Willard began his secondary education with a focus in engineering. His strong interests in math and science led him to the undergraduate mechanical engineering program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at MIT, Willard was exposed to the wide variety of potential legal issues facing engineers. Intrigued by the legal profession, Willard took a course entitled ‘Law and Technology’. The premise of the course was that legal professionals did not understand science and technology, and technology professionals did not understand the law. The professor highlighted the need for a group of “translators” – individuals who could bridge the understanding gap between the disciplines. Willard began to consider a career as such a “translator.” While at University of Virginia’s law school, Willard began to focus on intellectual property. During his third year at UVA’s law school, Willard published an article in the Virginia Journal of International Law (VJIL) entitled “International Intellectual Property Protection: An Integrated Solution to the Inadequate Protection Problem,” in which he proposed that the misappropriation of intellectual property rights should be treated as a ‘taking’ of a property, and not as an issue to be addressed by international trade agreements.