Professor Erika Douglas has joined the full-time faculty at Temple Law School, where she will teach Regulation of New Technologies this semester. Prior to teaching at Temple, Professor Douglas practiced antitrust and technology law at the Silicon Valley office of Covington & Burling LLP. While in practice, she represented several Fortune 100 technology companies in complex antitrust matters and investigations. We checked in with Professor Douglas about her passion for technology, what drew her to teaching, and how her pro bono work has inspired her.
TLS: You’ve had an outstanding career, working with companies like Facebook, Uber, and Google, to name a few. Tell us more about the work you did in practice.
ED: I am first and foremost an antitrust lawyer. I became interested in the intersection of antitrust and technology while working on an antitrust investigation into Google search practices. That work inspired my move to Silicon Valley, to attend Stanford for my LL.M in Law, Science and Technology, and then to practice at Covington & Burling LLP. The firm provided great experience—I was able to work in Facebook’s headquarters with their talented antitrust team, and to work on Eric Holder’s investigation into gender diversity and inclusion at Uber.
TLS: You’ve practiced antitrust and technology law, published articles in various journals and books, and maintain an active pro bono practice. Now you’re joining the academic world as a full-time professor. What inspired you to shift from legal practice to legal education?
ED: I enjoyed legal practice, more than most of my friends who started in the same associate cohort. It is an exciting and challenging way to start out in the law. But over time, I wanted to focus on depth rather than breadth. I was pulled toward academia because I wanted to build autonomy and mastery in the subject matter of my choice, and to work with students.
My teaching centers on the message that the law is real, it’s messy, and it matters every day in practical ways.
TLS: Specifically, what was it about Temple Law as an academic institution that attracted you?
ED: There were two early and clear indicators that Temple Law was a great match for me. First, the faculty at Temple Law share a special combination; they are not only accomplished scholars, but also incredibly thoughtful and kind. Working with people I like has always been a guiding tenet in my career, and it has served me well. It sounds simple, but I think it is often overlooked in favor of other factors when individuals are searching for their next role. Second, the students I met in the recruiting process were bright, thoughtful, and motivated– exactly the type of students every professor wants to teach.
TLS: Let’s talk about your scholarship. You focus on the “intersection of antitrust and intellectual property law, with particular emphasis on the application of legal theory to new technology.” Can you elaborate on this application? What’s the basic question or problem that you’re trying to address?
ED: My scholarship considers how the law, particularly regulatory and liability regimes, can address emerging technology while still promoting innovation. The application of law to technology can stop it in its tracks, as patent assertion entity litigation does for some defendants. It can also empower technological development in amazing ways, as Internet speech laws did in the 1990s. The problem is that law is the tortoise, and technology is the hare. Technology has always outpaced the law, but the relevance of this gap is growing as technological change accelerates and technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous in our lives.
TLS: Why is this issue so important to you? How did you come to be so passionate about it?
ED: An interest in technology runs in the family. My father was an incredibly early adopter of all things tech. When I was a baby, he already had a car phone in the trunk of our family car. Picture a bizarre black briefcase with a phone and giant battery inside, like something an evil mastermind carries around to plot the world’s demise. That was the closest you could get to a cell phone at the time. As I grew up, we shared a fascination and curiosity over technology and its promise. My interest in the law grew up alongside this.
TLS: Your pro bono work has led you to challenge the administration’s repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for young. How has this work impacted your career? How will it impact your teaching style?
ED: The DACA case was incredibly important to me, personally as an immigrant and professionally as an advocate. It showed the usefulness and resiliency of the law in the face of the current administration.
My teaching centers on the message that the law is real, it’s messy, and it matters every day in practical ways; our DACA case is a great illustration of that. As of the last USCIS report, over 110,000 DACA recipients had renewed their DACA status, enabling them to continue to live and work in the U.S. because of the federal injunction we obtained in our case.
Meeting some of the incredible young students who received DACA status also inspired my move into teaching. They are the most intelligent, hardworking, and talented individuals I have ever come across. Their stories are incredibly touching, and will inspire you to push harder in the face of adversity. I encourage everyone to read the declarations from DACA recipients included in our motion for provisional relief in the Northern District of California, some of which are available at the above link. I hope that Congress will act to provide DACA recipients with permanent status here.
Professor Douglas’s office is in Klein Hall, Room 608. Her full bio can be found here.