New Club on the Block: An Introduction to LIST

Virginia Law, Innovation, Security and Technology

From Right to Left: Irina Danescu, Chinny Sharma, and Philip Doerr, the founders of Law, Innovation, Security and Technology

From Right to Left: Irina Danescu, Chinny Sharma, and Philip Doerr, the founders of Law, Innovation, Security and Technology

Autonomous vehicles facing moral dilemmas. Artificial intelligence demonstrating systematic biases. Physical attacks conducted through cyberspace. More than plot devices in a Black Mirror-esque show, these are among the challenges that sparked an idea between us, - Chinmayi (“Chinny”) Sharma, ‘19, Philip Doerr, ‘20, and Irina Danescu, ‘20 -  to create a nexus for students, professors, and employers interested in grappling with the legal issues presented by pivotal technologies. The result was LIST, or Law, Innovation, Security, and Technology, which launched in Fall 2017 and is kicking off events this week with the goal of providing law students the tools and opportunities to engage with the legal issues raised by new and existing technologies.

We came to law school with differing professional experiences and perspectives — which is appropriate given the range of issues included under the expansive “innovation, security, and technology” umbrella. As a former programmer, Chinny knew she wanted to pursue cybersecurity law, but found that while there was clear interest in the subject among students and faculty, there was no centralized means for these individuals to work together to organize events, facilitate contacts with relevant employers, or equip students with the technical acumen demanded by jobs in this area. Irina, having previously worked on military cybersecurity and cyber operations at the RAND Corporation, found a robust national security infrastructure but a less clear roadmap for a student interested in its intersection with cyber and technology law. Finally, Phil, a former consultant who came to law school with a passion for entrepreneurship focused on emerging technologies, realized that while UVa’s Darden School has a strong focus on tech entrepreneurs, the law school must also play a critical role in developing students’ understanding of the nuanced legal issues implicated in technological innovation. 

We found that we were not alone in seeing these gaps as opportunities for student initiative. Ashley Deeks, a professor of international and national security law and one of the group’s faculty advisors, says: “Lawyers are going to play an incredibly important role in navigating this new world in which technology—including cyber operations, artificial intelligence, and machine learning—will play a central role. The use of each of these technologies raises really difficult legal issues, and companies and governments developing and employing these technologies increasingly need lawyers to analyze and advise on those issues.” 

Accordingly, LIST has two primary goals: (1) to educate students about both the legal issues and underlying technologies that will impact their work, whether litigation or transactional, public or private; and (2) to help launch students into tech-related legal fields, including tech entrepreneurship, national security, data protection, and more. In order to achieve these goals, LIST is pursuing several parallel lines of effort: capitalizing on a rich network of faculty contacts and interested professionals from law firms, government agencies, and public service organizations to organize educational events; launching a Professional Development Program, which includes exclusive tech law research projects with premier organizations in the field and a mentorship program with partner law firms; and coordinating opportunities for students to learn about jobs available in tech and cyber law. 

Professor Deeks recognizes that this space in the legal profession is constantly changing, and she agrees that “by working to establish connections with practitioners in the cyber and technology arena, LIST will help students be able to more concretely understand what a legal practice in this area looks like.”

So far, LIST has sourced over ten unique research opportunities with organizations such as Future of Privacy Forum, Open The Government, Restore the Fourth, and Global Cyber Alliance. Several students have already been matched to projects and several more still have applications pending review. At the end of the semester, students who participate in the LIST Professional Development Program will have the opportunity to make a 5 minute presentation about their semester’s work to a crowd of peers, professors, and professionals from the tech field. This panel will occur right before LIST’s inaugural networking event, during which it will be inviting attorneys from tech companies, tech-related practices at firms, tech-focused nonprofits, and tech-involved government offices. Following the event, LIST members will be invited to small dinners with these professionals, divided up by subject matter area (AI, autonomous vehicles, drones, etc.). 

The spring semester also promises to be an exciting first semester, with LIST hosting several speakers and events, including:

Chuck Rosenberg, the former acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, on January 31

Ari Schwartz, the former senior director for cybersecurity on the United States National Security Council Staff at the White House, on February 2

A panel at the Shaping Justice Conference regarding “Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and the Future of Criminal Justice,” also on February 2

Craig Silliman, Verizon’s general counsel, for a discussion of Net Neutrality on February 6

Tim Tobin of Hogan Lovells and Colin Tooze of Uber for a discussion of the legal implications surrounding the rise of autonomous vehicles on March 21

A Capture the Flag event, a tech- and policy-focused cybersecurity simulation, with UVa’s undergraduate Computer Network Security group

LIST also has several events in the planning stages, including the large April networking event and student research presentation panel. 

If you would like to get involved with LIST, please feel free to reach out to any of us—we Chinny, Phil, or Irina- with any questions, and we hope to see you at one (or all!) of our upcoming events this year!