Phil H

Phil Haack, ACS Cobham, class of 1996

"Being able to live overseas and experience an environment as diverse as ACS fundamentally changed me for the better and opened my eyes up to a host of new possibilities."

I have very happy memories of my time spent at ACS Cobham. Some memorable moments include my time in Ms Hay’s AP Chemistry class, Mr Powell’s AP European History course and the late-night basketball practices on the quiet campus. I had a lot of fun on school trips for basketball, the debate team and the choir.

The international school experience had a profoundly positive effect on me. There are two major themes that stand out for me today. First, being exposed to such a diverse community gave me a larger sense of the world and the number of possibilities available. International experience helps avoid tunnel vision; I would not be where I am today without it.

Second, and for similar reasons, I think the international school experience developed my empathy and ability to get along with lots of different people. Learning how to communicate with people with a different background or different viewpoint is a fundamentally important skill for a litigator, whether that is explaining how complex technology works to a judge or telling your client’s story to a pool of jurors with varying educational and life experiences. Building that connection with others is a key part of winning cases.

The large number of courses available to me while studying at ACS Cobham (if I recall correctly, I took 9 AP exams in total) kept me academically challenged in a way which helped me with the transition to a university setting. After I graduated from ACS, I returned to the US and went to Stanford University, where I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Symbolic Systems, an interdisciplinary degree programme that combines studies in computer science, linguistics, philosophy and psychology.

I think the international school experience developed my empathy and ability to get along with lots of different people. Learning how to communicate with people with a different background or different viewpoint is a fundamentally important skill for a litigator, whether that is explaining how complex technology works to a judge or telling your client’s story to a pool of jurors with varying educational and life experiences. Building that connection with others is a key part of winning cases.

PHIL HAACK 

Phil H 2

The major begins with a core curriculum of courses in those areas, and then students pick a concentration in a related area. My concentration was in human-computer interaction and there are many others such as philosophy of logic, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, natural language processing/computational linguistics and so on. It was a pretty small major when I was at Stanford; the programme office was in borrowed space in the basement of the linguistics building. There are a fair number of big names in the tech sector who graduated from the programme: Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn), Marissa Mayer (former Yahoo CEO and early Google employee), Mike Krieger (co-founder of Instagram). Less relevant to the major, perhaps, is Yul Kwon, who won the reality show Survivor in the mid-2000s.

After I graduated, I worked as a software engineer, developing web‐based and desktop software systems at a number of Bay Area technology companies. During that time, I became more and more interested in the social and legal aspects of technology; I participated in releasing some corporate software under an open source license and wanted to learn more about the law.

So, after five years in technology, I went to law school. I spent a little over a decade at a large law firm in San Francisco, where I was a member of the litigation group focusing on patent lawsuits, but also included trade secret, trademark and copyright litigation. I most recently joined a boutique legal practice. The primary focus is on intellectual property-related issues, and my practice is still litigation-focused, but I also offer counselling and advice around similar issues for tech companies ranging from multinational firms to small start-ups.

I rely on my technical background daily. Most of my cases involve technology in some way, and I’ve worked on cases involving all kinds of computer technology: ecommerce, cloud computing, encryption, online video, and more. Being able to live overseas and experience an environment as diverse as ACS fundamentally changed me for the better and opened my eyes up to a host of new possibilities.