Opening Statements

Silicon Valley lawyer makes a splash with his father-daughter video lectures

Posted Jun 1, 2014 4:30 AM CDT
By Judy Sutton Taylor

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Richard Hsu likes to simplify things. Maybe it's because he spends his days dealing with technology, licensing and other intellectual property issues as a partner at Shearman & Sterling's Silicon Valley office. His One Page Blog is a break from all that complexity, boiling down legal concepts (patent strategy, warranty vs. indemnity) to basic summaries of no more than a single page.

"I like to reduce things to their lowest common denominator," says Hsu, who started his blog in 2011 as a way to keep up with technology. But it was after watching a TED Talk by Khan Academy founder Sal Khan that Hsu came up with his simplest—and most popular—idea yet.

"What really inspired me about his videos was not so much the content—although I think it's terrific—but how simply he made them," says Hsu of Khan's free online education platform that uses video lessons to teach math, science and other subjects. "He uses no fancy computer animation or CGI graphics technology. In fact, he says on his website that he just uses an electronic pen and a microphone, and he just starts recording his lectures."

Hsu wanted to do the same thing, but he had one problem. "I can't draw to save my life," he says. "That's why I decided to enlist the help of my daughter Maya." The result is a series of six low-tech, charming videos where Maya, who was 13 years old when the videos were made, draws using a dry-erase marker and wipe board as her father explains subjects such as "What is a licensed property?" or "IP ownership in joint development."

The videos are all three minutes or less and were recorded in one eight-hour session at a San Francisco production studio, keeping with Hsu's less-is-more philosophy. "I got to spend a whole day shooting with my daughter. It didn't feel like work," he says, adding that he gets feedback that watching the videos is fun, too. "They don't have a corporate feel to them. They're easy for people without legal backgrounds to watch, and they don't go on for too long." To date, Hsu's blog has had more than 3 million hits.

Hsu is planning to release five new videos later this year. His biggest challenge is coming up with legal concepts that are conducive to this type of format. That and the fact that Maya, now 15, wants to retire. Luckily, her younger sister is waiting in the wings.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: "Plain and Simple: Silicon Valley lawyer makes a splash with his father-daughter video lectures."

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