In Pursuit of Patents & Public Health: Finding Both at Loyola

If you know you’re interested in exploring intellectual property (IP) law before even beginning your law school career, you probably have a specific set of interests, distinct from the “average” law student. Something has sparked your curiosity in IP. For me, working at the University of Wisconsin Madison’s technology transfer office, helping professors and university researchers apply for patents, sparked my interest in IP. Around the same time, I was completing a Certificate in Global Health and I became fascinated with the way the law can shape health outcomes in populations of people. For a long time, I thought I would have to choose: patents or public health.

That wasn’t the case once I found Loyola University of Chicago School of Law.  Here, and especially in the Intellectual Property program, there is an abundance of flexibility and support to help a student find an area of the law that fits his or her unique set of interests.

Photo by Miquel Martin

A Class for Nearly Every IP Interest

Loyola offers students the unique opportunity to take an elective during the second semester of their first year of law school and I was delighted to find an offering so suited to my interests. I am currently taking, “Global Access to Medicine: Patent Perspectives.” The course is taught by Professor Ho, the Director of the IP Program, but it is not an overview of strictly IP issues. Rather, the course explores the intersection of IP with global health and international agreements—a perfect match for someone like me.

Each week, we approach the drug-making and marketing process from a different perspective and think about how certain policies promote scientific innovation and/or access to affordable medicine. We predominately view these policies through the lens of TRIPS, an international agreement that applies to over 140 countries at all levels of economic development. This elective has introduced me to an area of the law that explores the intersection of scientific discovery and public health that I wasn’t sure I would have the opportunity to dig into during law school, much less during my first year.

I am looking forward to taking more Loyola courses at the intersection of IP and public health including, “Law and the Life Sciences” and “Food and Drug Law.”

Approachability and Easy Exploration

Loyola’s program is extremely approachable—both for those exploring, or certain about IP.

If you’re unsure if you’re even interested in IP, not to worry. You can talk to students and faculty or participate in IP events at the law school to find out more. For example, the Intellectual Property Law Society (IPLS) recently hosted two panels, including one that featured attorneys who work at the intersection of IP and health. You can also take one or more classes that relate to IP starting your second semester of law school and begin to get some exposure to IP topics. Moreover, the IP program makes students aware of available IP events around Chicago.

Even if you are sure about an IP career, you have the flexibility to take IP as well as non-IP classes to best serve your specific interests and career goals. Moreover, you can even take courses in other departments. For example, I’m considering taking a class in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology to deepen my scientific experience and to distinguish myself to employers. I am also excited that Loyola’s externship program enables students to gain hands-on learning in IP while also earning academic credit. I plan on applying for the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab opportunity, which will allow me to work at Northwestern University’s physical rehab center and learn how to draft a patent application.

Faculty and Practitioner Connections from Day One

I was thrilled to be exposed to faculty with IP related interests from the first day of law school.  This is because many IP faculty teach bar courses that all law students must take during their first year, giving students the opportunity to meet and learn from them early on in their legal education. For example, I had the opportunity to take my first semester Property course with Professor Paradise, who researches and publishes on the intersection of law, science, and technology, particularly in the life science realm. My experience is not unique.  In my current Global Access to Medicine class, a number of my classmates had Professor Ho as their teacher for their first semester Civil Procedure class.

Additionally, Loyola faculty help students connect with the broader legal community. For example, a professor invited me to attend a meeting of the Richard Linn American Inn of Court, one of Chicago’s IP-focused professional groups, as her guest. At the event I was able to meet attorneys with a variety of IP backgrounds, including a few who do work that addresses both patent and health law issues. While talking with these attorneys, I was able to learn more about the different varieties of work an attorney in this field might do on a daily basis. For example, I met one patent litigator who works at a big law firm in two roles.  He mostly represents patent-holding pharmaceutical companies that bring patent lawsuits against other companies in the field.  But, he also sometimes acts in a consultant role, helping clients determine if a new invention might be patentable. I could definitely see myself enjoying a consultant role if I choose to pursue a career as a patent attorney. In addition, that event has led me to more learning opportunities. I’ve since followed-up with my new connections and had coffee with a couple of them to further discuss career paths and goals—mine and theirs!

IP and [Insert Your Interest Here]

Many law schools have a rigid IP curriculum that keep students separate from other interest areas. That is not the case at Loyola. It doesn’t have to be patents and public health; whatever your specific set of interests, whatever distinct path you have followed that has led to a curiosity in IP law, the Intellectual Property program at Loyola offers the flexibility and support to help you build the career that fits you.

Elise Fester
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, JD 2021