Tech law syllabus


Personal and professional responsibility during this pandemic

  1. As a scholar who studies risk, I take the ongoing covid-19 pandemic very seriously. As a member of this community, I take our responsibility to each other very seriously. As a lawyer, I take the obligations of our profession -- particularly to the more vulnerable and the less powerful -- very seriously. As your professor, I expect that you do as well.
  2. I expect that, unless your medical provider has advised you otherwise, you have received a full course of covid-19 vaccination. My expectation is consistent with the Carolina Creed and with South Carolina law, which merely prohibits the University of South Carolina "from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for any student as a condition of enrollment, attendance at on campus instruction, or residence on campus."
  3. I expect that you will effectively cover your nose, mouth, and genitals at all times while you are in the physical classroom. If there is a medical reason why you cannot wear a mask, you must either speak with me in advance or obtain an explicit accommodation from the Student Disability Resource Center. My expectation is consistent with the current recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the advice of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, with the Carolina Creed, and with South Carolina law, which merely prohibits the University of South Carolina from "requir[ing] its students have received the COVID-19 vaccination in order to be present at the institution's facilities without being required to wear a facemask." The South Carolina Supreme Court unanimously agrees that this language is entirely consistent with a universal mask mandate.
  4. "Effectively cover" means that you will correctly wear a mask that offers adequate protection to those around you -- in other words, a properly fitting mask designated as or equivalent to N95, FFP2, KF94, or KN95. If adequately maintained and correctly worn, surgical masks are also acceptable, although they may not offer you as much protection as rated masks. If you cannot find or afford appropriate masks for this class, I will help you.
  5. I expect that you will not attend class physically if you are sick, feel sick, think you might be sick, have been exposed to covid-19, or have reason to believe that your presence could endanger your colleagues. I will work with you on alternative arrangements.
  6. If you have any concerns at any point about the safety, propriety, or practicality of your attendance or participation, I invite you to talk with me. You are not alone. If you qualify for a formal accommodation from the Student Disability Resource Center, I encourage you to seek one. If you do not qualify for a formal accommodation, I will still offer at least as much flexibility as my discretion allows. While the School of Law does have a general attendance policy, the class records that I maintain will document the quality rather than the form of your participation.
  7. I deeply regret that I cannot promise you a learning environment that is reasonably safe or reasonably effective.


  1. My name is Bryant Walker Smith, and you are welcome to call me Bryant.
  2. My virtual office hours are by appointment.
  3. You can contact me by email.
  4. My Twitter handle is @bwalkersmith, but this is not a reliable way to reach me.
  5. My bio is at here, and my publications are available here. You absolutely need not read these.


  1. Class: Mondays (10:20am - 12:30pm) (except as announced) in room 389, online, or outdoors (as announced)
    1. Note that our law school treats the first day of this semester (a Wednesday) as a Monday.
    2. If you will be both physically and virtually absent for a class, you must communicate with me and coordinate with your classmates -- in advance with the exception of emergencies.
  2. Course schedule
  3. Required materials (unless you make other arrangements with me):
    1. A computer that meets the law school's requirements
    2. Access to reliable high-speed Internet
    3. A webcam
    4. A headset with both a microphone and either headphones or earphones (e.g.,


  1. Relate legal and technological developments to each other and to broader social, cultural, political, and economic changes.
  2. Understand the roles of uncertainty, responsibility, and trust.
  3. Assess the utility of analogies to previous emerging technologies.
  4. Appreciate technical perspectives and proficiencies.
  5. Perform and critique cost-benefit analyses within appropriate systems.
  6. Analyze legal issues from a variety of public and private perspectives.
  7. Articulate policy rationales for particular legal and technical approaches.
  8. Recognize key legal issues implicated by emerging technologies.
  9. Demonstrate practical skills relevant to public- and private-sector legal work.
  10. Read, listen, think, write, talk, and behave like a competent lawyer.


  1. Try!
  2. Prepare.
  3. Respect others.
  4. Challenge yourself.
  5. Comply with the honor code.
  6. Behave like the lawyer you will become.
  7. If you have concerns (general or specific), talk with me.

Sensitivity of subject matter

  1. Recognize and respect that your colleagues’ experiences may be different than your own.
  2. Some students may be personally familiar with the kinds of tragedies, biases, and conditions present in our materials.
  3. All of us (including me) will make mistakes in what we say and how we say it.
  4. If you have concerns about particular topics, I invite you to talk with me.


  1. You must be fully prepared prior to class.
  2. You may not participate in any class session or other course activity while driving.
  3. Use the bathroom and take a break when you need to do so.
  4. During class, you may engage in activities conducive to your learning and participation, including communications that are relevant to our discussion.
  5. During class, you may not engage in activities that are distracting to you or your classmates, including communications that are irrelevant to our discussion.
  6. Familial obligations are an exception to this last rule: While I strongly encourage you to arrange for the care of your dependents during class time, I recognize that this is not always practical, and I support your efforts to balance these multiple responsibilities.


Two-credit component

  1. Grades will be based on your individual and collective inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, and impacts.
  2. Prepare, participate, and perform—or make arrangements in advance.

Third-credit component (optional)

  1. If you are registered for a third credit, you must make contact me no later than February 1, 2022 to discuss an extended writing assignment.
  2. You must complete this assignment no later than April 16, 2022 unless I have granted, in writing, an extension to you.
  3. Extensions are subject to the following policy:
    1. If you do not turn in your final paper by April 16, 2022, your grade for the entire course may appear as blank (unreported).
      1. This will not affect your GPA but might have consequences for financial aid.
      2. You may still be eligible for a CALI award in the course, but your name might not appear in the public record.
    2. If you do not turn in your final paper by August 15, 2022, your grade for the entire course will automatically convert by September 1, 2021 from unreported to incomplete.
      1. Until you receive an actual grade, this incomplete will have the same effect on your GPA as an F.
      2. You will not be eligible for a CALI award in the course.
    3. If you do not turn in your final paper by November 15, 2022, your grade for the entire course will automatically convert by December 1, 2021 from incomplete to F.
  4. To satisfy the law school’s writing requirement:
    1. You must either be graduating later than spring 2022 or have my advance written consent.
    2. You must be registered for the three-credit option.
    3. You must complete the extended writing assignment.
    4. You must proactively seek and receive my input on both an outline and a draft of your extended writing assignment.
    5. The combination of your written output for the two-credit component and your extended writing assignment for a third credit must constitute "as much legal writing, in any appropriate form, as … the traditional 30-50 page paper" (Student Handbook Section III(C)(4)).
  5. It is your sole responsibility to ensure that you complete the extended writing assignment in a timely manner: Neither the registrar nor I will remind you about deadlines, inquire about the status of your work, or notify you about grade postings.

Community norms

  1. Student Handbook Section VIII(B) contains our law school's honor code. Read it, know it, and comply with it.
  2. Students who commit to the Carolina Creed "oppose intolerance by promoting integrity within our campus community."


  1. You deserve equal access and opportunity.
  2. You may, but you need not, speak with me about your SDRC-directed accommodations.

Interpersonal violence and mandatory reporting

  1. You deserve to be safe.
  2. Confidential reporting officers can provide confidential and anonymous support.
  3. All other employees (including faculty) must report incidents of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and partner or relationship violence to the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

Wellness generally

  1. Law school is stressful, and the practice of law is stressful. Your physical, mental, and emotional health matters.
  2. If you are lonely, scared, desperate, insecure, or unsure, you are not alone. Please reach out. Every semester I hear from students in crisis.
  3. Our law school, university, and community have people who care about you and resources that are available to you. These include:
    1. Our in-house counselor, who provides free mental health support services to the law school community
    2. Our Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Office of Student Affairs
    3. Food pantries at our law school (room 106), university, and community
    4. Our university's crisis hotline (+1-803-777-5223) and counseling services
    5. A specialized team dedicated to helping people you identify as potentially in need
    6. Lawyers Helping Lawyers (+1-855-321-4384)
    7. An expansive network of creative and connected people throughout the state and country
    8. And many others.
  4. For people in their early 20s, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death. Aggressive, inattentive, drowsy, and intoxicated driving are unlawful and irresponsible. Jokes that trivialize texting-while-driving are not funny. We owe better to each other.
  5. Please take care of yourself and others. Prepare now by visiting MyHealthSpace.