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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bill Patry on Why I Wrote a Treatise

[Ed.: While we're sorting out some technical difficulties, Bill Patry put this initial post together.]

Given the size of the [new copyright] treatise (7 volumes of text, about 5,800 pages), people have asked me how I did it, but they might also be wondering why. I have asked myself that question countless times, usually in the midst of one of the hundreds of exasperating technical or clerical snafus that made up the bulk of the time preparing the book. I estimate that for every hour I spent on research or writing, three more were spent on mindless tasks. Since I did 100% of the research and writing, never using assistants of any stripe, and since I personally tackled all of the aforesaid mindless tasks too, we are talking about a lot of time. What began as a thorough revamping of an earlier work stretched out to seven years; when one includes time spent on earlier works adapted in this text, another seven years can be added on. So, why spend so much time? One answer is I didn't think I was going to. The most direct answer, though, is to educate myself. Writing for others requires a discipline I found to be the best way for me to understand issues. I could, of course, have written the book and then not published it, but had I known in advance I wouldn't be publishing it, there would be little incentive to be as careful.

What was interesting for me, and what I hope will be interesting to others, is placing copyright issues in the personal, social, and political contexts in which they arose. In my eight years experience in the legislative branch of government, I gained some insight into how problems are identified, debated and ultimately resolved or not at the policy level. In 13 years of private practice, I gained some insight into the forces that lead to litigation, what it is like to present cases for decision especially the practical economic considerations, as well as the consequences of victory or loss in the courtroom. In five years as a full-time academic, I gained some insight into how one goes about thinking and writing about copyright as a system of law. I have tried to meld all these experiences together in this book.

Everyone's experiences and interests are different. My interest is learning what I can everyday from whoever and wherever I can. I let the rest take care of itself.

Posted by Administrators on January 13, 2007 at 08:35 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Well Bill, this really interesting. Since you are "sharing" (i find that term very American, so forgive my quotation marks), would you mind elaborating on a few related experiences:
a) what is it like to leave the academy and move back to practice? most people move the other direction. What do you miss most? What do you miss least?
b) were the monetary incentives in writing a treatise part of the equation?

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Jan 13, 2007 10:55:23 PM


I too share a dislike of "sharing" with or without quotation marks. On moving from the academy to private practice, I have a number of thoughts. The first is that because of my diverse background, people have hard a hard time categorizing me. This has caused me endless tsouris: When in private practice (which book-ended my time in government service and academy), most private practitioners viewed me as "academic" in the sense of writing too much to be a real lawyer. Yet, when I went to the academy, not a lot of academicians regarded me as a real academic because of my extensive time in private practice and government service and because my writing was at that time (less so now) fairly doctrinal rather being than "Law &." The best part of leaving the academy was the money. The worst part about being in private practice was hustling business and billable hours.

Being at inhouse at Google melds the best of both worlds: there are an awful lot of really smart people who care about policy issues, and the company is obviously on the cutting edge of many legal and commercial issues.

The monetary incentives for the treatise were definitely a part of the equation, but not the motivating factor even though I wouldn't have written it if I didn't think ultimately I would make some money.

Posted by: William Patry | Jan 14, 2007 1:41:43 PM

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