What is it?
From the controversy over the National Security Agency’s surveillance program to the debate over network neutrality and regulation of the Internet, the ability to solve many of today’s most pressing problems depends on a deep grounding in both the law and technology. The Engineering/Computing & Law program which leads to both an undergraduate degree in engineering or computer science and a JD in law is a cooperative effort between the School of Law and the College of Engineering and Computing.
The program is designed to assist third and fourth year engineering and/or computer science students in preparation for a career in law. Following preparation and taking of the LSAT, students are accepted into the program and enter the law school as Thomas Scholars focusing on a plan of study in patent law, product liability and intellectual property law. This is further supported not only by an internship with a partner law firm, but also a capstone course in one of these disciplines to prepare the student for a career in this area. Capstone courses are five-hour courses taught in the third year of law school which simulate a case from start to finish, allowing students to assimilate knowledge from their undergraduate law school experience.
How the Program Started
For years, George Thomas, class of ’57, had pondered the challenges of attracting attorneys to the specialized aspects of patents, trademarks, copyrights and related litigation. As partner in the Atlanta firm of Thomas Horstemeyer, he sought for a pipeline which provided a thorough and comprehensive understanding of engineering for law students. Thomas, having earned a mechanical engineering degree at USC and subsequent law degree at American University, reached out to the College of Engineering and Computing about the possibilities of creating a curriculum to fill the specialized and expanding niche of legal studies in patent law, intellectual property, and product liability.
What began as a few questions of how and what can be done resulted in the creation of the Engineering/Computing & Law Program at USC. Thomas provided a lead gift of $40,000 to establish the program.
What A Student Can Expect
Part One: Undergrad Engineering & Computing
- Career and Student Services provide guidance and information to interested students, along with guest lectures from legal professionals and engineering consultants
- Students apply for admission to the program
- Preparation for taking LSAT
- Summer Program of visiting law firms where students learn about the role of engineering in law by visiting a law firm specializing in cases requiring engineering expertise
- Students selected into program
- Student takes the LSAT at beginning of their senior undergraduate year
Part Two: Law School
- Thomas Scholarship recipients awarded in amounts of:
- $2,000 or
- $2,500 per year
- Courses specializing in copyright law, products liability, and patent law taught by faculty with an interest in Engineering Specialized Study.
- Required internship with local law firm including stipend provides hands-on experience for student in the program.
- Capstone courses: where student demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge at engineering in the legal field.