David Post

A Million Interesting Things

Musician, author, blogger, teacher – in true Jeffersonian spirit, Professor David Post is all of these and more. Post is the author of the award-winning book In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace, which he describes as “a natural history of the Internet: what it is, how it works, what shape it has, what kind of things can be found there, how and why it has grown so prodigiously in size.” He teaches intellectual property, copyright, and cyberspace law in addition to contributing to the popular blog The Volokh Conspiracy and performing as a member of two bands, The Dwights and Bad Dog. Post’s endless intellectual curiosity and influence in his field mean that his students quickly become engaged in and out of the classroom with some of the most intriguing, complex issues of the day.

Chief among the issues is how to govern the new “New World” of our era: the Internet. Post believes that “the Internet, in many ways, has acquired the characteristics of a political state. Among other things this means that ‘netizenship,’ a notion of civic virtue that is Internet wide and Internet specific, is crucial to protecting the net as we know it.” But who should be responsible for governance, and how should any sort of “cybergovernment” operate? These critical issues serve as the focus of Post’s current research in preparation for a second book that will continue the train of thought initiated in Jefferson’s Moose.

Shaping the answers to questions like these is what cyberspace law is all about, and as one of the enduring pioneers in the field Professor Post has considerable influence over what direction the discourse takes. In addition to his frequent posts on popular legal blogs, Post is a Fellow at both the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Institute for Information Law and Policy. Given his remarkable stature in one of the most dynamic areas of legal thought, it may come as a surprise to some that Post wasn’t entirely sure about pursuing a law degree at all.

Professor Post earned his J.D. from Georgetown Law Center after a brief career practicing and teaching physical anthropology, the study of human evolution. Although he had always entertained the idea of becoming a lawyer, he viewed his enrollment in the evening division at Georgetown as a sort of experiment. “I was curious about it, so I decided to give it a shot. A part of me thought I would only last a semester or so. As it turns out, I loved it. Law just suited me perfectly – I could see a million interesting things to think about.”

With talent to match his enthusiasm, Post quickly found a position upon graduation clerking for then-Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the D.C. Court of Appeals. Ginsburg was a tough boss who “insisted upon excellence but preferred perfection,” and during his time in her chambers Post “learned a tremendous amount, but more importantly really developed a respect for the work that lawyers do.” Nevertheless, at the end of his clerkship with Ginsburg Post did something virtually unheard of – he declined her offer of a recommendation to a Supreme Court clerkship and instead entered private practice with the Washington, D.C. firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.

As it turned out, Ginsburg decided not to hold that decision against Post. In fact, six years later, as Post was transitioning from firm life to a solo practice, Ginsburg found a reason to try again. She had just been nominated to the Supreme Court, and she knew exactly who she wanted back in chambers. “You’re the best clerk I’ve ever had who didn’t go on to the Supreme Court,” Ginsburg told Post. “Now’s your chance.”

After accepting Justice Ginsburg’s offer and serving for a year at One First Street, Post decided that the time was right for a return to academia. He was drawn to teaching for a variety of reasons. “Teaching requires you to think deeply about a subject – I don’t believe that you really understand something until you’ve taught it,” Post explains. “And of course, being around the energy and the enthusiasm of law students is always exciting. I remember being a student just like them, and how many professors really cared about my development. Now it’s my turn to do it for them.”

Teaching at Temple Law is, for Professor Post, particularly satisfying. “Here at Temple, we know who we are,” says Post. “We have a mission and a purpose.” Post also credits his colleagues with “really caring about what goes on in the classroom. The teaching element of what we do is as important here as the scholarship. Some schools overlook one or the other, but at Temple we get the balance better.”

And then, of course, there’s music. After playing and singing casually in his days at the firm, Post decided that making music was something he wanted to become really good at. “It’s easy to be okay at something,” Post explains. “But I decided that it was worth the effort to be really good.” Along the way, Post has grown to appreciate not just the reward that comes with doing something well, but the change of perspective that making music can bring: “It’s good for your brain to contemplate something beautiful now and then. I like singing, performing, song-writing because they make me better at what I do. Music is so different than what I do for a living – everybody, especially lawyers, needs opportunities to spend time making something beautiful.”

For Professor David Post, the law holds a million interesting things to think about. If the rest of us have any luck at all, given enough time and opportunity, Professor Post will give back to us a million more.

" The teaching element of what we do here is as important as the scholarship. Some schools overlook one or the other, but at Temple we get the balance better. "
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