Intellectual Property (IP) is a growing field that encompasses a wide range of fields including patents, copyright, trademarks, privacy, and technology. We spoke with Gregory Leighton (JD ’06) who is currently a partner at Neal, Gerber, and Eisenberg in Chicago and works in the Intellectual Property and Technology Transactions practice group.
Gregory Leighton started out in patent prosecution which can be described as the task of working with the client to write and file a patent application with the patent office. Over time, he has transitioned into the privacy sector of the IP field, this is a newer area of the law that is growing at an exponential rate. Privacy law encompasses the protection and regulation of the data of individuals, private companies, and the government. Below, we discuss the intersection between IP and the Law at Loyola and the implications that the growth of technology will have on the law over time.
Q: Tell us about your time at Loyola.
A: It was great, I really enjoyed going to law school there. While it feels like it was a very long time ago, I’m in a position where I feel like I haven’t really left as I had the opportunity to teach the IP section of Appellate Advocacy and will also be teaching a Privacy class with Professor Woods this upcoming Spring.
Q: Why would you recommend Loyola to prospective students interested in IP?
A: This is actually the reason you want to go to Loyola. Rather than it being overly focused on IP like other schools, it focuses on turning you into a strong, well-rounded attorney. You will leave law school equipped with a full legal education, and you will be much more prepared to approach and solve problems. You have years during your actual legal career to learn every little nuance of IP law, and you will master them then.
Q: In what way have you evolved as an attorney over the years?
A: I have evolved in a lot of different ways. I started out doing mostly patent prosecution, then turned into an IP litigator, and then into an IP litigator who was very focused on technology. I have now shifted into becoming a privacy/security lawyer. In regards to the law as a whole, it is important to note the role that technology is playing in the law and the shift in my practice as a result of that.
Q: What do you envision for your career in the future?
A: I hope to still be working as a lawyer (haha). Beyond that, it is important to focus on the role technology is playing, that it is automating many tasks that law firms would provide their clients. The whole industry is in the early stages of a pretty major transformation and we are only in the early days of it. In another 5 to 10 years I believe the way that we will be doing things is going to be immensely different. Lawyers are going to be focused on project management and more critical issues rather than the nitty-gritty things (research, data, shifting through papers).
Q: Finally, what is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring attorneys/young lawyers?
A: Pick a “major” within the law. There are no formal majors in law school as there are in undergrad, hence the quotes, but choosing a path will help guide your time at law school. Once you choose a path, take the classes offered in the field you are interested in as well as attend conferences about your chosen field to network at. The sooner you can pick a path to your specialty, the better off you will be. The reality is, in both today’s practice and the future, clients want specialized knowledge expertise. Especially if you are looking to practice in a larger city there is less and less place for a “general” lawyer- your specialty is what will help set you apart.
Interviewed by: Dhara Shah, Juris Doctor Candidate, May 2020