Law Library Legal Tech Institute Publishes 2019 Course Catalog

The Harris County Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute today released the 2019 Course Catalog for its Hands-on Legal Tech Training Program. This year, law librarians will teach nine courses on rotation at the Law Library’s Legal Tech Lab. Each course will focus on tech skills needed for legal work in a digital environment. Training sessions are free and open to all, and most carry free continuing legal education credit for Texas attorneys courtesy of the CLE Committee for the Office of Vince Ryan, Harris County Attorney.

“Since the Law Library joined our Office, we have worked to make it a destination where all residents of Harris County can connect with their government and access legal information,” County Attorney Ryan said. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of the free educational programs at the Law Library and to never hesitate to ask to use ‘our’ resources – they are your resources.”

Two instructors lead small classes of nine participants to ensure an interactive environment where students can ask questions and practice skills as they learn. Laptops funded by a 2017 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation are provided or participants can bring their own devices. Each class also touches on skills for all in attendance, from beginners to pros.

“Technology has clearly been a disruptive force in the legal community,” Legal Tech Institute Director Joe Lawson said. “While that presents competitive opportunities for some, it also creates barriers for others. For example, solo attorneys and self-represented litigants, who do not have in-house trainers and support staff like large law firms, may find it difficult to learn each new legal research platform or to use Microsoft Word in a way that complies with the new, tech-heavy procedural rules. As a public law library, our mission is to eliminate barriers to legal information. Offering these free, hands-on training opportunities to all is a big step in the right direction.”

Visit the Legal Tech Institute website at www.harriscountylawlibrary.org/tech to download a copy of the Course Catalog and to register for an upcoming training session. Anyone who is unable to register on the website can find assistance from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Law Library’s reference desk, located at 1019 Congress Street, 1st floor, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone at (713)755-8153.

Fashion Law: A New Frontier

Law librarian uniform, standard issue.

Law librarian uniform, standard issue.

Law librarians are no strangers to fashion. Anyone familiar with our cardigan game knows what I’m talking about. Increasingly, other lawyers are catching up, with fashion law rapidly expanding as both a practice area and a field of general interest.

What even is fashion law? It covers everything from intellectual property, to business, to international human rights.

Classic cinema.

Classic cinema.

Traditionally, fashion has enjoyed only limited intellectual property protection in the United States, where clothing design has been considered such an essential (or maybe inessential, depending who you ask) part of culture development that copycats have been encouraged by the market and the lack of legal constraints. Readers may recall the classic scene in “The Devil Wears Prada,” when Runway Magazine editor Miranda explains this phenomenon to fashion neophyte Andy, who had no understanding of the lofty origins of her "lumpy blue sweater."

A recent Supreme Court ruling, however, has shifted the conversation. In Star Athletica, L.L.C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc., 580 U.S. ___ (2017), the Court held that graphic designs applied to useful articles can be subject to copyright, even if those designs are apparently essential to the usefulness of the article. This ruling certainly favors large shops with the resources to create novel designs, register them with the Copyright Office, and litigate against smaller operations with fewer resources. However, it also means that independent artists will now have recourse when their designs are mass produced without permission by behemoths like Walmart or Urban Outfitters.

The cheerleader uniforms at the heart of the Star Athletica case.

The cheerleader uniforms at the heart of the Star Athletica case.

View of the Dhaka, Bangladesh river walk.

View of the Dhaka, Bangladesh river walk.

The fashion industry is using the law to combat human rights abuses long associated with “fast fashion.” An international organization called Fashion Revolution is leading the charge to provide safe working conditions and fair wages for everyone employed by the industry, including floor shop laborers in developing nations. International scrutiny of these issues increased significantly in the wake of the November 2012 Tazreen Fashion factory fire, which killed at least 117 workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Attorneys and legal professionals can now obtain specialized degrees in fashion law. The Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School offers both an LLM and MSL in this burgeoning space, as well as two CLE “bootcamp” events, one in New York and the other in San Francisco.

Interested to learn more? Check out The Fashion Law, which tracks legal developments in the fashion industry.