Intro to IP Through IP Speed Mentoring

Intro to IP Through IP Speed Mentoring

At the end of my first semester of law school at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, I was sitting in Professor Cynthia Ho’s office, trying to figure out how to learn more about IP. I’d heard that my chemistry background is a type of a science background beneficial to a patent law career, but did not yet know what that involved. Professor Ho suggested that I attend the next IP speed mentoring event that Loyola was hosting. At that moment, I was thinking “What exactly is speed mentoring?”, “All those strangers!” and “What will I say?”

Getting Started

I decided to find out for myself what this speed mentoring event is like, so I drove to Loyola on a blustery evening for the IP Speed Mentoring Event. This event, regularly hosted by Loyola, is also sponsored by Chicago IP Alliance and IPLAC. Prior to the event, we got a list of attorneys attending, with links to their bios as well as some tips for things to ask or talk about.

This was a two-part event. The first hour was the structured group speed mentoring where J.D. students in small groups from Loyola and other Chicago-area law schools rotated through ten tables with two attorneys each in six-minute intervals. The rest of the evening was a general reception, where students and attorneys had the opportunity to talk further.

The attorneys, representing nearly twenty firms and companies including Leydig, Voit, & Meyer; Marshall, Gerstein & Borun; MBHB; and Anthem, Inc. represented a number of different IP practice areas. These areas included patent litigation, which includes the resolution of disputes concerning patents, cybersecurity, which includes the protection of electronic IP data from unlawful use; and copyright, which includes the protection of original works such as art from forgeries.

Further, there were litigators and corporate counsel present with a variety of experience levels, ranging from a recent Loyola grad who was just four months into her legal career to attorneys with decades of experience.

Speedy Lessons Learned

Six minutes divided up between two attorneys and two or three students felt really fast. It was a great way for everyone to introduce themselves and have a minute or two for some questions. We asked the attorneys about how they got started in their practice areas, what a typical day is like, and about interesting or memorable types of cases they worked on. That was helpful to us in visualizing the future as a practicing attorney.

Through our discussions, I heard a number of things that resonated with me, including tips for time management as an attorney and the value of working without electronic distractions. Hearing some solutions for effective time management reaffirmed a few of my own practices and gave me ideas for improvements. Building better habits now will help me be a more efficient attorney when I enter practice. Also, as someone who loves research and learning new things, I was excited to hear from some of the attorneys doing patent prosecution (drafting patent applications and corresponding with the US Patent and Trademark Office about such applications)that the work is fulfilling to them for the same reasons. Additionally, it was reaffirming to hear the excitement in the stories; a patent issued or upheld, protection of a trademark held by a small business against use by a large corporation, helping an artist obtain a copyright.

An Unexpected Bonus

Near the end of the evening I walked toward a table where a group of women were talking. One of the group waved me into the circle, which included several students and “newer” practitioners. The conversation was about work-life balance and setting boundaries while doing what you do as an IP professional.

When a young attorney mentioned giving up a sport she loved, she was advised to make time for it. And, the parents in the group were admonished to make time for children, because they grow up so fast; and you can’t make up for the missed experiences. And, this advice is something we can apply now, while we are students. Remembering to go to the gym, take a family vacation, be kind to yourself are all things that fall by the wayside as a busy law student or lawyer. It was an unexpected and pleasant opportunity to bond with an all-female group of attorneys and law students.

The Outcome

Although it might seem intimidating to do speed mentoring, once the event started, we all had a good time. In one evening, I met a number of attorneys, some of whom I will likely cross paths with again. I also met fellow students from other schools. Connecting is so important for mentoring and our careers, but it can be challenging to do when you don’t know how or where to make those connections. This IP Speed Mentoring event opened that door. The next time I attend an IP event in Chicago, the room likely won’t be full of strangers.

I encourage anyone interested in IP to attend this event or others like it.

So, what do you get when you put twenty IP attorneys and many more JD students together in a room for an hour? A really fun evening of speed mentoring PLUS new connections, opportunities, and experience in networking with attorneys.

I hope to see you at the next Speed Mentoring Event!

Elizabeth van der Weide, Ph.D.
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD Candidate 2021