Why I Lawyer: Q&A with Lisa Haile
Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
My path to becoming a lawyer was not a direct one from college. After graduation, I entered the doctoral program at Georgetown University Medical School to pursue my Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology. My main area of interest was studying how and why cancer cells deviate from normal cell growth and using that information to develop new cancer drugs. Once I obtained my Ph.D., I did my post-doctoral studies on cancer at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, California. I had spent nearly three years doing my postdoctoral research when I realized that being a bench scientist was not my passion any longer — however, science and medicine were still my calling. After some research, I learned that law firms were hiring scientific advisors with a Ph.D. to assist with patent matters. It was clear that this career path would be limiting, however, so I went to law school in order to help biotech and pharmaceutical companies protect their scientific innovations.
How has being a lawyer helped you in other areas of your life?
Being a lawyer has provided me with a different way of approaching problems or issues, compared to how the scientist side of me would approach them. In science, things are black and white — there are answers, and you need to follow different paths to find those answers. Having a legal background has broadened my perspective in my everyday life and helped me understand that there may not always be “right” answers, and that it truly is the journey and not the destination that provides a meaningful and fulfilling life.
What differentiates you in regard to the services you offer?
As an intellectual property lawyer in the biopharma space, I bring my science background to legal and business issues. I still feel like I am a scientist who focuses on the law, and I bring my technical background to clients’ legal issues. For example, rather than delivering the bad news that a client may be infringing on another party’s patent rights, I take additional steps to provide insight into the technical and legal approaches they can take to avoid those patents. Scientifically, I understand how to design around patents, so I work with the client’s scientific and legal teams to develop solutions.
What part of your practice do you consider to be the most innovative, and what areas are you most passionate about?
This year I will have 30 years of patent practice, and I have had the privilege of representing eight Nobel Prize winners in protecting their innovations. The experience and knowledge I have developed has led me to develop a practice working with investors who are looking at new opportunities, and with clients acquiring new assets or companies. Having so many years in the industry has given me a deep understanding of the business of biopharma and provides me with a different perspective when I advise clients on the value of a particular technology or the likelihood of success in the market relative to competitors. This IP diligence is an area that I have become most passionate about over the last decade.