Location: New York
Practice Group: IP Litigation
You helped lead a team that recently won a $155 million jury verdict in a biotech case ranked as one of Delaware’s largest-ever patent damages. In your opinion, was there anything distinctive about the case that attributed to this outcome?
The case ended up being one of the top 10 patent jury verdicts out of Delaware. I think one reason for the success came from working alongside Jim Badke and Sona De (both in New York) as the lead partner team for the trial. The three of us, in some combination or another, have been working and trying cases together for almost a decade. One of the unique aspects of this case was having a team that knew each other well, knew how to work together and knew how to play off of each person’s strengths.
The second thing that I really liked about our trial team was our diversity. We had 12 Sidley lawyers on the team, and nine of us were women. The majority of Sidley’s team were women lawyers, and we were sitting across an almost all-male team on the other side. Some of our strength in this trial came from the fact that we were very diverse, well-represented and a mixture that the jury, I think, found more compatible.
This stood out especially when it came to speaking roles in court. Jim, Sona and I split the closing statement, which was an hour-and-half long, into three segments. A lot of litigators are hesitant about splitting this way; they worry that having two or three people making a closing argument will cause them to conflict with each other. In our case, however, we work so well together that it was actually more impactful. When a jury listens to the same voice for an hour-and-a half — they tend to start to tune out. In our closing, Jim covered the overall themes, Sona covered the overall liability issues and I covered the overall damages issues. Dividing it up this way allowed us to give the jury the highlights with a fresh face and a fresh voice for each segment of our closing argument. I really think that we maximized the impact of the closing with this combination.
As a member of ChIPs, you’re committed to championing women lawyers in tech and IP. Tell us about the organization and its Global Summit.
ChIPs is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance and connect women who work in IP, technology, the legal profession and policy. The group was formed in 2005 by seven women chiefs of intellectual property. It started out in Silicon Valley as a West Coast initiative, but there are now almost 3,000 members in a dozen chapters internationally.
For the last few years, Sidley has sponsored ChIPs’ annual Global Summit in Washington, D.C. The event brings together almost 500 senior women lawyers, including a large number of in-house representation. It’s probably the best conference that I’ve attended in terms of the host organization, male or female.
All of Sidley’s women IP partners are invited each year, and this year, all five of us are attending. Each of us invites at least one client to attend, and we all sit at the same table throughout the conference. Over the course of two days, there are lunches, networking events, presentations on the latest legal issues and talks from some of the top women entrepreneurs at start-ups. It’s not only a great business development opportunity, but also a nice way to spend quality time building relationships.
People who attend the ChIPs summit for the first time always tell me how amazed they are to see so many high-achieving women — powerhouse litigators, general counsels and vice presidents — all together in one room. I think most people walk away feeling really encouraged. We’re accustomed to walking into conferences where women account for maybe 10 percent of the room, especially at our level of seniority. To walk into a room full of 500 top-level women and lawyers, it gives you hope that things are moving in the right direction.
You also support a nonprofit that works to help victims of sex trafficking.
Yes, I’ve served on the board of directors for Restore NYC for the last three years, although I’m currently on hiatus.
Restore NYC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end sex trafficking in New York City and help survivors reestablish themselves in the United States. They work with victims of sex trafficking who come directly through the New York Police Department or the court system. Many of these survivors are from foreign countries, without any connections or resources here, and they often don’t speak English. Restore NYC works to help them build a stable life by providing free housing for up to two years, along with trauma counseling, language lessons and job skills training. I’m on break from my board of director’s role but still completely behind their cause as a donor and supporter. I’m a big believer in what they do.
What would you consider as one of your most significant professional achievements?
What stands out to me are the many opportunities I’ve had to overcome stereotypes. I was born in Shanghai and moved to the United States with my family when I was eight years old. So, for me, being a Chinese-American woman litigator and overcoming all the biases and stereotypes that I’ve faced throughout my career has been one of my most significant and ongoing professional challenges. You can imagine all of the cultural elements at play going to depositions and trials, and interacting with judges, juries, clients and opposing counsel across the country. No matter how much progress we make, there’s still room for improvement on how Asian-American women are perceived in this aggressive, often testosterone-charged career path.
I’m often the only woman and the only Asian-American speaking in court. While many Asian-American women work in IP in the legal profession, I’ve seen very few getting the larger roles at trials or going on to become lead trial counsel. In many ways, I, along with numerous other Asian-American women litigators I know, are continuing to tackle these challenges on a daily basis.