In late June 2017, Tabrez Ebrahim, a Texas-raised patent attorney born in India, began his weeklong road trip from Houston, Texas, to San Diego, California. Just weeks later, he would begin teaching classes at California Western, marking the start of his first full-time teaching position.
Before pursuing a career in law, Prof. Ebrahim was a R&D engineer in Silicon Valley and attended Stanford University to attain his Master’s in mechanical engineering, as well as a graduate certificate in entrepreneurship. He later earned both his JD and MBA from Northwestern University, before returning to his home state of Texas to eventually attain his LLM in Intellectual Property and Information Law from the University of Houston Law Center. Prof. Ebrahim also worked as a full-time patent attorney in Texas prior to joining the Cal Western faculty.
The Commentary sat down with Prof. Ebrahim to ask him about his journey, his experience at Cal Western, and his new IP elective course, Transactional Intellectual Property, that he will be offering in Fall 2018.
Q: How did you prepare yourself for a career in academia?
While I was working in full-time law practice, I also worked as an adjunct professor in the evenings, teaching courses in business law, supply chain law, and marketing management. Students ranged from undergraduate seniors to MBA students. I knew I wanted to ultimately teach at a law school, and the part-time teaching helped me learn what to expect and exposed me to students’ different learning styles. In addition, I was active in research and I had my law review articles published in journals such as the Northwestern Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property, Wake Forest Journal of Business & Intellectual Property Law, Seattle University Law Review. I have also presented at academic intellectual property law conferences
Q: What part of law school teaching has challenged you the most so far?
Teaching new 1Ls how to write and think in new ways is a challenging but rewarding part of being a law professor. I remember the adjustment when I was a 1L student, because I came from an engineering background that didn’t require much reading or writing, but focused on solving applied math problems. Another aspect that has challenged me as a professor is the tough 1L grading curve, because it requires that I write a 1L exam that can adequately differentiate between the different grade tiers. Because I know that law grades can have a lasting effect on students, I want to design my exams to be as fair as possible.
Q: What are your goals for improving Cal Western?
I am currently the faculty advisor for the Student Intellectual Property Law Association (SIPLA), South Asian Law Student Association (SALSA), Middle Eastern Law Student Association (MELSA), and the Trademark Clinic. I want to help our students connect with patent law and startup opportunities throughout Southern California, and I regularly meet with many students to discuss their career goals, resumes, and strategies for getting internships and full-time jobs. I also want to expand our course offerings in entrepreneurship, and I want to increase alumni engagement with patent attorneys and connections with startups. My other long-term goal is to develop international connections with universities and multinational technology companies in other countries that are similarly interested in patent law, technology transfer, and startups/spinoffs/spinouts.
Q: Tell us about your Transactional Intellectual Property elective in the fall.
This course looks at IP from the business side, which makes the class more broadly relevant. There are no co/pre-requisites for Transactional IP, which is really a “business of IP” course and a very practical course for students interested in business. We will explore how IP fits into the transaction/deal world, particularly when it comes to patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. It’s a good course because some way, somehow, most Cal Western graduates will deal with IP at some point in their long-term career, since studies estimate IP comprises over 85% of the value of S&P 500 companies and a significant portion of the local economy.
In Transactional IP, I will prepare students for the practice of transactional law that involves counseling IP-intensive businesses and startups. In doing so, the course is also a good way for students to learn about the entrepreneurial community of startups and investors, large technology companies, and law firms with technology and startup clients. Transactional IP is great way for students to learn about new career opportunities and about non-traditional career options with a J.D. degree, such as becoming an entrepreneur, search fund operator, angel investor or venture capitalist, corporate development manager, innovation manager, technology transfer director, or C-level executive.
Transactional Intellectual Property will be offered Fall 2018 on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:45-2:10 p.m. For more information, contact Prof. Ebrahim at firstname.lastname@example.org.