By Ani Torossian • March 28, 2018•Writers in Residence, Law School, Pre-Law, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job
Today’s interview is with Amanda Levendowski, who is currently a clinical teaching fellow with the Technology Law and Policy Clinic at New York University School of Law. She is a graduate of NYU, where she completed both her undergraduate studies and her law degree. Before returning to NYU Law, she worked as an associate at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Cooley LLP focusing on copyright, trademark, Internet and privacy Law. She is also a Wikipedia editor.
Before we enter law territory, my inner bookish nerd cannot refrain from asking you about your Dystopian Book Group. How did this idea come about and how does the process work?
I’d just finished reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, and I kept thinking “Everyone should read this book! And then talk with me about it!” So somewhat selfishly, I started the Dystopian Book Group to help nudge those conversations into being. I picked a handful of other dystopian books, including books I’d been wanting to discuss and ones I’d been hoping to read for a long time, and pulled together a booklist.
When I tweeted about my idea for the book group, I was worried that I was trying to throw a party that no one would come to! But a bunch of folks were interested, and I set up Slack channels for each book so that we could dip into and out of the conversation on our own schedules. And I had so much fun! (I hope the folks who were in the inaugural Dystopian Book Group agree.)
You are an active Wikipedia editor and have engaged with various media outlets to talk about Wikipedia and Law. How do these two fields intersect, and is there a way for them to merge?
In the preamble of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, one of our responsibilities as lawyers is to “further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system.” To me, creating and improving Wikipedia articles about the law is one way to do exactly that.
Regarding your academic interests, intellectual property law has been a guiding light for you throughout law school and beyond. What sparked and continues to spark your interest in it?
My interest in intellectual property law came about as an accident! I did Mock Trial throughout high school and joined NYU’s undergraduate team, but I thought I had no interest in a legal career. I’d moved to New York because I wanted to work in publishing, not because I wanted to be a lawyer. (In hindsight, it’s ridiculous that I spent nearly five years LARPing a lawyer without seriously considering that I might want to be one.)
My freshman year, I was an intern at an incredible indie publishing house, Melville House. One of my bosses asked me to do some preliminary research to see whether I could find who owned the rights to a book, and I absolutely loved it!
That experience changed my entire academic focus: I shifted my concentration to Publishing, Copyright, and Technology, which turned out to be an eerily accurate description of what I do as a lawyer.
Beyond academia, you have also been able to successfully build a career path tailored toward intellectual property law. Do you have any advice for students and young professionals equally inspired by this area of law?
There’s no one path to get a dream job in intellectual property or technology law. Passion and hustle helped me get to where I am, and I think that’s true of many of the people I admire in this space.
The energy that can be spent examining the pathways people have taken to get to where they are and constantly thinking, “My path doesn’t look exactly like that” can almost always be better spent on passion and hustle. And being kind.
When you’re not working, what’s the first thing you turn to?
I’ve always loved books and reading. When I was in high school, I volunteered at my local library and worked at a bookstore. Even though I spend huge parts of my day reading for work, it’s such a luxury to come home and settle in with a good book.
I’m also extremely into board games. My husband and I throw a lot of game nights for our friends, but we’ve been especially into Netrunner lately. It’s a two-player game, where one player is a corporation and the other is a hacker. You can take a guess which role I play.
Could you share a quote or motto that inspires you?
Absolutely! The NYU motto: perstare et praestare, which loosely translates as “to persevere and to excel.”
What’s next on your agenda? Any projects or upcoming events you’d be willing to share with readers?
So much! I’m delighted to be working with the editors of the Washington Law Review on my current article, How Copyright Law Can Fix Artificial Intelligence’s Implicit Bias Problem – they’ve been fantastic. In April, I’ll be out in Seattle to discuss my paper, and I’m hoping to meet some of the stellar students who’ve helped edit the piece.
I always try to have a couple of projects in the works, and I’m very excited for what’s coming up next.