UNDERGRADUATE: Bachelor of Science/ Management Science and Engineering/ Stanford University
HOME CITY, STATE: Pico Rivera, California
At the intersection of engineering and entrepreneurship, David Medina found the law.
As an undergraduate at Stanford University, Medina majored in what he described in an interview as “Startups 101″ – a broad education in all things engineering with a deep dive into the business management side of things.
He created Flashworks Inc., a content consolidation/streamlining company that would scan, for example, all the materials teachers needed for a science unit – instructional guidebooks, handouts, lab experiments and the like – and load the content onto a single flash drive or CD. “We’d reduce a box of materials to a single, easily accessed file,” he said.
Still on an engineering-entrepreneurial track, Medina was recruited to work at Boom Financial, a mobile money startup whose goal was to create an easy way to send money from the U.S. to Mexico using a cell phone.
“I’m Mexirican – Mexican and Puerto Rican, so working to help people send money back to their families in Mexico was important to me and a perfect match of skill sets,” he said.
While at Boom, Medina started reading in The Wall Street Journal about the Apple/Samsung litigation. “I had no clue to what was going on,” he said, “because my notion of law at the time was as an antiquated, abstract thing for old people. But here it was – the law – bringing these technological behemoths to their knees.
“You read about the law being unable to keep up with technology. But it was the law that lassoed Apple and Samsung, brought them down, tamed them and made them play more nicely in this field.”
It was the “grain of rice” that tipped the scale in his decision to go to law school. “As the first person in my family to go away for college, and one of the first in my extended family to graduate, I knew I wanted to pursue a professional degree,” he said.
Although the thought of becoming a doctor was enticing, his fascination with law and technology ultimately pushed him to apply to law schools.
LAWDRAGON: What were key factors you used to choose a law school?
DAVID MEDINA: I looked for a school that had a strong curriculum in intellectual property law, had many ways to get hands-on experience through a clinic or externship, and was actively engaged in shaping the world around me. ASU Law had all of those attributes.
First, I was blown away when I discovered the depth of ASU Law’s curriculum in IP law. Rivaling many of the top IP schools in the country, ASU Law has classes ranging from the typical IP survey course all the way through to cutting-edge classes such as “High Tech Licensing,” “Biotech Licensing and Litigation,” and “Genetics and the Law.”
Second, ASU Law’s commitment to clinics, externships and other types of hands-on experience is unparalleled. As an example of some of the amazing opportunities ASU Law has to offer, I was able to work as a full-time extern for a judge at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington D.C. Although my experience truly was one-of-a-kind, ASU Law’s connections with the state and federal judiciary allowed many of my classmates to spend semesters with the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, with federal district courts and with the state court of appeals.
Third, the Center for Law, Science and Innovation serves as a great springboard for getting involved in the discussion of how technology affects the law. Through the center, I worked with faculty to research and write a paper on cyber-security; helped put on an electronic discovery conference that gained national prominence, and met key players in law and technology.
The program taught me how to learn and succeed in law school, and I credit practically all of my success to it. Before entering the program, for example, I had no idea what an outline was, how one studied for a law school exam or how to prepare for class. Even after learning in the abstract how to outline, study and prepare, I didn’t have a real understanding of what those tasks meant until I actually tried to employ the techniques I learned.
The result is that I had enough experience to hit the ground running in my first week in law school. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without having gone through the program.
LD: What has been your most memorable or valuable law school experience?
DM: I absolutely loved my externship at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. Because ASU Law has a strong commitment to hands-on experience, I was allowed to live in D.C. for a semester and work with a judge as a full-time extern. Working in chambers dramatically improved my writing and critical thinking skills.
Further, because ASU Law has a campus in D.C., I was able to continue taking law classes to be able to graduate on time. I can’t speak highly enough about how great it was to work with the judge, and how important it was to have ASU Law support me in every way.
LD: What do you plan to do with your law degree?
DM: I plan to practice law as a litigator in the intellectual property and cyber-security fields. I was offered a job at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, where I worked last summer in the Silicon Valley IP litigation group.
Orrick threw me in the fire by assigning me the task of reading a brief – a motion to disqualify opposing counsel – and then critically questioning the partner who would present Orrick’s case. In essence, they had me prepare him for the next day’s oral hearing on our motion. Turns out the judge asked him the same questions I had posed.
Then I worked on a patent litigation suit researching and writing memos and, eventually, a section of our motion for summary judgment.
What I discovered about litigation is that it confers a sense of purpose, a sense that I’m doing something that uses the broad set of skills I’ve obtained.
I actually thought I’d go to law school, master some new skills and take them back to my work with a startup. Turns out that I fell in love with litigation. My personality was built for this. I’m very comfortable dealing with ambiguity and thinking about things from a neutral perspective, but I also enjoy advocating.
I’m the oldest child in my immediate family, and I’ve always defaulted to being the one who figures things out and explains to others, and to protecting the rights of the person who may have been wronged. Flip that switch and I’m on.
Luckily for me, I came into law school with a clear idea of where I wanted to be when I finished; knowing that I was interested in the intersection of technology and the law. It may have been an arbitrary choice – it’s what I knew I liked. But I’ve stuck with it because it’s given me a path, the direction I need to “kick butt.” Now, I’m happy to say that I’ll be doing what I set out to do after I graduate.
Contact Margot Slade at (646) 722-2623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.