The Women in IP Committee of the AIPLA is pleased to announce CHRISTY LEA as a Woman to Watch!
The Women to Watch Series was established by the Women in IP Committee as an avenue to recognize women within the AIPLA community for excellence and accomplishments. Through a peer-nomination process, the Women to Watch Series strives to honor women who have created their own paths, who lead through strong examples, and who are achieving successes as a result of their choices and leadership, but who may not be widely known in the AIPLA community.
We are pleased to introduce Christy Lea, in her own words:
Years working in IP: Almost 17 years
Years with current organization: Almost 17 years
Current location: Orange County, California
Current role: Partner at Knobbe Martens
What I do:
I litigate high-stakes patent and trade secrets cases at both the trial and appellate levels. I have represented global medical device and pharmaceutical companies for almost two decades. I frequently serve as lead counsel in inter partes review proceedings before the Patent Office.
I also serve on the Board for the Orange County Public Law Center and the Advisory Board for the School of Engineering at the University of Mississippi.
I am fortunate to have joined Knobbe immediately following law school.
Years and involvement with AIPLA:
I have been an AIPLA member for almost 12 years. I previously served as the West Coast Chair for the AIPLA Women in IP Law Dinners (currently known as the AIPLA Women in IP Global Networking Event), and I coordinate Knobbe’s efforts to host 1-2 of the Global Networking Events every year across its offices.
Q. What was the best professional decision you ever made?
A. My best decision was moving to California and joining Knobbe. I have been fortunate to have great mentors, like Joe Re, who gave me opportunities early on to get the experience that I would need to ultimately lead trial teams. At Knobbe, I have been able to represent great clients, like Smith & Nephew and Edwards Lifesciences. The trust they have placed in me to stand up and represent them in courthouses across the country has been instrumental to my career.
Q. What was the worst professional decision you ever made?
A. I have been very blessed in my career, but if I could do anything differently it would have been to join AIPLA sooner. I wish I had appreciated the value of legal organization earlier in my career. The personal relationships and opportunities that AIPLA can provide are priceless.
Q. What would you consider your greatest professional achievement so far?
A. My greatest achievement is my most recent – winning a $70M trade secret misappropriation jury verdict with $21M in enhanced damages for CardiAQ Valve Technologies, Inc. The National Law Journal ranked the verdict as #6 for IP and #21 overall for 2016 verdicts. But most importantly, it felt very rewarding to work closely with the two founders of the start-up and try to right the wrong that they experienced at the hands of a trusted vendor. Less than a year before trial, Edwards Lifesciences acquired CardiAQ for $400M, and now Edwards is a valued client having trusted the firm with multiple litigations and IPRs. A close second was being recognized as one of the Top 10 Life Science Litigators in the United States by Managing IP magazine. It’s always rewarding to be recognized for your work by your clients and peers.
Q. In your opinion, what could women be doing better to advance their careers?
A. Stay in the game! Find a professional environment and mentor that values you and will give you the training and experience that you need to succeed in your career.
Q. What is the best advice you have received?
A. The best advice I ever received was as a law student during an interview with another large law firm in Southern California. It was a general practice firm and one of the partners candidly told me that if I knew for certain that I wanted to practice IP law then I should accept Knobbe’s offer; I should only accept his GP firm’s offer, he said, if I was uncertain and wanted to have the option of practicing beyond IP law. In his view, the training and experience in IP law at Knobbe was too good to pass up. His advice confirmed what I was already beginning to realize and what I know today to be true, Knobbe is the best place to learn and practice IP law.
More about Christy:
If they bottled my personality, the label would read:
Tenacious and direct!
Something I said I’d never do, but did anyway:
Honestly, I never thought I’d work after having children. My mom stayed at home when I was little, not starting her career until her 40s, and I thought I would do the same. I’m fortunate that despite that belief, I never once treated my career as a short-term experience and always dedicated myself as if I intended to make partner and have a forty-year career, which I did and am now almost half way to!
One thing people are surprised to find out about me:
My husband stays at home with our three children and has for over 10 years. It works out great with my busy litigation schedule, allowing me to travel or attend evening events on short notice.