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Legal Studies Curriculum For Technical Professionals

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Engineering Courses II

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.885.1 - 10.885.8



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Paper Authors

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Paul Rossler

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Martin High

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Legal Studies Curriculum for Technical Professionals

Martin S. High, Paul E. Rossler Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK 74063


A novel curriculum has been designed involving the legal aspects of engineering as they apply to technology practice. The purpose of the curriculum is two-fold: 1) to make technical professionals aware of how engineering practice relates to an organization’s legal duties and 2) to encourage those professionals to engage in policy debates that shape business regulation and the common law. From an educational perspective, the curriculum is a logical extension of traditional science and engineering education in that it demonstrates the practical and economic importance of applying sound technical skills. More important, it provides business with technologists who recognize the economic value of responsible design practices. Society, in turn, benefits from better, safer products and processes, and from legal systems and processes that better reflect the unique challenges of technology practice.


Starting in the mid-to-late 1970s, and continuing to present day, legal issues have intruded upon engineering and technology practice. Despite the increased probability that an engineer will encounter a legal issue in daily practice, (almost) all engineering curricula do not reflect this, choosing instead to emphasize technical skills in engineering electives. While this emphasis is understandable, it unfortunately does not necessarily help an engineer understand, for example, whether her company’s design decisions would satisfy the legal system’s risk-utility test for products liability. Nor does it help the engineer to know whether the latest process improvement is valuable intellectual property that can be protected. Instruction on those topics does occur in existing science and engineering curricula, but it tends to be done on an ad hoc basis and without the benefit of educational materials.

This paper addresses a novel curriculum that complements the existing technical curriculum and provides a foundation on which a technical professional can identify legal issues among the myriad technical issues confronted in practice. The paper begins with a brief discussion as to why legal studies are helpful to technical professionals. Next, Oklahoma State University’s legal study program goals are described, followed by an overview of the curriculum and courses that comprise the Legal Studies Program. Delivery issues are then discussed. The paper concludes with program assessment results to date and general conclusions as to the benefits of this program to our graduates.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Rossler, P., & High, M. (2005, June), Legal Studies Curriculum For Technical Professionals Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14909

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