I did not actually aspire to my position as IBM Chief Patent Counsel, at least not in the sense that the position was a longstanding goal that I intentionally worked towards. Instead, my position came about as a result of a series of earlier successes – an evolution of small steps along a career path that I did not always foresee. My father owned a sheet metal manufacturing business and frequently spoke of his frustration with the work ethic of some of his employees. That stuck with me. My story is not about how I sought out my current position, but about how after a few decades it found me!
I starting working in our Intellectual Property Law organization, then known as Patent Operations, as a law student. I worked for IBM during the day and I attended law school at night. It was a long haul but I finished law school and began working as an IP attorney supporting our data storage business. Colleagues in my immediate department were veterans of the organization and were great mentors, but within a few years many of them retired. I soon became the manager of the department and subsequently earned my way into executive positions in the organization.
...I never imagined myself in the position. I was just determined to be essential to my boss and to my client.
Dave Kappos became our VP of Intellectual Property Law in 2003. Anyone that knows Dave knows he never stops working, indeed never stops thinking about intellectual property. He no doubt valued people with a similar work ethic. And he needed a senior staff that he trusted. We had known each other for many years and he chose me for his staff. Working for Dave was an honor. Dave later appointed me our Managing IP Attorney because of my deep knowledge of our organization, after which I worked even more closely with Dave.
In a blink, Dave was gone. Rumors had persisted for some time that Dave was a candidate to lead the USPTO, but Dave never acknowledged it until the day the Obama administration announced his formal nomination. Once formally nominated Dave immediately departed IBM. He informed me I would be our Chief Patent Counsel the day he departed IBM. Until that day, I never imagined myself in the position. I was just determined to be essential to my boss and to my client.
[Manny Schecter is Chief Patent Counsel, Associate General Counsel, and Managing IP Attorney at IBM in Armonk, New York – the top annual US patentee for the last 21 consecutive years. Mr. Schecter leads IBM’s worldwide intellectual property law organization on patent matters and advises on intellectual property strategy and policy. He has been in his current position since 2009 and he is a graduate of Cornell University and the George Washington University Law School. He blogs at ibmip.com and can be found on Twitter at @MannySchecter.
How'd You Get That Job? is part of JD Supra's In-House Perspective series, which provides in-house counsel a platform upon which to share their views and thought leadership on issues of the day, including industry news and legal developments, relationships with outside counsel, and law practice matters. To write for the series, email firstname.lastname@example.org.]