Federal Judges Offer Advice at ChIPs Global Summit

By Julianne Hartzell

On November 10, 2023, ChIPs welcomed Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer (N.D. Illinois), Senior Judge Barbara Lynn (N.D. Texas), and Magistrate Judge Nicole Mitchell (E.D. Texas) to ChIPs Global Summit 2023 for a judicial panel moderated by Professor Colleen Chien, faculty director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.

The judges offered tips for practicing in the federal courts along with practical and inspiring career advice. They were unanimous that it is important when arguing before a judge to listen to where the judge is in terms of understanding your case (and in the patent realm, the technology involved). Then lead them from where they are to where you want them to go. Focus on answering the questions they ask, even if that pulls you from your prepared script. Judge Mitchell also emphasized that your credibility is your most important asset. Don’t overstate a case. Embrace your bad facts and explain why you still win despite those facts. Play the long game to protect your credibility in future cases.

While explaining that her career path to the bench took an indirect route through academia, Judge Mitchell encouraged attendees to remember that your time is not wasted, even if it is a winding road to get to your endpoint. Judge Pallmeyer offered practical advice: if you start your career in a high paying job, don’t spend all your money. You may later be faced with an amazing opportunity for a public service job down the road that you don’t want to miss because of financial constraints. Judge Lynn peppered the audience with entertaining stories, with much of her advice focused on getting to know your judge and their courtroom before any big hearings. Go to watch them in other cases; get to know them through organizations like the American Inns of Court, including the IP Inns of the Linn Inn Alliance; contact their courtroom staff to familiarize yourself with their technology. Judge Lynn says she is an open book, but you need to read the book!

Surveying ChIPs members

Judge Mitchell recently attended Duke University School of Law’s LLM program in Judicial Studies. Her research work focused on best practices for allowing less experienced lawyers to get opportunities in court. Keep an eye out for her forthcoming publication outlining some of the tips she identified. The judges were again unanimous in supporting this goal. Judge Pallmeyer noted that the jurors are curious to hear from the whole team of lawyers that they see. Judge Lynn recounted her tactics for encouraging experienced attorneys to allow significant opportunities for the less experienced. Because she felt she could have been more assertive in her private practice days, Judge Pallmeyer also encouraged everyone to ask for the experience you want.

Professor Chien is conducting a survey related to mentorship in conjunction with ChIPS and the Diversity Pilots Initiative. The survey is available at https://bit.ly/Chips2023 and will remain open until December 1, 2023. The judges each told stories of their most influential mentors. During Judge Lynn’s time in private practice, Judge Lynn was the first woman to practice at her firm. Her mentor, Jim Coleman, supported her every step of the way and turned away a client who instructed him that he didn’t want any women working on his case. Judge Lynn returned the favor as a strong mentor to Judge Mitchell. Judge Mitchell remembers Judge Lynn explaining that you can’t be perfect at everything all the time. Some days you will be an A+ lawyer and a B- mom, but other days those will be reversed. Judge Pallmeyer recalled the judge for whom she clerked, Justice Rosalie Wahl of the Minnesota Supreme Court, remembering her as a model public servant with a big brain and big heart.

The judges offered advice encouraging attendees to be persistent, care about what you do, and forgive yourself when you aren’t perfect.

Julianne Hartzell is partner and chair, Medical Devices, at Marshall Gerstein IP