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AIPLA 2021: Circuit judge and counsel share career advice

L to R: Christal Sheppard (moderator) from the Nebraska College of Law, Kara Stoll and Angela Sebor

Circuit Judge Kara Stoll, Angela Sebor at Tolmar, Andrea Evans at Evans IP Law and Robert Stoll at Faegre Drinker delved into their professional journeys

Intellectual property specialists who want to develop fulfilling and high-flying careers should seize opportunities, not let detractors get them down, and “be nice to everyone” according to a circuit judge and private practice and in-house legal professionals.

Speaking on the plenary panel at the AIPLA 2021 Annual Meeting yesterday, October 28, Kara Stoll at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Angela Sebor at Tolmar, Andrea Evans at Evans IP Law and Robert Stoll at Faegre Drinker delved into how they got to where they are in their careers.

Kara Stoll, who has been at the Federal Circuit since 2015, said it was important for IP professionals to look for opportunities within their own organisations and ask questions.

She noted that when she worked as a patent litigator at Finnegan, she had a case at the District Court for the Southern District of Texas. But her boss, Donald Dunner, hadn’t given her any witnesses.  

“For some reason, Don didn’t give me any. Finally, I went to him and said I’d really like some witnesses. He said it hadn’t even occurred to him.

“You should remember that – sometimes you just need to ask for the opportunity.”

Trust yourself

Sebor, who works as the global IP manager for pharma company Tolmar in Colorado, added that it was important for IP people to trust themselves and do what was right for them.

She explained that shortly after graduating with a PhD from the University of Colorado, she was offered a job as a technical specialist at a law firm at the same time as being offered a post-doctoral fellowship at a university.

“That was a huge decision and I really had no idea what I was jumping into,” she said. “But sometimes it’s important to trust your instincts because taking that leap can be one of the best things to happen to you.”

Evans, who launched her own firm called the Law Firm of Andrea Hence Evans (Evans IP Law) in 2007, agreed, adding that those aspiring to great feats in their careers should listen to themselves and not to the critics who say something can’t be done.

She said that when she started her law firm, people said it couldn’t be done and made jokes about keeping her seat warm at the USPTO, where she used to work.

But 14 years later, she added, the firm is a success, even boasting IBM as a client.

Be nice

Robert Stoll, partner at Faegre Drinker in Washington DC, said his best advice was simply to be nice to everyone.

“You need to be nice to everyone – I really cannot say that enough,” he said. “It’s extremely important because you never know who is going to be supporting you for what.

“It helped me get to the top floor of the USPTO when I worked there, where I was chief of staff. From there, I met even more people who were running the agency. I was then moved over to handle the office of legislation and international affairs.

“I loved the job – it was fantastic.”

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