seeing the Bay Area as an ideal place to further her career in public interest law, Lessig accepted the offer and packed his bags for the Valley. “My greatest coup as dean was to lure him from Harvard to Stanford,” Sullivan said. Since Lessig joined Stanford last fall, his presence has changed the school significantly on the inside — and done wonders for its reputation on the outside. Stanford’s intellectual property program has, since Lessig’s arrival, moved into the top 10 as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. “I think it was tremendous for them,” said Susan Freiwald, a contracts, cyberlaw and information technology law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. “He’s a very big name — if not the big name — in cyberspace law.” Lessig earned a good deal of his fame when he was appointed as special master by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson early in the Microsoft antitrust case. Lessig was excused after Microsoft said he was biased against the company, citing an e-mail he’d sent. At only 40, the Stanford law professor has published approximately 40 articles in academic journals — three already this year — and six more are scheduled to go to print. In addition to a nearly three-year stint writing a monthly column for The Industry Standard until its closing, 14 of Lessig’s essays have appeared in mainstream publications including The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times. And he does some serious traveling. In May alone, Lessig spoke at nine conferences, panels and other forums. His presentations range from “Coding Control” at the Chaos Control Conference in Austria to a talk on “IP and Innovation” at the International Conference on Intellectual Property in Cyberspace in Italy. In April, Lessig had six such engagements; in March, he had nine. “I think he’s an outlier even by our standards,” said Henry Greely, a Stanford law professor and former director of the school’s program in law, science and technology. On top of his articles and engagements, Lessig also published what the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law IP professor Mark Lemley said “may be the most important book ever published about the Internet,” “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace”. In the work, Lessig argues that the very structure of the Internet guides people’s behavior on it in much the same way law, markets and social pressures guide society. Despite the book’s bland title, the work rocked high-tech academia and found a mainstream audience rarely reached from the ivory tower. The book was reviewed in publications from the Federal Communications Law Journal and Information Technology and Libraries to The New York Times and The New Republic. “He’s been quite prominent; I think someone might use the term ‘a public intellectual,’ ” said Howard Anawalt, a professor in constitutional law, torts, intellectual property and computer law at Santa Clara University School of Law. “ He speaks in a language and perhaps in a way that draws larger public attention.” Lessig boils complex concepts down to their essence without oversimplifying or condescending. Instead of falling back on academic jargon, he speaks English, and he salts it with humor. Part of the preface to “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace” reads “As fits my profession (I’m a lawyer), my contribution is more long-winded, more obscure, more technical, and more obtuse … As fits my profession, I’ll offer it anyway.” Charles Nesson, a cyberlaw professor at Harvard, said Lessig’s leaving was “a personal blow.” Harvard hasn’t fallen off a cliff, though, in part because of the ideas Lessig left behind. Because of him, Nesson says, he and his colleagues are “seeing the problems more clearly and applying our work more diligently.” Margaret Jane Radin, Stanford law professor and director of the school’s program in law, science and technology, said when Lessig arrived “he was very synergistic with what we already had. Even though he doesn’t teach copyright or patent, he really gives a synergy to those of us who do.” And students appear to love their new professor. A few of them got together and reworked one of Lessig’s talks into a sort of electronic, spoken-word performance that’s a cross between Kraftwerk and King Crimson. Lessig posted the ditty, “I Thought We Knew That.mp3,” on his homepage. In 2000, Stanford’s IP program came in at the No. 12 spot in U.S. News & World Report. Meanwhile fellow top-tier law school Boalt Hall’s program came in as the best in the country, while the program at third-tier Santa Clara University School of Law came in at No. 5. In 2001, Stanford’s IP program claimed the No. 7 spot — one ahead of Santa Clara’s ranking this year — while Boalt held on to the No. 1 position. Lessig isn’t the only reason the school’s rankings went up, observers say. After all, as widely as he’s known in cyberlaw and constitutional law, he doesn’t actually teach a course purely in IP. “I would resist calling me an intellectual property person here,” Lessig said. Still, his reputation alone and association with the school’s Center for Internet and Society is enough to boost Stanford’s IP recognition with some academics. “I know his name, and that’s all I know,” said Elizabeth Powers, assistant dean for law and technology at Santa Clara. “I just know that he was a well-respected figure in cyberlaw.” And for some professors who vote on the rankings in U.S. News, that can be enough to nudge the school up a few spots. But that’s only part of the answer. “His presence probably helps remind folks of what is — of course — a talented faculty at Stanford,” Anawalt said. Another coup for Stanford will come this fall with the addition of John Place, the first general counsel for Yahoo, who will be the executive director for the Center for Internet and Society. There are plenty of other heavyweights besides Lessig in the law, science and technology program: Paul Goldstein in international copyright; John Barton in contracts, international business transactions, technology as a business asset and international institutions; Joseph Grundfest in corporate law, securities regulation, mergers and acquisitions and venture capital; and Greely, the former director, in health, genetics, biotechnology, property and contracts. But Stanford never lobbied aggressively to boost its rankings in IP. Both Freiwald and Lemley said that while other schools send out campaign literature and letters from other schools asking professors to vote for their program in the U.S. News rankings, the two have never received such lobbying materials from Stanford’s program. Lessig plans to keep up his breakneck traveling and publishing schedule — he has a new book coming out on Nov. 6 called “The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World”. And assuming his center secures funding for continued operations, Lessig plans on sticking around Stanford. Referring to the Zip code there, Lessig said in an e-mail, “I hope my future will always be at 94305.”

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