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by Vault Law Editors | January 06, 2020


One of the best parts about practicing law is the range of people with whom you will work. There is not one set background for a lawyer, so you will find yourself collaborating with former teachers, scientists, artists, doctors, writers, finance professionals, veterans—you name it. Those entering the IP space are a particularly interesting bunch because many have very sophisticated training in areas of science, engineering, and technology. Still others focus more on “soft” IP like copyright and trademark and have varied experiences.

In our publication, Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas, we asked several BigLaw attorneys how they got their starts in intellectual property. Read on for their responses.

Kyle Calhoun, Associate—Kirkland & Ellis LLP

“With a background in engineering, I knew I wanted to be involved in legal matters that implicated technical issues. I also knew that I wanted to challenge myself with the critical- thinking, persuasive, and competitive aspects implicit in high-stakes commercial litigation and leverage my experience in and passion for advocacy developed during law school. These considerations are what drew me to work in the intellectual property litigation space, and in particular, Kirkland’s intellectual property litigation group.”

Forrest Flemming, Associate—Kilpatrick Townsend

“I’ve always been fascinated with brands and the way organizations represent themselves to the public to distinguish themselves from other companies. A trademark is a very personal asset, and I wanted to incorporate that aspect of a business into my daily legal practice. I selected trademark litigation specifically after developing general litigation skills—which translated perfectly into trademark litigation work—in law school and during my federal clerkship. After determining my legal path, Kilpatrick Townsend became my first choice of employment based on its innovative attorneys and the Intellectual Property group’s stellar reputation among national publications and IP experts. Unlike many full-service firms, Kilpatrick Townsend features IP as a core practice area, which really appealed to me.”

Abby Litow, Partner—Kirkland & Ellis LLP

“I fell in love with biology in high school and college but never saw myself becoming a doctor or working in a research lab—I always wanted a job where I could write, think criti- cally, and work as part of a team. Patent litigation allows me to combine my interest in science with my desire for an exciting, challenging, and team-oriented career.”

Amanda K. Murphy, Ph.D, Partner—Finnegan, Henderson, Farrabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP

“I first became interested in patent law as an under- graduate when I learned that the HIV genome had been sequenced and patented. Realizing the key role that patents play in incentivizing pharmaceutical companies to invest in the research and development of new life-saving technologies, I knew I had to be a part of that process. As a first step toward that goal, I completed a Ph.D. in biochemistry studying retrovirology. I then joined Finnegan and have been assisting companies with their intellectual property needs ever since.”

Nicholas Plassaras, Associate—Fenwick & West LLP

“I was honest with myself about what I was passionate about. The intersection of law and tech fascinated me in law school, and intellectual property law seemed liked the most interesting way to get involved in that area. And my natural interest in the gaming space made for the perfect fit.”

Daniel C. Tucker, Associate— Finnegan, Henderson, Farrabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP

“After working in engineering for several years, I decided I needed something more exciting. While I loved technology (I’m an electrical engineer by training), I also have always loved to write. Patent law seemed like a promising fit for those two passions. So I took a job as a patent agent at a boutique law firm outside of Washington, DC, for a little over a year to test the waters. That experience convinced me that patent law was a fun and exciting career, so I applied to law school and never looked back.”

You can read more about these attorneys' IP careers and what it is like to practice IP (and dozens of other areas) at a big firm, in Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas. (Law students and law school alumni may have free access through their law school Vault account—check with career services for your login.) Find out what kinds of matters these lawyers work on, representative clients, types of tasks junior lawyers handle, recommended training, misconceptions about the practice, and more!