I am thrilled to be writing my first column for The SciTech Lawyer as the new Chair of this Section. First, I am humbled and overwhelmed to be the Chair. When I joined this Section many years ago as a business lawyer in a small market in western Virginia, I did so primarily for selfish reasons. I had a few clients developing biotechnology products out of the local university, and I knew nothing about the unique issues that these companies face. I discovered that the ABA had a Section that focused on science and technology (SciTech), and that the Section had a committee that dealt with legal issues unique to biotechnology companies. Because I knew a fair amount about business law, but almost nothing about life science—I was a philosophy and business major in school—this Committee became a lifeline. I met lawyers like Julie Fleming, Ellen Flannery, Richard Field, Eric Drogin, and many others who practice extensively in patents, FDA filings, international law, neuroscience, and so forth. The ability to “reach out and touch” those lawyers provided me resources that I did not otherwise have. It gave me confidence to help my clients. The publications, like The SciTech Lawyer and many of the books authored by Section members, educated me. I found a “home” in SciTech. I hope you do, too.
Second, I am apprehensive about writing anything for The SciTech Lawyer. This is one of the flagship publications of our Section. I read every issue! The articles are consistently interesting, relevant, concise, and well written. The authors are true specialists in the subject matters they address. The editorial staff is exceptional. In fact, the editions I usually enjoy most are about areas of science and technology outside of my practice area. I find those editions fascinating! I can spell cloud and mobile and cybersecurity, but it is fun to know stuff that many others in my firm do not when unusual questions arise about science or technology. I often hear, “How do you know that?” I gladly explain that if they read The SciTech Lawyer, they’d learn a lot!
Look What’s Inside
This edition of The SciTech Lawyer is particularly exciting. Just look at the titles! “Cognitive Biases Make Judges and Juries Believe Weird Things.” If you see me in court, I may be the defendant, but that is one cool article. “The Use and Misuse of Genetic Data”—that is more in my sweet spot, but we all will learn a lot from this. Misuse of genetic data is one of the many scary new risks we face. We have two articles on the US Supreme Court ruling in Prometheus, which dealt with patenting of genetic material. “Pseudoscience and the Shale-Gas Debate . . .” may inform you about this very controversial subject. “Scientific Fraud in the Debate Over Immunization” may open your eyes to the sleight-of-hand sometimes used to create “evidence” where real evidence may be lacking.
It’s a Jungle Out There
This will be a challenging year for our Section and for the ABA. The ABA recently unveiled 43 ABACTION initiatives, which detail a new direction and new products for the ABA. The ABA now competes for time and money with many different interests. It is important that our Section continue to provide value to our members by producing useful content for lawyers in the technical fields we cover. Risks that most of us could not have imagined are cropping up everywhere: cybersecurity, invasion of personal privacy, access and misuse of our very DNA, and so forth. That is why our Section’s theme this year is (cue Randy Newman singing) “It’s a Jungle Out There!” Our practices deal with more dangers, and are more important, than they have ever been. SciTech takes those threats seriously, and you will hear more about our initiatives as this bar year moves forward.
I would be remiss if I did not thank many people who have already helped me so much in getting ready for this year. Our wonderful staff of Caryn, Julia, and Barbara is so organized and professional. Other ABA staff members who help us with this magazine, books, programs, marketing, and so forth are top-notch. Lucy Thomson, our immediate past chair, has been very generous with her time and advice as we face a challenging but exciting year ahead. Our past chairs continue to be very active in our Section and are a wonderful driving force for positive change. Our team of officers donates so much time to our Section and care deeply about it. Our delegates combine hard work with experience and relationships to help our Section have far more influence than you might expect of a Section this size. And our Division and Committee chairs and vice-chairs drive our Section. Our content and our initiative start in the committees. We expect a lot from our committees, because you do. What is the point of belonging to a committee in the ABA if it never does anything? Our committees get that, and they constantly push to stay on the leading edge of the topics we cover.
Please become more involved in SciTech committees and projects. Reach out to other members and the leaders in your committees. It will enhance your practice in ways you may not expect. Write an article for your Committee or even for this magazine. You will learn as much as you teach. Follow the content that SciTech produces. It will make you a better lawyer and, maybe, a better citizen. Thanks for your time.