Rick Klau

Rick Klau, L’96, Reflects on 30 Volumes of Richmond Law’s Journal of Law and Technology

February 21, 2024
Co-founder Rick Klau, L’96, shares his story of launching JOLT, the world’s first law review published exclusively online, which celebrates its 30th volume this year.

Launched in 1995 as the world’s first law review published exclusively online, the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology celebrates its 30th volume this year. With his passion for the intersection of technology and law, co-founder Rick Klau, L’96, was there from the very beginning. After more than a decade as senior operating partner at Google Ventures, Rick was appointed chief technology officer for the State of California, and is now co-founder and CEO of Onsenble, a technology startup that helps homeowners navigate the process of replacing gas burning appliances with cleaner, electric alternatives.

Rick was on campus this spring to celebrate the milestone alongside JOLT alumni and current staffers. During his visit, in addition to the celebration and giving time to both law and undergraduate students, he also sat down with us to share his story of launching JOLT, his hopes for the future, and why he gives back to Richmond Law.


Tell us about your Richmond Law experience.

I came to Richmond Law straight out of college. I graduated from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, intending to practice law. I knew I was going to be an international lawyer, even though I couldn’t have told you at the time what international lawyers did. I had visited Richmond and immediately fell in love with the campus and the team that I met. And I started in the fall of 1993. While here, in addition to taking classes and learning what it meant to be a lawyer, I founded the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology along with a number of my classmates, which we published during my second year and then got a second issue out in my third year.

How did JOLT become the first law review in the world to be published exclusively online?

In the winter of 1995, I had been active in a number of communities that were discussing emerging law and technology. There was a conference happening in San Francisco called the “Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference,” which was an opportunity for me to network and meet a number of people I’d been engaged with digitally over email.

Dean Harbaugh, who was dean at the time, graciously agreed to fund the trip. In retrospect, that turns out to have been a blessing, because at that conference, I met some counterparts at both Harvard and the University of Michigan law schools, both of whom had started their own journals of law and technology. Harvard’s was also called JOLT. It became pretty obvious, though no one was admitting exactly when they were planning to publish, that everyone was trying to publish before the end of the semester. I came home from that trip and told the team that we had to publish as quickly as possible because there was a chance we could be first! If we weren’t first, all anybody would remember was that Harvard had beat us. So, we were very excited when, on April 15th, we were first, and we beat Harvard by a couple of weeks.

As we celebrate its 30th volume year, what are your reflections and hopes for the future of JOLT?

When I think back on what we, as a founding team, imagined we were starting, I don’t think any of us thought in terms of decades. As students, we really were thinking in terms of semesters. What are we doing next semester? What might the journal look like when there’s another team that follows us? It is extraordinary to look back on 30 volumes and realize that the hundreds of students who’ve contributed to legal scholarship are meaningfully contributing to the profession every year.

What are your hopes for Richmond Law’s future and its students?

As I think ahead, I can only hope. I hope that that continues to be true, and I think we’ve now earned the right to think not in terms of decades but in terms of centuries. We’re already well on our way to a hundred years of legal scholarship, which will well outlive any one of us that were part of its founding back in the mid-90s. That just fills me with immense gratitude, and it feels like a real privilege to have been a small part of it.

What advice do you have for law students today? Particularly those who may wish to seek an alternative career path, as you did.

I think whatever you do in your career starts with: What makes you passionate? What are you excited about? If there’s a problem that needs to be solved, if there’s an opportunity that you spend a lot of time thinking about, that’s an area that needs your energy, your enthusiasm, and your passion.

I didn’t know exactly what that looked like for me as I was leaving Richmond. Initially, I was passionate about tech, and I had this legal background that told me that there were questions not yet answered by lawyers and other practitioners in the field. That was a great bridge to get me from my Richmond Law education to my first handful of jobs.

For any student thinking about an alternative career path, your career path is your career path. It’s not an alternative; it’s yours! It’s an alternative to what might be the norm for a number of other students, but their norm doesn’t need to be yours. Ultimately, that passion and enthusiasm, excitement, and constant puzzling over how I could make this better—that’s probably going to be the place that your career is pulling you, whether you realize it or not.

What does being a Richmond Law Spider mean to you, and why do you give back?

Richmond Law taught me how to think. Also, to the chagrin of some family and colleagues, learn how to argue. I think I got pretty good at it. But fundamentally, it’s about how to think through hard problems. Problems that don’t always have easy answers or sometimes have answers that contradict each other. Finding a way through that ambiguity and that potential for conflict has served me extraordinarily well in the many years since I graduated.

I look back on my time here and I feel very, very grateful that the school didn’t just allow me to explore this enthusiasm and passion I had for creating JOLT along with my classmates, they encouraged it and created an environment where it wasn’t just possible, it was likely. And successful beyond our wildest dreams.

When you find a place that encourages you and makes it possible for you to do your best work, run with it! That is the standard I hold myself to in the company I now run. That is what I learned at Richmond.

How could I not give back? How could I not come back here and share a little bit of that journey with current students here at the law school, and at the undergrad campus as well? I want to help them maybe see an alternative path—a path that might look like one they wanted to make their own.

Interview lightly edited for length and clarity.