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Pathways to the Profession: Kevin Lawler L’19

July 13, 2017

Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the United States and abroad. This dispatch from CTIC 2017 Public Interest Fellow Kevin Lawler L’19 is one in a series of firsthand accounts by Law School students about how their summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers.

Lawler is from Loveland, Ohio and will pursuing a career in intellectual property after graduation.

This summer, I am interning for the Commercial and Intellectual Property Legal Group at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. I have my undergraduate degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and came to Penn Law knowing that I wanted to go into something where I could work with engineering and technology, which led me towards intellectual property. Because of my background, an internship at NASA sounded like the perfect fit.

NASA’s been famous for the space program since its creation in 1958, and, while that is still a driving force at the agency, there are many other aspects of it that people do not immediately think of. There is a lot of work being done on aeronautics, including how to make environmentally responsible aviation. There is also an Earth science program that aims to better understand Earth and predict the climate, weather, and natural hazards. Throughout all of the programs that NASA is running, it works hard to create technology and software that can be used outside of the agency — by other governmental entities, organizations, or even the general public.

There are ten field centers, such as the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (Texas), the Kennedy Space Center (Florida), and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (California), all across the country, and headquarters in Washington, D.C. Working at headquarters has allowed me to interact with several of the centers to see the wide array of legal issues that come out of the different types of projects that they work on. The intellectual property group handles a wide variety of work across the agency including supporting Department of Justice litigation, licensing, handling infringement-related administrative claims, copyright work, trademark work, and computer software. This means that I have been able to work on projects defending NASA’s intellectual property, analyzing its own actions in regard to others’ intellectual property, and helping determine policy for future agreements. 

Coming from an engineering background, Legal Practice Skills was definitely a course that helped prepare me for the summer and made me much more comfortable when I turned my first memo in to my supervisor. I took Administrative Law and Introduction to Intellectual Property this past spring and both have been very helpful. It has been great to know where to start with legal research and then see how the topics that we spoke about in class play out in the real world. I had never thought much about how Admin and IP could work together until I heard of this internship; now I am used to writing memos in which I am switching back and forth from topics taught in each class. It has been a great experience to put what I learned into action working with NASA.

- Kevin Lawler


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