University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
When former business and tax lawyer Tony Luppino made the move from UMKC Law adjunct professor to full-time faculty nearly two decades ago, he quickly realized that the gap between his new home and the adjacent business school was far greater than the campus walkway separating the next-door academic neighbors.
Bridging that gap with new business-planning and entrepreneurship courses involving law and business students became a mission, as Luppino formed teams with other faculty to promote such collaborations across academic units.
That interdisciplinary-first initiative has broadened to embrace computer science, engineering, public policy and other academic disciplines in projects-based courses. Luppino particularly highlighted the inspiration and support for these endeavors from the Kansas City-headquartered Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and its enduring commitment to entrepreneurship education.
By 2006, the professor — who now leads the law school’s entrepreneurship programs — had co-created with business and engineering faculty an interdisciplinary course in Entrepreneurship & New Venture Creation. Since then, it has benefited student and faculty entrepreneurs, innovation offices at universities, hospitals and other research organizations, and prominent companies in the Kansas City region.
Those efforts grew to include courses in Entrepreneurial Urban Development and Social Entrepreneurship Ventures, and coursework and projects at intersections of law, technology and public policy that unite law and other academic disciplines.
The latter was spurred by a conference on Law Schools, Technology and Access to Justice co-hosted by the UMKC School of Law and the Kauffman Foundation. It led to the creation, with colleagues across the U.S. and beyond, of the Kauffman-supported Legal Technology Laboratory, a national consortium of educators and activists seeking technology-assisted solutions to challenges in for-profit, social and civic entrepreneurship and social justice.
Those collaborations don’t end upon graduation, either. Working on a model data-handling policy that started with the cities of Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County has meant teaming up with former students holding positions as chief innovation officers and technology policy advisers across the country, from Kansas City to Seattle.
“Professor Luppino represents the epitome of an innovative academic attorney,” said UMKC Law Dean Barbara Glesner Fines. “He was an early leader in recognizing the need for attorneys to work with other professionals to harness technology effectively and ethically, and thus the need to train law students in these skills.
“[He] has led the nation in bringing law to the table early in assessing the impact of technological innovations in business, civil and social entrepreneurship,” she added.
For Luppino, who also holds the titles of Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Urban Affairs and Senior Fellow with the UMKC Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the benefits of those alliances are obvious.
“The lawyers alone wouldn’t be able to fashion digital-age policies without understanding the technology,” said Luppino, a former partner at what is now Lewis Rice, who earned his J.D. from Stanford and an LLM in taxation from Boston University. “And the technology students need to know the bounds of the law to make all this work.”
Luppino is quick to deflect credit to his colleagues — particularly former Dean Ellen Suni for her support. He noted that she often remarked that teaching topics where innovation accelerates far faster than the speed of annual textbook revisions means that “we’re learning with the students at the same time.”
“Transformative technology is coming fast — some of it is already here — and how do we keep up?” Luppino said.