Irene Yang is a partner in Sidley’s San Francisco and Palo Alto offices and a member of the IP Litigation practice. Her significant trial and appellate experience has earned her recognition as a “Rising Star” for intellectual property litigation by Law360 and Super Lawyers.
“I have been fortunate to find a series of mentors and clients over the years who believed in me, went to bat for me, gave me opportunities, and led by example.”
What attracted you to the practice of law, and what aspect of your practice do you enjoy the most?
Being in court is always an adrenaline rush and is the part of my job I enjoy most (and wish I got to do more of!). I get psyched up for trials, hearings, even case management conferences. Figuring out how to solve people’s problems and right the ship when things have gone awry motivates me constantly. And, the longer I practice law, the more time I find myself devoting to mentoring junior attorneys and law and pre-law students particularly those from diverse backgrounds.
Tell us about a professional goal you are proud of achieving, and what (or who) inspired you to go for it.
When I started my career, I didn’t think that being a partner at a large law firm, standing up in front of a jury, or bringing in business were things that could possibly be in my future. Yet, here we are. I have been fortunate to find a series of mentors and clients over the years who believed in me, went to bat for me, gave me opportunities, and led by example.
What is the most memorable case you led and what made it so memorable?
Every trial is memorable for different reasons, but one that stands out is a case where we represented a defendant accused of infringing a patent. The week kicked off with a lightning storm that burned down part of a hotel in town and ended with us invalidating the patent, thanks to the testimony of a star fact witness who had created and sold a prior art system that did exactly what the patent claimed. I developed our presentation of the evidence and put the witness on at trial, and the result is one of the highlights of my career so far. I have the invalidating prior art system sitting in my office.
On a personal note, what has been your go-to self-care activity in this remote work environment?
Hiking around the Bay Area. I try to get out for a long run, walk or hike at least once a week. Digging out the weeds, ivy, and blackberry vines from the backyard is also remarkably therapeutic.
Can you share with us a saying or quote that gives you inspiration or helps you stay centered?
“Law is a marathon, not a sprint.” Perhaps a cliché, but so true. A wise attorney told me this when I was a junior associate pulling all-nighters on a case with a small team and compressed deadlines. I remind myself of this once in a while, and it helps get my head out of the minutiae of everyday issues and recalibrate.
“Don’t be arrogant” and “make sure to eat.” — My mother.