To succeed in the complex legal landscape of today, law school grads must be prepared to navigate the intersection of law, business, and technology—familiar territory for Marshall Phelps ’69, a pioneer and leading figure in the field of intellectual property. Through a generous gift to support the Law School’s programming at Cornell Tech, Phelps has ensured that Cornell Law students will have access to exceptional training and connections in these areas.
Early in his career, in the 1970s and 1980s, Phelps was in the vanguard of those integrating technology and the law, working for IBM first as a litigation attorney and then, after earning an M.S. from the Stanford University School of Business, as an executive. His experiences in law and business convinced him of the important role technology would continue to play in both fields. “When Cornell Tech came along, I thought, ‘Well, we’ve finally institutionalized it,’” he remarks.
The Law School’s programming at Cornell Tech will receive a major boost from the gift that Phelps is making ahead of the 50th reunion of the Class of 1969 this spring. Building on that gift, Phelps is also making a bequest that will establish the Marshall and Eileen Phelps Fund for Digital and Information Law, which will fortify the Law School’s ability to provide instruction in the area of technology-related law, with a focus on topics including intellectual property, artificial intelligence, the regulatory environment, and fintech.
“When I was a law student, there wasn’t really an intellectual property curriculum. Now, IP is at the forefront of legal practice. Every lawyer is in some sense an IP lawyer,” says Phelps. “Law is not sitting in a library with a bunch of books. Tech and law are inextricable, and my hope is that the marriage of the two will really be taken seriously.”
Phelps is and has been a consultant to many international companies, including General Electric, Price Waterhouse Coopers, SAP, Samsung, and Boeing. He has served on the Intellectual Property Committee of the National Academies of Science as well as seven boards and has written and spoken extensively at numerous business forums and universities. He also writes a monthly column for Forbes and is the author of Burning the Ships, Intellectual Property and the Transformation of Microsoft, published in 2009.
Phelps has received numerous awards, including IBM’s Career Achievement Award and Distinguished Service Award, and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Muskingum University. In 2006, he was elected to the initial class of the Intellectual Property Hall of Fame.
Phelps’ interest in law, technology, and business has driven his continued involvement in the Law School, where he has shared his insights as a lecturer, symposium speaker, and, recently, Distinguished Practitioner in Residence. He’ll reach even more students through his partnership with Cornell Tech. The Marshall and Eileen Phelps Fund for Digital and Information Law will benefit hundreds of students every year, and the result will be graduates who are well prepared to carry on the finest traditions of Cornell Law School, helping businesses, governments, and NGOs navigate the most complex issues of the modern world.