Life as an IP Lawyer: San Francisco, California

The AmeriKat's professional life, be it on the Kat or sat at her desk litigating her hours away, involves a huge amount of coordination, support and opposition with lawyers from all over the world.  One of the IPKat's key objectives is to bring this global IP community closer together by sharing IP decisions, legislation and practice from across the world with our readers, with the aim that by understanding our unique perspectives on the culture of IP practice we can work together to make IP a success story for innovators, creators, users and the public.  With those grand aims, the AmeriKat thought it would be worthwhile to ask the next generation of global IP lawyers to illuminate IP practice in their jurisdiction, as well as to give readers some fun reading over their lunch-al-desko...


Guinevere Jobson explains what it is like to be an
IP litigator in sunny San Francisco
For the first of the series, we travel almost 6000 miles west to San Francisco, California, where IP litigator Guinevere Jobson  at the leading West Coast firm of Fenwick & West tackles copyright litigation, Silicon Valley "casual" dress codes and a dream of working in Germany.   

What can you see from your office window right now? 

Blue sky and office buildings, including the top of the Transamerica Pyramid.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in IP? 

In law school, my property professor, Mary Clark, taught a segment that touched on intellectual property, art and innovation. We discussed both the academic and practical aspects and I was instantly hooked.

Walk us through a typical day.

Since my practice focuses on litigation, I am often in a deposition, in court or at the client’s offices fact gathering or preparing witnesses. But for those days, and there are many, that I am at the office, I usually arrive between 8:30 and 9 and have my second cup of coffee at my desk while I write my daily to-do list, read up on the latest IP law developments and check what my connections are up to on LinkedIn. I then start working my way through my to-do list. At mid-day, I often head to the gym or meet a friend, business connection, mentor or mentee for lunch, and then I continue on through my task list. I usually leave the office around 6 pm and take the bus home and, if I have more work to do, will continue working from the comfort of my couch.

What are the key differences in your system that clients/other lawyers from outside the jurisdiction find surprising or strange? 

Many clients and lawyers from outside of the United States are shocked and frightened by our system of extensive document exchange and discovery. It is costly, time consuming and can involve producing documents to competitors’ counsel that many companies consider strictly confidential. On a lighter note, many are also surprised at the dress code at Silicon Valley law firms – “business casual” can be as laid back as jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers, though we do still wear suits to court.

As the IPKat's readers are likely eating their lunch while reading this, what is a typical lunch for you?   

I just had a cup of butternut squash soup and a quinoa-tabouleh salad from a take-out spot down the street.

What are the key challenges that are facing the next generation of IP lawyers in your jurisdiction? How are those challenges different from the previous generation? 

Our clients are truly global. This means they face competition and compliance challenges in more and more jurisdictions. As their advisors, we have to be aware of those challenges and coordinate in dynamic ways with attorneys and business partners across the globe. It is no longer just distribution agreements in foreign countries, but relationships and structures that are multi-layered and multifaceted.

The AmeriKat's view towards Guinevere's office in downtown San Francisco
What are the misnomers that people have about IP practice in your jurisdiction? 

The misnomer I face most frequently is broader than IP – that litigation is purely adversarial. But litigators can be problem solvers, not just fighters!

If you could change one thing about IP practice in your jurisdiction, what would it be? 

The misconception that to practice in this field, an attorney must have a scientific or technical background. While this kind of degree can certainly be helpful depending on the practice, it is not required for most of the work IP practitioners do, especially litigators.

What gives you the biggest thrill in your job?

Learning about new technologies and how people are using them.

What are the top trends or cases that we should be looking out for in your jurisdiction in 2016? 

The federal rules of civil procedure were recently amended and the shape and character of discovery may go through some changes in the next year as courts interpret those changes. The Venue Act was recently introduced to the U.S. Senate and, if passed, might curtail the volume of patent litigation being filed in notoriously plaintiff-friendly courts, specifically the Eastern District of Texas. Secondary liability for copyright infringement is also an issue to watch.

To be successful in your jurisdiction, what are the key skills a young IP lawyer needs? 

Organization, perseverance and the ability to articulate a complex concept succinctly and simply.

What other jurisdictions do you work with the most in your practice? 

I’m frequently in touch with counsel in France, Germany and the United Kingdom working on IP rights enforcement campaigns for my clients.

Looking into your crystal ball, where do you see the profession in 10 years’ time? 

Lawyers will be using technology to help execute routine and many discovery tasks. We will all need to be technology experts so we can keep up with our clients!

If you could practice IP law anywhere else in the world for a year, where would that be and why? 

I recently spent a year practicing in Paris and it was fascinating. I would love to practice in Germany – the way the courts there handle preliminary relief and move things toward cost-effective resolution could have some valuable lessons for those of us in other jurisdictions.

Judge Koh -Guinevere's ideal IP lunch date
If you could have lunch with someone famous in the IP world (judge, lawyer, inventor, politician, alive or dead), who would that be? 

Judge Lucy Koh. Many know her as the judge in the Apple v. Samsung dispute in the Northern District of California, but she has also presided over many other complex cases involving technology and cutting edge legal issues that face technology companies and has managed. I would chat with her over a burger and martini at Spruce, one of my favourite restaurants in San Francisco, and ask about what technologies she’s most excited about and how she goes about keeping those big cases moving.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? 

A very senior, rain-making litigator at my firm took a group of summer associates to lunch during our last week as interns and encouraged us all to develop our own individual styles. She emphasized the importance of being authentic to develop a credible advocacy style and provide the best possible service to clients.

If our readers were to come to your city, what are the top three things you recommend they see, do and eat (in that order)? 

See: The sunset from the living- roof at the Academy of Sciences. Do: Take the ferry across the bay to Tiburon. The views from the boat are amazing and the fresh air can’t be beat. Eat: The crab vermicelli noodles at Slanted Door.

Life as an IP Lawyer: San Francisco, California Life as an IP Lawyer:  San Francisco, California Reviewed by Annsley Merelle Ward on Thursday, March 24, 2016 Rating: 5


  1. "As the IPKat's readers are likely eating their lunch while reading this, what is a typical lunch for you?

    I just had a cup of butternut squash soup and a quinoa-tabouleh salad from a take-out spot down the street."

    Is this really what the IPKat has come to? Once upon a time this thing used to be informative.

  2. Philipp Schröler (Simmons and Simmons, Düsseldorf)Thursday 24 March 2016 at 14:52:00 GMT

    Thanks for this very interesting and refreshing article! As a young IP professional working in Germany I am always excited to get information on other jurisdiction. I can see a lot of similarities to my daily work and routines. I liked the part on the "business-casual" dresscode, because we have a similar interpretation for that - at least in our Düsseldorf office.

    I hope there will be many follow up posts in this series!


  3. Oh my Godness, this place seems to have become a place for trivialities and hogwash in almost no time after Jeremy's departure. How about posting weekly hairdo and make-up tips? Jeremy, you are deeply missed!

  4. @Philipp Schroler: Thank you for your feedback! There indeed will be more in the series from Slovakia, Singapore, Australia, South Korea, South Africa and Brazil.

    @Peter Bonetti and @ G Witter: I was sorry to read that you both did not enjoy the post. The point of the series is not meant to be an intensive dive into substantive IP law (in which case see the other 99% of the content on the blog). Our field is people driven - from those who create and invent, to those who craft the laws that govern creations and inventions, to those who protect and enforce. One of the most informative things you can and should do in this profession is to get to know fellow IP lawyers in other jurisdictions. By taking the time to understand their life - professionally and personally - we create a stronger, closer IP community. That is the aim of the post, especially for our readers who may not be able to network as often with lawyers from other jurisdictions.
    I am also disappointed that you have chosen to interpret such a post as being one step removed from "weekly hairdo and make-up tips".

  5. Thank you for this! I have always wanted to do something similar on my blog. Will still do it though. I'll be glad to talk about life as young IP Lawyer in Nigeria if this series comes our way. Looking forward to more interviews in this series.

  6. @IPManor - thank you for your comment and I would love to get in touch about your experiences in Nigeria.

  7. I enjoyed the post, but let us not restrict ourselves to geography: time is important too.

    As an old patent attorney from London, the words "business casual" still fill me with horror.

    I can manage "business":' I can manage "casual" (or disreputable as my family tell me): it is the land in between that I find difficult.

    Could future posts please provide some useful life-style advice for the mature (or over-ripe) patent attorney on how to blend in with the zeitgeist?


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