In my prior career as a writing, composition and rhetoric professor, the protection of copyrightable works was a hotly debated issue. It was also a personal matter, as I had witnessed firsthand the misappropriation of credit and outright theft of attribution of scholarly work of both my peers and students. So, when it came time to consider a focus for law school, copyright law was a natural fit.
At Maryland, the first opportunity I had to learn more about intellectual property rights was during the Spring semester of my 1L year, in Foundations of Business Law. The class featured three lectures about IP law along with other business-related topics, but it was enough to solidify that IP was the practice group for me. I signed up for more IP classes in the fall. I also applied for summer associate positions at law firms with IP practice groups. I was fortunate enough to be offered, and accept, a position with Cozen O’Connor’s DC office.
I didn’t know precisely how I wanted to work in IP. I didn’t understand the difference between transactional work and litigation work. Luckily, Cozen O’Connor is a full-service firm with nationally recognized practices. Practice groups include litigation, business law, government relations, state Attorneys General, and more. Cozen’s intellectual property group works on all forms of intellectual property, in both transactions and litigation. In private practice, the projects depend on what the clients need, and Cozen is on a mission to fulfill each of its clients’ goals.
During my summer associate position, I had the opportunity to work with many of Cozen’s practice groups. I worked on a variety of assignments and discovered interesting topics that I hadn’t anticipated enjoying. But the highlight was, of course, working with the IP group. I worked on four separate projects—two patent assignments, one copyright assignment, and one trade secrets assignment. I learned about how “public” a publication needed to be to bar a patent application. I learned the nuances of baseball pitches and the pitching motions that might be considered trade secrets. I learned how to formally request permission to use copyrighted material. Finally – and the most challenging – I learned some chemistry. I compared the claims of a set of patents to determine whether one precluded the patentability of the others. Outside of these assignments, I witnessed aspects of the litigation process, from taking depositions to working with experts. I also had the opportunity to converse with associates and partners of all levels of experience.
The opportunities that Cozen provided me during the course of my summer associate position were immeasurable. Private law firms are at the nexus of contemporary, challenging questions, where clients push limits and learn what they can do next, or where attorneys craft unique arguments to protect client property. I felt challenged every day. Moreover, the diversity of practice groups helped me to understand and solidify what I want to do – intellectual property litigation. I worked beside so many brilliant and inspiring attorneys. My supervising attorneys made sure that I understood my assignments and the context for them, and my mentors were available to answer any and every question. I highly recommend any law student who is interested in intellectual property to pursue a summer associate position with a private law firm – especially Cozen O’Connor!