Inspired by TV lawyers and a Supreme Court justice, I became a real one – and I am happy that I did

As a first-generation lawyer, I was originally influenced by fictional lawyers on TV. I loved watching Perry Mason, Grace Van Owen on LA Law, and yes, even Ally Mc- Beal. I especially loved watching them argue their cases in court. In the fifth grade, I wrote a report on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, which helped solidify my desire to be a lawyer when I grew up. I can still remember reading about how Justice O’Conner was forced to accept a paralegal position after graduating from law school, because no one would hire a female lawyer. I saw it as an honor and a challenge to be a great female trial lawyer.

My career was also influenced by many mentors and supporters throughout my life, starting with my parents. They encouraged me to major in engineering, because I had excelled in math and science in high school, and they saw engineering as a promising career and new frontier for women. I agreed and headed to Ole Miss where I earned a BS in Chemical Engineering, became a NASA Scholar, and cooped at a chemical company. But my desire to go to law school never waned. On my way to law school with my engineering degree, another mentor suggested that I consider patent law. I had never heard of patent law, but I soon started to learn everything I could about it. Then at UT Law, I was fortunate to have Mark Lemley as my patent law professor.

After law school, I headed to California and found gold at Knobbe Martens. I was very fortunate to land at Knobbe, because it is a special firm that values and supports its women attorneys, including through great mentoring, reasonable hours, and staffing women on important cases with significant roles in the courtroom. Importantly, early on in my legal career, I was included in pitches for large clients with major patent litigation. I learned to value my relationships with colleagues and clients, work hard, and make the best legal arguments possible. To paraphrase Perry Mason, there are no substitutes for good friends, happy days, and victory.