Tom Lavelle, Santa Clara Law alumnus and Silicon Valley luminary, is the new managing director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara Law
By DEBORAH LOHSE and ELIZABETH KELLEY GILLOGLY B.A.’93
Santa Clara Law’s High Tech Law Institute has a new managing director, but he is not new to tech. Thomas Lavelle J.D. ’76 has been working in the Valley for 30+ years, previously serving as general counsel for Rambus and Xilinx after having spent 16 years in senior legal positions at Intel. He served briefly as VP and general counsel for Steve Jobs at NeXT Computer, a company Jobs created in the 1980s, which was bought by Apple. Lavelle is a member of the Law School’s Board of Visitors and has served as a member of the High Tech Law Advisory Board for many years. He also currently serves as a director of the Intel Alumni Network, a local nonprofit organization.
“Tom Lavelle has built up wonderful connections in Silicon Valley and has decades of valuable experience helping technology companies navigate the technology law landscape,” said Lisa Kloppenberg, dean of Santa Clara University School of Law. “We are delighted that this highly dedicated and accomplished alumnus will be helping lead the High Tech Law Institute, ensuring that our students are well prepared to meet the needs and demands of tech leaders worldwide.”
The High Tech Law Institute (HTLI) serves as the hub for numerous high tech law specialties, including intellectual property, biotech, and privacy at Santa Clara University School of Law. Founded in 1998, Santa Clara Law’s high tech law program is currently ranked as the sixth best in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
“Tom has been a luminary in the legal industry for many years, building a strong network of leaders and innovators in the Valley,” said Jeremiah Chan, legal director, global patents at Google. “His deep knowledge of the law and extensive experience make him the perfect person to help lead the High Tech Law Institute into the future.”
“Tom Lavelle’s depth of experience and reputation in the Silicon Valley legal community are second to none,” said Brian Love, co-director of HTLI. “He will add an extra dose of enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit to everything we do.”
“As one of the leading lights in the Silicon Valley legal community for over 30 years, Tom brings a wealth of wisdom and practical experience to Santa Clara Law’s High Tech Law Institute,” said Aaron J. Alter, a former partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, who is now EVP and chief legal officer of Hawaiian Airlines. “The Institute is fortunate to have such an accomplished attorney at its helm.”
“Tom has been a luminary in the legal industry for many years, building a strong network of leaders and innovators in the Valley.”
–JEREMIAH CHAN, LEGAL DIRECTOR, GLOBAL PATENTS, GOOGLE
Q&A WITH TOM LAVELLE
What excited you about this opportunity to return to Santa Clara and join the Institute?
I reached the point in my career where I wanted to do something different—to give back to the school and to the community that has been so good to me. I had the opportunity to stay con- nected with Santa Clara Law by being a member of the High Tech Advisory Board for a number of years, as well as serving on the Law School’s Board of Visitors. When Professor Laura Norris J.D. ’97 was asked to start up the Entrepreneurs’ Law Clinic, I volunteered to mentor some of her students, and that evolved into assisting Laura as an adjunct, overseeing the work product our stu- dents provide to our startup clients. I was given the opportunity to start the In-House Counsel Institute last year, and enjoyed the success the Law School had there. So when the position came open in the High Tech Law Institute, it seemed like a natural fit for my desire to give back and to help the Law School maintain its leadership in high tech law.
What excites me about the HTLI is the opportunity to take a highly successful program to the next level. Santa Clara’s location in Silicon Valley provides the whole University with a unique opportunity to shine. We have been very highly rated in high tech law for a number of years. By coordinating our resources and efforts with Santa Clara’s other tech-related schools and centers, such as the School of Engineering, the Leavey School of Business, and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, we can make SCU not just a great Jesuit university, but a uniquely great high tech academic entity.
What do you love about working with law students?
Working with our law students constantly reminds me of how much I still have to learn. I have been practicing law for 40 years, but I believe I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. They have fresh ideas, bright minds, and lots of enthusiasm. It gives me optimism, and hope for the future, knowing that these young women and men will be a part of running the world well into the future.
What HTLI programs or initiatives do you find the most interesting and successful and why?
It is the HTLI’s ability to adapt that I find most encouraging. The first patent law class in the law school was offered when I was a 3L. Much of our early tech law focus was on computing, includ- ing the engineering of hardware and software that became the PC explosion in the 1980s. Over time, the industry grew and expanded into more areas, and the Internet became the engine of industry. We brought on experts in these new areas of law. We are still very strong on patents and copyrights and Internet law, but now we have added a strong focus on privacy law. What’s next? Self-driving autos, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, and who knows what is after that? We sit in the center of global economic growth for the foresee- able future. It is fascinating, it is challenging, and Santa Clara Law should be a key player in all of it.
In what ways does the HTLI help support the energy and entrepreneurship of Silicon Valley?
Santa Clara Law is integral to the Silicon Valley culture. We have innumerable grads in key positions in Silicon Valley—law firms, major corporations’ law departments, startup companies in new and exciting fields, government agencies, the bench, and even Congress. We work hard to prepare our students for many different roles in the local legal community. Our grads who receive the High Tech certificates are going into top law firms, law departments of exciting new companies, and now even becoming sole legal counsel to some very small startups. The legal profession is evolving, and we need to keep evolving with it, and prepare our students for the ever-changing challenges they will confront.
How would you describe the impact that Santa Clara Law alumni have had on Silicon Valley over the past 25-30 years?
Santa Clara Law alumni have been very successful in Silicon Valley. When I joined Intel Corporation in 1983, four of the five lawyers in the company were Santa Clara Law grads, including the general counsel, Francis T. Dunlap J.D. ’79. It doesn’t take much effort to find Santa Clara Law grads in key spots throughout the legal landscape of the Valley. When I recruited to get faculty for the In-House Counsel Institute last year, it was not difficult to find Santa Clara Law grads in top posi- tions of our most successful companies.
What programs or initiatives do you envision for the future of the HTLI? What new directions might you want to explore as you lead this institute?
It is clear that we need to maintain the strengths we have already developed, and to keep up with the business of technology, which continues to take a larger role in our daily lives. We have done that to date, as we continue to have a strong patent law focus with Professors Colleen Chien and Brian Love. We have achieved excellence in copyright law with Professor Tyler Ochoa, and in Internet law with HTLI co-director and Professor Eric Goldman. We have substantially increased our focus on privacy law, and we offer a Certificate in Privacy to our students who choose to specialize in that booming area. We have developed some good programs for startup law with a number of classes as well as the Entrepreneurs’ Law Clinic. We have started the makings of an executive education program with the In-House Counsel Institute focused largely on tech and biotech legal needs. I see business and technology moving toward the Internet of things, as otherwise inanimate objects (such as lightbulbs, cars, and refrigerators) become connected to the Internet in ways we couldn’t have imagined when I was in law school. On the other hand, we have to be careful to balance—we clearly need to evolve as the law evolves, but we cannot be all things to all people, and in my experience, the way to be the very best is to focus clearly. Finding the right balance will be a big part of my job.
What do you do for fun?
For fun, my wife and I love to hike in the hills above Silicon Valley, among the vineyards, redwoods and wildlife. We love going to Giants games in the City, and we look forward to travelling for pleasure—I have been all over the world, but most of it has been for business. Now we look forward to travelling as tourists. And of course, being with family!
What do you love about living and working in this area?
The energy and the constant change of this area is amazing. I am naturally very curious, and this place provides an incredible source of new and interesting things to learn about. This area is the center point for the global economy, and if anything, our key role is increasing. During my school years, I was worried about getting bored in my job. But living and working here in Silicon Valley, I never find myself bored. It takes a lot of effort just to try to stay up with the constant change. I think the area engenders curiosity and willingness to try new things. For example, my 91-year-old mother texts me somewhat regularly, and she started using emojis! I thought her grandkids were using her phone, but no…it was my mom! Very cool. “Only in Silicon Valley”?