It’s difficult to imagine life without the Internet, but when Rick Klau, L’96, first logged on 22 years ago, he was in a small minority of users. Although he was immediately captivated by this emerging technology, he couldn’t anticipate how deeply it would inform his career.

Today Klau works as business product manager for Blogger at Google, where he leads the business-side of the world’s largest blogging platform. In his spare time he has lent technology advice to both Howard Dean and Barack Obama in their bids for the U.S. presidency, created the site, managed Google’s presence at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and co-authored three books on the Internet.

It all started at the University of Richmond School of Law (where he thought he would learn how to practice international law), when Klau co-founded and edited the Journal of Law and Technology (JOLT). Now in its 15th year, JOLT was the nation’s first student-edited law journal to be published exclusively online.

You entered law school in 1993, at the dawn of the Internet age. Did you have an interest in technology when you entered law school or did it grow as a product of the times?

I was very fortunate. I got my undergraduate degree at Lafayette College. It was rare for a liberal arts school at the time, in the mid to late 1980s, but they had laid a fiber optic network on campus to connect everyone to the on-campus computer network. Those of us who knew how to ask for it could also get Internet access. … For folks going into school in the late '80s that was unheard of.

…One of the reasons Richmond Law was on my radar was they were already talking about requiring laptops for all students … That to me signaled that this would be a school that would cultivate one of my passions –– technology.

How did the idea for the Journal of Law and Technology come about?

I founded JOLT with two other students –– Brennen Keene and Ben Leigh. The three of us had summer jobs in Washington, D.C. We would get together during that summer about once a week. At the time, there was only the Law Review. We were particularly interested in the application of the law to this new area of technology –– the Internet. We focused on the notion that there was no law journal anywhere that was focused on these issues. As we met, it became clear that if we were to go the traditional print route, we would be looking at a couple of years… the notion of publishing online was practical as much as it was topical. It was related to the thing we wanted to study.

When we got back on campus, we sat down with Dean [Joseph] Harbaugh and told him our idea and he gave us his support. He said, “We will find a way to get it funded, we will provide you with computers and office space.” And he gave us eight months to get it done.

In 2008 you established a writing contest for JOLT. Why is it important for you to stay involved?

I’m extraordinarily proud of the ongoing, enduring contribution to the law school the journal represents … almost 500 students over the past years have served on JOLT. When the law school reached out to ask if I would help out for this particular writing competition, it seemed like a natural way to institutionalize my involvement and reward students who were committing to it.

On your blog, you credit the University of Richmond School of Law with teaching you how to be an entrepreneur. Can you share some of the most important things you learned about being an entrepreneur in law school?

The biggest takeaway, and something that is part of Google’s DNA, too, is this notion that it’s OK to fail. That is a highly unusual characteristic to develop at law school… What Dean Harbaugh and the faculty did and encouraged was to give us the room to experiment with something that had not been tried before. … We showed up with this crazy idea and they allowed it and gave us a shot. The end result is we're still talking about it 15 years later –– that speaks for itself.

You have been involved in a number of political campaigns, giving technology advice to two presidential candidates. Has your law degree influenced you at all in this arena?

My law degree absolutely informed how I think about politics… Much like the judicial system, the political system requires two often-opposed advocates. The process only works well when both sides are equally well informed, passionate and engaged…. I see my job with respect to technology as ensuring the candidates and campaigns are able to inform, educate and activate supporters, without assuming that the other side has less of a right to those tools.