The Girl With the Tech Law Tattoo
By Tracy Seipel
Tech Edge J.D. internship at Twitter leads to soul-searching, new career path for Jess Miers J.D. ’21.
She’s just a second-year law student, but Jess Miers J.D. ’21 knows about Section 230 like the back of her hand.
Actually, it’s tattooed there, inside her left wrist, in black ink.
Often called “the most important law in tech,” or “the Internet’s First Amendment,” Section 230 is a landmark piece of Internet legislation included in the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Basically, it says that Web sites are not liable for third-party content.
So when Miers, a member of Santa Clara University’s Tech Edge J.D. program, landed her “dream internship” at Twitter this summer and discovered that she’d be working on Section 230 cases as part of her rotation, she was elated.
Tech law internships are required as part of the program, which focuses on career planning from Day One. Combine that with individualized mentorship and courses keyed to the intersection of law, business and technology, and by the time they graduate, these students should have a leg up on their competition. This summer, every one of the the Tech Edge J.D.’s first cohort of 12 secured an internship.
At San Francisco-based Twitter, Miers’ Section 230 work involved researching and understanding the intermediary liability laws of other countries to help the social media company respond to requests to remove certain content. The legal framework she says she built for Twitter’s responses took into account the “American-centric” Section 230 approach, and various human rights conventions.
There were also general counsel assignments that had nothing to do with her passion. Whether it was analyzing Twitter’s advertising contracts or researching privacy law cases, she admits, “I’m not super-interested.”
But if she planned to become an in-house Internet lawyer, wide-ranging cases would be her reality.
“I didn’t fit in as in-house counsel, and I’m not cut out for a law firm,” she recalls thinking to herself. “I was feeling like I don’t fit in like everyone else does.”
So Miers went soul-searching, reaching out to her mentors–at Twitter, at the Tech Edge J.D. program, and her advisor, SCU Law Professor Eric Goldman. All of them counseled her to remain true to her love of Internet policy, but to consider charting a slightly different career course.
“That was crucial to hear, for my mental health,” says Miers.
In the end, she decided to change her career path from Internet lawyer to legal expert on Internet policy. In a J.D. Advantage position, for example, she could work for an employer–whether a business, government or public interest group–that needs someone with a law degree to help their legal efforts, though the position itself does not require admission to the bar or a law license, according to the National Jurist magazine.
Looking back on her Tech Edge J.D. internship at Twitter, Miers learned a lot about herself, and some important skills for any lawyer-to-be: don’t overcommit to your boss, speak up if you’re getting overwhelmed, and be able to write a legal memo in 280 characters or less. Lengthy memos, her Twitter boss told her, don’t get read.
But the life-changing “aha” moment she stumbled on resonates most.
Without her Twitter odyssey, the support of her mentors and Professor Goldman, “I would not have discovered what I really wanted to do.”
Oct 2, 2019
SCU Tech Edge J.D. student Jess Miers at Twitter. Photo by Jim Gensheimer.