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Stanford snaps up hacker lawyer
Joel Enos, SecurityFocus 2001-01-04

San Francisco lawyer Jennifer Granick puts practice on hold to become Clinical Director for Stanford?s Center for Internet and Society.

Its digital economy may be leveling out, but Silicon Valley still has Internet issues heavy on the brain. So much so in fact, that this month marks the opening of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, a subset of the Stanford Law School. Designed by Professor Lawrence Lessig, the Center will allow students to concentrate directly on issues of privacy, public policy and new Internet legislation.

The forward-thinking Center will put students into the unique position of actually influencing the laws that, previously, they would have simply studied.

"I started the program because I wanted to find a way to involve students in the policy struggles that will define the future of cyberspace," explains Lessig.

To do that effectively, Lessig needed a director that fit into a very specific niche -- someone with top-notch legal experience and a drive to understand and, as Lessig puts it, "define" how we police the Net. To fill that role, Lessig says he "could think of no better director" than San Francisco-based lawyer Jennifer Granick.

Granick, who has defended multiple hacker-related cases, done extensive research on encryption and copyrights, and written about trademark law, privacy, and wiretapping, jumped at the chance to take become the Center's Clinical Director, a job she begins on Monday.

"My current practice helps people a lot, but on an individual basis," explains Granick. "I do a lot of hacking cases, computer security, trade secrets. But like most computer court cases, they are business related. While there may be a public interest component, it can get lost in the shuffle. The clinic will have a much greater policy effect on the larger public."

What that specific impact will be is still unclear. Such university programs (a similar center will also open this year at Berkeley, and one is already in place at Harvard), as well as Internet law in general, are a relatively new phenomenon.

"The long-term goals are flexible," Granick admits. "What the center ends up looking like has a lot to do with cases that come up and what the students are going to be interested in." But the potential policy-making role the center could play through future litigation, "at a time when public interest Internet issues are new and the laws are being formed" was enough for Granick to put her own successful practice largely on hold.

No matter what they work on first, the students and professors at the center will most likely have a strong influence on shaping concrete Internet law.

Proposed areas of research include cases where copyright law and freedom of speech clash, the digital division of access (Internet haves and have-nots) and open broadband issues. Granick adds that "students will write reports and studies, and may even lobby or take on actual legal cases if they are of enough interest."

Granick plans to focus all of her attention this year on the project, but may take on a few criminal cases if they fit with her new work. She will also remain on the panel of attorneys that represents indigent criminal defendants before the United States District Court in San Jose.

And as for being intimidated about teaching college for the first time, Granick responds incredulously:

"Getting up in front of people and saying what I think? I already do that every day."

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