Interview with Santa Clara Law School Assistant Dean Alexandra Horne

Published October 2006, last updated July 2009

Top-Law-Schools.com is proud to feature an exclusive interview with Assistant Dean Alexandra Horne (“Alexa”), discussing the nationally ranked and renowned High Technology law program that she oversees (View Santa Clara Law School Profile). Alexa’s care and interest in leading this program to greater heights was evident throughout the interview.

Alexa, please talk about your personal history with Santa Clara’s High Technology program, both as Dean and as a student, as well as the history of this program’s rise to excellence over the last 15 years.

I came to the law school six months ago and am continuing to build upon the work of Elizabeth Powers, who was Assistant Dean of the High Tech Law Program for the two years previous. Santa Clara Law School has had an outstanding Intellectual Property (“IP”) and high tech law program for a number of years. When I came to Santa Clara Law School in 1989, I came for the IP program. I knew that I wanted to be an IP attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area and I choose Santa Clara over all the other law schools in the Bay Area because of its IP program.

I think that ever since Silicon Valley has been a semiconductor and tech center, students have come to Santa Clara because of the IP and High Tech program. When I attended there was not a High Tech certificate program, so that is one of the changes that has occurred since I was a student here. Additionally, the course offerings have expanded over time. However, I was able to take all the core courses on patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and unfair competition, so I was given a terrific education that prepared me for my technology practice as a lawyer at Skjerven Morrill.

With former Dean Player’s founding of the High Tech Law Institute and appointing an Assistant Dean as head of the Institute and High Tech Law Program, the law school really improved the High Tech program and made it a large focus of the school. The program continues to develop and expand and now offers a certificate program in High Tech. Students can get the certificate with an emphasis upon Technology Law, upon corporate issues within IP law, or an International IP certificate that has an International law component.

The law school was delighted when Donald Chisum joined the faculty. Don’s treatise on patent law is the definitive treatise and both lawyers and judges refer to and cite this treatise. While Santa Clara has always been on the map for its excellent IP and technology law programs, Don’s joining the faculty increased the program’s national presence as confirmed by law school rankings. We have been ranked amongst the top ten law schools in intellectual property by U.S. News ever since they started ranking IP programs three years ago. Students come from across the country and around the world to this program because of our reputation.

Assistant Dean Horne, what are some unique opportunities that are found only at Santa Clara Law School’s High Technology Program, such as excellent Internships and connections with technology companies.

Numerous top IP firms and technology companies, such as Cisco, Ebay, Sony Entertainment, offer internships to students. Both firms and companies are delighted to have our students and there are more corporate sponsors seeking interns than students seeking internships. Many students receive job opportunities from these companies upon graduation.

For example, Sun Microsystems is developing a very unique program that is multiyear in scope, and their interns are immediately hired after leaving Santa Clara Law School. This is rare, for most technology companies do not have the training capabilities and require students to work at a law firm for a year or two before they can go in-house. But Sun’s program provides the training throughout the internship, preparing students for immediate employment after graduation.

Interns not only receive great experience from the 225 hours of work, but also 4 units of credit.

Senior Assistant Dean, Julia Yaffee: Another example of Santa Clara Law School working with local companies is Intel, which is headquartered in Santa Clara. Intel’s IP department is almost exclusively Santa Clara Law School graduates, including their general counsel, Tom Dunlap. This has occurred because for many years Intel sends 3 highly qualified employees to learn high technology law in our part-time program as they work at Intel during the day.

Tom Dunlap, of Intel, and counsel from other local technology firms as well as partners from local law firms are part of the Dean’s High Tech Advisory Counsel. The High Tech Advisory Counsel and Board help shape the IP program and curriculum at Santa Clara Law School. This synergistic partnership with local technology companies and law firms helps maintain the great reputation of our program within Silicon Valley.

Alexa: Other opportunities provided at Santa Clara Law School include the numerous conferences and networking opportunities that are provided. The High Technology Program sponsors conferences throughout the year. Our largest conference is IP week, which is a weeklong series of lectures on all aspects of technology law. The Santa Clara Computer & High Technology Journal provides a 2 day symposium examining various IP issues. Additionally, we work in conjunction with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics to provide a conference on examining biotech concerns.

The Intellectual Property Association is very active and constantly networks with local employers. For example, every week we have High Tech Tuesday, where local practitioners come in and discuss their practice areas and then later mingle with the students.

What are the Future Goals and Directions of the High Technology Program?

One of the issues we are working on in the future is to continue to add to our full-time faculty in the IP/Technology program. We just hired Tyler Ochoa from Whittier University, who focuses upon Copyright, Trademark, and Defamation law issues. We are thrilled to have him.

Being located in the center of Silicon Valley, we are better situated than Stanford or Boalt at attracting local practitioners who are expert at Technology Law. These practitioners are wonderful and smart and are right on top of new legal issues, for they practice their area of law daily. They are available generally during evenings or weekends to teach the full-time and part-time students.

We are continually expanding our course offerings in IP and High Tech. Additionally, we will strengthen our relationships with the local high tech law firms, and hopefully they will assist and invest in our program and continue to hire our graduates.

Alexa, thank you for speaking with us today about your plans to expand and improve your already renowned program in High Technology Law.


Read Dean Polden’s interview discussing his future goals for Santa Clara Law School.