Scholars, attorneys, and students from across the globe rely on the College's vast expertise
UC Law SF has long been a magnet for scholars, students, and practicing attorneys from throughout the world. In the past decade, one key reason for this is the groundbreaking UCSF/UC Law SF Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy, which offers opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration between two leading institutions.
Other significant attractions for members of the international legal community are UC Law SF’ specialized legal technology programs, including LexLab, which provides an incubator for early-stage companies, and the Startup Legal Garage, which gives student hands-on experience working for an emerging tech company. In addition, international students from across the globe have come to UC Law SF through its renowned LLM program, which offers both classroom education and real-world training in different facets of the U.S. legal system.
Here, meet three thought leaders who have leveraged their experience at UC Law SF to advance the international exchange of ideas.
Andrea Lollini: Pursuing Brain Equality
Andrea Lollini came to UC Law SF in 2014 as a visiting scholar from the University of Bologna in Italy and never left. He found that UC Law SF was the ideal place to further his research in the field of neurodiversity, which explores the thorny relationship between the law and those who have neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.
“The concept of neurodiversity is controversial,” Lollini said, adding that he considers it, in essence, a civil rights issue in that it is about embracing the diversity of cognitive abilities in our society—what he calls “brain equality”—and adapting our legal systems accordingly.
Before joining the faculty at UC Law SF, Lollini had an extensive career in legal research with international organizations, including the Institut des Hautes Etudes Sur la Justice in Paris and The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law. He was a tenure-tracked researcher in comparative constitutional law at the University of Bologna when, he says, he became fascinated by work being done at UC Law SF.
In particular, Lollini was intrigued by the opportunity to work with David Faigman, now the law school’s chancellor and dean, whose research in the field of neurosciences Lollini greatly admired. One of the preeminent experts on the law’s use of science, Faigman has published widely, and his work has been cited multiple times by the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a member of the MacArthur Law and Neuroscience Network, among many other distinctions.
Lollini was also interested in the possibility of working alongside scientists and researchers at the UCSF/UC Law SF Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy, of which Faigman was the founding director. Established in 2008, the consortium supports interdisciplinary collaboration on a variety of interrelated subjects and has developed innovative scholarly and professional opportunities for students and faculty at UCSF and UC Law SF, as well as for visiting researchers.
The consortium has an “incredible intellectual openness,” Lollini said, “and it is not afraid of new ideas. The mechanism it provides to go back and forth between law and science is amazing.”
In 2015, Lollini received a Marie Curie grant from the European Union for a three-year research project on the legal impact and sociopolitical implications of neurodiversity. When the project ended, he stayed on at UC Law SF, becoming an adjunct professor and a co-principal investigator of a new study at UCSF on neurodiversity among federal prisoners in a correctional institution in California.
The goal of this research is to see whether the prevalence of language-based learning disabilities like dyslexia is statistically higher among prisoners than in the general population.
Lollini said the study might provide reliable statistical data that can help those incarcerated through specific interventions in prison school- ing. “We are living in a legal system based on an understanding of human beings that is backward and outdated,” he said. “Neurosciences now has a deeper understanding of the core functioning of the brain and how behavior can be influenced by the onset of diseases or social envi- ronmental factors. Transferring this new knowledge of science into the legal system is a matter of justice, equality, and advancement in society.”
Alice Armitage: Sharing Ideas for Innovative Programs
While the consortium facilitates collaboration at the intersection of law and science, UC Law SF’ LexLab and Startup Legal Garage programs provide a link to tech startups in the surrounding community. They have become so highly regarded around the world that foreign universities have been sending delegations to the school to learn how they might develop similar programs.
In the past year, five universities have contacted Alice Armitage, direc- tor of applied innovation, who oversees LexLab and the Startup Legal Garage, asking to visit the school.
The University of Amsterdam was the first to come. In February 2019, a dozen professors and administrators met with Armitage; LexLab director Drew Amerson; and Paul Belonick, the head of the Startup Legal Garage, to discuss their work with technology experts and entrepre- neurs and how the law school might provide their students with similar entrepreneurial experience.
“They came to us because they know we have very innovative programs and because we are in San Francisco, which is known world- wide as the hub of innovation,” Armitage said. “In San Francisco, there seems to be something in the air so we all feel more empowered to be innovative. We learn from people around us, students, and companies.”
Founded in 2011, the Startup Legal Garage offers students the chance to provide legal services to early-stage tech startups. About 50 students work on 25 projects each semester under the supervision of outside law firms. LexLab provides workspace, mentorship, and networking opportunities for startups; it also provides a law and technology curriculum for students and hosts community events.
Other universities that have sent delegations to UC Law SF include the University of Copenhagen’s Amsterdam Faculty of Law, Guangzhou University in China, The University of Hong Kong, and Singapore Academy of Law. A Brazilian technology lawyer and a venture capitalist from India have also visited the school.
Faculty from the University of Copenhagen came to see LexLab in action and Armitage, and her colleagues introduced them to individu- als working in startups. Alexandra Andhov, professor of corporate law at the university’s Centre for Enterprise Liability, visited UC Law SF twice. She subsequently asked Armitage and Amerson to write a chapter for a book, Where to Start a Startup, which advises entrepre- neurs about the laws in various countries they need to know before deciding to establish a company. Armitage and Amerson wrote a chapter on U.S. corporate, tax, and intellectual property laws that entrepreneurs have to deal with in setting up a company in the United States. Armitage also was invited to speak at an international conference on Law, Technology and Trust held at the University of Copenhagen in September.
Armitage said the meetings with international visitors have provided a perspective on the differences in how law schools outside the U.S. operate, which depend on each country’s academic regulations. For example, schools may not be able to establish a legal “garage” in the same way UC Law SF has if students are not able to go off campus to work with companies.
“We’re each looking at the same goal: how to teach students about the ways technology is impacting the law,” Armitage said, “but the specific academic world we each operate in changes how that is car- ried out.”
Katharina Østergaard ’16 (LLM): Applying Perspectives Gained at UC Law SF to International Tech
While the consortium, LexLab, and the Startup Legal Garage have become significant reasons international scholars choose to come to UC Law SF, the law school’s robust LLM program similarly attracts both students and licensed attorneys from overseas.
Katharina Østergaard ’16 (LLM) was a law student at the University of Bergen in Norway when she applied to UC Law SF’ LLM program in U.S. legal studies. She chose UC Law SF, she said, because of its impressive reputation in international and immigration law, fields she’d developed a passion for as a young student in Norway, when she’d volunteered at Save the Children and served as a student represen- tative at the United Nations. With an LLM degree from UC Law SF, she reasoned, she would gain important, comparative perspectives on international law that would be a tremendous asset in her career.
Established in 2002, the one-year LLM program has become one of the law school’s signature offerings, giving international students and attorneys the opportunity to gain in-depth exposure to the U.S. legal system. Students may receive a general degree in U.S. legal studies, as Østergaard did, or specialize in one of eight areas, including criminal law, environmental law, health law and policy, international business and trade, and international law and human rights. To date, students from some 55 countries have participated in the LLM program, in which they have access to more than 175 courses, as well as experiential clinics and many pro bono opportunities.
Østergaard made the most of these wide-ranging opportunities during her year at the law school. She credits her experience at UC Law SF’ Center for Gender & Refugee Studies—which is focused on protecting the human rights of women, children, LGBTQ individuals, and others fleeing persecution—as being especially transformative. For six months, she assisted a woman from Guatemala who was seeking asylum in the U.S. The clinic eventually won her asylum and then successfully fought to bring her five children to the U.S. “It’s very rewarding to work closely with someone and see how much of an impact you can have as a lawyer,” Østergaard said.
Østergaard also cites the opportunity to contribute to the Hastings International and Comparative Law Review as an invaluable expe- rience while pursuing her LLM.
Today, Østergaard works as a member of Google’s international legal operations team. Based in the company’s European headquarters in Dublin, she handles legal removal requests for YouTube as well as the implementation and compliance of new regulations.
“Balancing the legal and regulatory requirements we face with fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, makes this work super challenging and fun at the same time,” Østergaard said.
She said that her LLM degree helped her think about law in a bigger-picture way and under- stand different legal systems, which has been essential for her work. And she said her time at UC Law SF taught her the potential impact one can have with a law degree. For example, she said, protecting against online hate speech is an area where she feels she can have a big impact. “I had such an amazing experience at UC Law SF,” Østergaard said. “It is a huge reason I am where I am now.”