Five minutes with ... Paul Bondor, Desmarais
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Five minutes with ... Paul Bondor, Desmarais

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Each week Managing IP speaks to a different IP lawyer about their life and career

Welcome to the latest instalment of Managing IP’s ‘Five minutes with’ series, where we learn more about IP lawyers on a personal as well as a professional level. This time we have Paul Bondor, partner at Desmarais in New York.

Someone asks you at a party what you do for a living. What do you say?

I tell them I’m a trial lawyer, and I fight about inventions and patents. These days, most people I meet have at least heard the term “intellectual property,” but unless they have direct experience with it, just saying “intellectual property” or “IP” isn’t enough to provoke meaningful recognition.

As soon as you mention inventions or patents, people have a much better idea of what I do. Much to my amusement – and despite the aspersions sometimes cast at me and my fellow IP attorneys – people actually seem interested, or at least pretend to be.

Talk us through a typical working day.

There’s no such thing. My days can change pretty radically depending on what’s hot at the moment. That could mean my schedule is packed with team or client meetings, a deposition or hearing, brief drafting and revising, or travel related to one of those, and, of course, the accompanying preperation.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve got about five major litigations at various stages from pre-filing to near trial. They involve computer-related technology cases as well as life sciences. I also have a pending appeal from a district court win on summary judgment where I’m still waiting for an argument date.

Does one big piece of work usually take priority or are you juggling multiple things?

I always have several balls in the air, but I tend to have one or two things of paramount importance at any given time.

I wish it weren’t so, but the top priority is frequently deadline or schedule-driven – things like hearings, briefing deadlines, and deposition dates are all based on or around court-set schedules, so I’m always looking at what’s coming up in the next two weeks, then within the next month, then a bit further out.

Trials are such that there’s a natural build-up, as you live the case from the close of fact discovery, through expert reports and depositions, into dispositive motions, pre-trial submissions, and trial prep.

What is the most exciting aspect of your role and what is the most stressful?

Easy: trial on both counts. There’s nothing like it, and it doesn’t get old.

Tell us the key characteristics that make a successful IP lawyer.

Communication skills, an ability to absorb information quickly and sort material information from immaterial information, enjoying interactions with other people, and a serious dose of competitiveness.

What is the most common misconception about IP?

That success is driven primarily by detailed technical issues. True, you have to understand the technology deeply, and you have to be correct with your arguments, but that’s not enough to win.

What puts you over the top is weaving those technical details into a compelling emotional story, so it’s not just that you’re right on the technical issues, but that you deserve to win.

What or who inspires you?

I find inspiration everywhere. In the workplace, I’m motivated by my colleagues, particularly the up-and-coming attorneys at our firm. Litigation is a team sport, and there’s nothing like the way a well-functioning, fully invested team can bring out greatness in each member.

I also get daily inspiration from my family.

My spouse, who is a trial lawyer herself, albeit in a different field, is an endless source of good humor, encouragement, and fun – not to mention a great sounding board.

My older daughter is in her first year of law school, and I’ve been reinvigorated looking at the practice of law and advocacy through the wide eyes of a first year.

I’m also inspired by my younger daughter, who is in her first year as a cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point.

Over and above the admirable choice to serve, the daily grit, determination, and dedication she and her fellow cadets devote to individual and group improvement is yet another source of inspiration, and it provides real perspective when my challenges seem difficult.

If you weren’t an IP lawyer, what would you be doing?

I’ve answered that question a million different ways over the years.

I have an insatiable curiosity about everything, and I love that my job allows me to learn about all sorts of industries and technologies and about the people who bring them to life. The easy response would be a trial lawyer in some other area – but I don’t see that as materially different.

So, I think I’d go to medical school. I’m not sure I would want to practice medicine, but I think it’s fascinating, and I’ve always enjoyed my life sciences cases.

Any advice you would give your younger self?

Take even more chances.

Throughout my career, I’m pleased to report that I have not always taken the conventional path.

For example, my career began at an IP boutique, then I jumped to ‘Big Law’, and then left for an upstart specialty firm that we’ve now built to 85-plus attorneys across three offices.

When I look back, I think a big part of success involves understanding, assessing, and then taking risks. It’s never entirely comfortable, but if you trust your instincts, more often than not, things will work out in your favour.

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