ChIPs Member Spotlight: Mindy Morton
Mindy Morton is an Internet and Intellectual Property Litigator at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch.
Mindy’s practice focuses on internet and intellectual property litigation. She litigates cutting-edge cases at the intersection of technology and free speech issues. She defends internet companies against defamation, copyright, trademark and related claims on First Amendment, Communications Decency Act Section 230, DMCA and US SPEECH Act grounds. She also helps clients resolve disputes involving trade secret, patent, trademark, copyright, computer fraud and non-compete agreement litigation. We asked her a few questions about her career, her path to IP law and her passions.
Did you always know you wanted to have a career in tech, law or policy?
Yes, I was that two-year old who everyone said would be a lawyer, and my high school yearbook lists my future career as a “musical lawyer.” So I always planned to have a career in law, but I didn’t know where it would take me. I always thought I would be a corporate lawyer, working on deals. Instead, I’m a trial attorney and I have the privilege to tell my clients’ stories to judges and juries.
My musical theater background helps me feel comfortable speaking up for my clients and for the causes that inspire me. I don’t have a technical background, but that works for me, because it helps me translate the complex technical details my clients explain to me into compelling stories that judges and juries can understand.
What piece of advice would you tell your younger self?
Keep in touch with friends and acquaintances in an authentic way. This is so much easier now with permanent email addresses and social media—when I graduated from college we weren’t using email, and Facebook wasn’t even a glimmer in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye. Keeping in touch is easier today, but it still takes diligence. They don’t teach business development in law school, but they should. You can be an amazing attorney, but it isn’t enough—you can’t advance to becoming a partner if you only have technical expertise.
Tell us an unexpected or fun fact about yourself.
Singing is a large part of my life, and one of my longtime idols is Sting. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a sound check before one of his concerts, and I actually sang “Englishman in New York” on stage with him. If you check out my Linkedin profile page, the cover photo is from that day.
A few years ago, I joined the Bay Area IP Inn of Court, and I immediately became part of the June pupillage group and the annual IP musical. I convinced a number of other IP attorneys to join me in forming an all-lawyer a cappella group, and we practiced together and then performed with a number of well-known tech companies at Tech-apella. I often say that cat-herding is part of my job description, but directing a group of singing lawyers challenges even my advanced cat-herding skills. I now direct our annual IP Inn of Court musical (this year we sing all songs from the ‘80s), and our a cappella group performs there.
You have a successful career as an IP litigator with Procopio, you are actively involved in mentoring women and volunteer for several organizations including ChIPs, what’s your secret to juggling it all?
I love what I do, and the time I spend volunteering and mentoring helps remind me why. I love seeing that spark of passion in younger women lawyers as they embark on their careers and it helps me find the joy in my every-day life, even if I spend a good part of my day on conference calls. Also, it is important because I don’t want to be a unicorn—I want law firms to grow the number of women leaders, and if I’m not willing to spend my time helping to make that dream a reality, then it must not be very important to me. And finally, I am the mom of a strong, passionate and resilient three-year old daughter, and she reminds me every day how important it is to help create a world where there are no more firsts for women because we’ve actually broken that glass ceiling.
I don’t say any of this to imply that it is easy to juggle work and family and community involvement—it isn’t, and there are days when I fall asleep exhausted shortly after my daughter does. But if not me, then who? It is essential for all of us to be part of the solution. My dad always told me how important it is to be involved in the community—he used to quote Winston Churchill’s line that “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
One of your passions is protecting on-line free speech, what do you see as the biggest threat to free-speech in the digital age?
There is so much hatred flying around online and in real life, and it is easy to suggest that perhaps it could be reined in to make for a more comfortable life and community. There are numerous laws being proposed that could possibly eliminate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (the law that gives immunity to internet platforms and social media companies for the words of their users). I think that the evisceration of CDA 230 would eliminate what makes the internet vibrant, useful, and revolutionary. If internet companies are forced to police all third-party speech, what is left will be homogenized and meaningless.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I received the Santa Clara County Bar Association Diversity and Inclusion Award last year for my commitment and leadership in promoting diversity in the legal profession. I’m proud and humbled to receive an award for doing what I love, although I have to say that I believe that I can do more and that we can all do more.
The legal profession understands the importance of diversity –inclusive teams make better decisions and achieve better results. Why? Different perspectives are critically important. And the value goes beyond diversity—that’s just the start. We need inclusion and belonging, too.
George Lewis said that “diversity is like being invited to party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is dancing like no one’s watching—it’s that sense of psychological safety that employees can be their authentic selves without fear of judgment.” As the proud mom of a three year old, I can attest that toddlers are great at dancing like no one is watching, but we lose this sense of safety as we grow up. We need to find and foster that spark of safety and self-confidence in ourselves and others so it isn’t lost.