Mobile App Challenge Teaches Law Students Tech for the Trade
Southwestern Law School is in the midst of an exciting new addition to its curriculum—a hands-on course that takes students through the legal and technical aspects of creating an application for mobile devices. The Mobile App Challenge began the first week of January 2017 and is continuing through the spring semester. In this three-credit course, students are taking part in multi-disciplined teams to develop a mobile app, which will be designed to solve a particular problem. Students are also learning related theory, creative and hands-on problem solving, teamwork and communication skills.
Professors Rani Yadav-Ranjan and Larraine Segil are teaching the course, which inspires students to innovate and support clients with state-of-the-art technology. The course also addresses certain legal issues surrounding the needs of entrepreneurs, such as ownership and fiduciary responsibility, as well as various pertinent agreements, and provides a lawyer’s understanding of financial projects and representations for a start-up enterprise.
“Taught by two experts with vast experience leading business and technology companies, the Mobile App Challenge course immerses students in the business, technical, and legal issues surrounding start-up technology companies, and equips students with skills to be effective counselors or entrepreneurs in the growing tech economy in the Los Angeles area, as well as in Silicon Valley,” said Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Professor of Law, Byron G. Stier.
“The strength of student enthusiasm for this project is quite extraordinary,” added Dean Susan Prager.
One of the students enrolled in the course, Ricci Sergienko ’18, said, “The opportunities for law students after they graduate extend far beyond just practicing law. Nowadays many law graduates focus on entrepreneurial careers. The mobile app challenge course has given us in-depth insight into what the world holds for those with law degrees who aren't necessarily interested in practicing law.”
Companies sponsoring the course include Amazon, Sports 1 Marketing, app startup VIRL, and Make in LA, which supports hardware entrepreneurship. Guest lecturers for the course include noted technology and media executives and producers, including actor John de Lancie, well known for his work in the Star Trek series; Denise Sirkot of Gracie Films, a former producer of The Simpsons; and James Segil, who is the former Co-Founder and President of EdgeCast Networks, Inc., which was acquired by Verizon in 2013 for a reported $400 million. Southwestern professors Michael Dorff and Michael Epstein are also serving as guest lecturers in the course on related legal issues.
Course learning objectives include teaching students to program software with at least a basic understanding sufficient to advise programmer clients competently. Students are also learning how to complete flow- or spider-charting of problems for practical lawyering, and how to develop a pitch and present a business idea with accompanying legal requirements. Throughout the course, students work in teams in a start-up environment where they will gain an understanding of the needs of entrepreneurs, address issues of ownership that include fiduciary responsibility, buy-sell agreements, employment and termination agreements, and non-compete, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement agreements.
Professor Yadav-Ranjan is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer of 4PIA, Inc (People in Action), which has more than 6 million registered users, and Managing Member and Chief Executive Officer of Purple Leaf, LLC. She was named “One of the 100 Most Influential Business Women in the Bay Area” by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, has received a Commendation from the City of San Jose for Entrepreneurship and Leadership in Big-Data Technologies, and is a member of the Committee of 200, an organization comprised of the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate innovators.
Professor Segil is Chief Executive Officer of the Little Farm Company and Partner Emeritus of Vantage Partners LLC. In addition, she serves as a Trustee of Southwestern Law School; Board member of Frontier Communications, Vanir Construction Management, Inc., and the National Association of Corporate Directors of Southern California; is a member of the International Advisory Council of APCO Worldwide; and is Past Chair of the Committee of 200 Foundation. She has received the Southwestern Excellence in Teaching Award for Adjunct Professor, and created the Larraine Segil Scholars program for women at Southwestern Law School and the Drucker School of Management. She received her J.D. from Southwestern Law School; her M.B.A. from Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management; and her B.A. with Honors in Classics, from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.