Herb Hovenkamp offers preview of his role at Penn

Herb Hovenkamp is a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor with appointments at Penn Law and in the department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School.

In June, Penn announced the appointment of Herb Hovenkamp, a renowned scholar of antitrust law and legal history, as a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor with appointments at Penn Law and in the department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School.

Hovenkamp, author of more than 100 articles and a dozen books, was dubbed “the dean of American antitrust law” by the New York Times in 2011. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, and most recently taught at the University of Iowa. He sat down with Penn Law’s Office of Communications to discuss his research and teaching this upcoming academic year.

Penn Law (PL): To start, what brought you to Penn and Penn Law?

Herb Hovenkamp (HH): I was a professor at the University of Iowa for 30 years, I still like Iowa, but I was ready for something new. Penn provided an opportunity, and the joint appointment [to the Wharton School and the Law School] as part of the PIK professorship was an attractive opportunity, because I have strong interests in business, antitrust, and legal history. I visited Penn three times this past spring, I gave talks at both the Law School and at Wharton, I really liked the people and the institution, and then they made me an offer and I accepted!

PL: What will you be working on this academic year at the Law School and at Wharton?

HH: In the fall semester I’ll be teaching two courses in the Law School, Antitrust, which is an upper-division law course, and I’ll also teach Law and Commerce in American History, a survey course focusing on commercial and corporate topics like intellectual property, business and corporate law, regulation, competition law, and so on. That course will cover the scope of U.S. history from prior to the American Revolution all the way through the New Deal and World War II.

Then in the spring I’ll be teaching a class at Wharton in their undergraduate program, it’ll be a Ben Franklin Scholars seminar titled The Constitution and Free Enterprise, a survey course that starts out with the early national period, the Marshall Court, and up to fairly recent history, covering those aspects of Constitutional history that deal with business, free enterprise, and the U.S. economy.

PL: What do you think students get out of those history survey courses?

HH: They’re perspectives courses. That is, we do a good job of teaching our students technical skills, but these courses are designed to show students how good lawyers understand how the technique of law fits into our culture, practice, and history. We like to see law students take at least a few perspectives courses. These include history, jurisprudence, comparative law, legal philosophy, and social science. What I’m doing is part of that.

PL: Tell us about your current scholarship.

HH: My principal field is antitrust; I write in legal history but I write predominantly in antitrust. However, antitrust law deals with a lot of issues that relate to intellectual property, such as misuse and anti-competitive use of patents, and there is a lot that arises today in the context of standard-setting organizations, and also in the pharmaceutical industry with respect to use of patents to keep generic drugs out of the market, as well as  a fair amount that has to do with the licensing of technology.

PL: Do you have a teaching philosophy or style?

HH: I think of myself as “soft Socratic,” which means I teach by asking questions but I mix that up with a bit of lecture, so I’ll talk for a few minutes and then ask a question to get students to talk, and work through the class that way. By contrast, a hardcore Socratic teacher does nothing but ask questions; I’m not in that camp but I don’t purely lecture either. This is successful for me, it gives students a chance to follow my train of thought, then formulate questions, and it’s a little less terrifying than hardcore Socratic. But I think professors have to come up with a teaching style that works for them individually.

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