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Cheryl Young was disgruntled over her lack of freedom as a physician. Samuel George, a cardiologist at Duke University, needed to pursue a lifelong dream. So, as if being a doctor wasn’t over-achieving enough, the two ditched their scrubs for a life in the law. But they haven’t completely abandoned their medical backgrounds. Both practice intellectual property law and both work with biotech and medical device companies. “IP law is the intersection between the law and technology, and for me, this is a great combination,” said Young, an IP litigator at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s Menlo Park, Calif., office. Young’s interest in IP was sparked by a medical journal article about an infamous ophthalmologist who tried to enforce his patent on a cataract removal technique. A quote by William Noonan, a physician turned patent prosecutor, caught Young’s attention. She called him on the phone to discuss his experience practicing medicine and law. At the time, Young was studying law at Case Western Reserve. She was also still a practicing physician. “I went to law school as an intellectual endeavor,” Young said. “Initially I wanted to get involved in health care policy and reform.” Young said she had become discontent about the role of managed care groups in the medical field. “The reduction in professional autonomy that physicians have experienced in recent times was very disappointing to me,” Young said. “Insurance companies and managed care organizations increasingly dictate how doctors can practice medicine.” IP law has given her greater autonomy, she said, and also has drawn on her background as an electrical and biomedical engineer. Prior to medical school, Young, 36, worked for a defense contractor designing computers for missile guidance systems and radar control. After obtaining her law degree in 1999, Young became a patent prosecutor at Klarquist Sparkman Campbell Leigh & Whinston, the Portland, Ore., firm where Noonan is a partner. She jumped to Orrick in October. George, a 1999 graduate from Duke University Law School, also went directly to Klarquist Sparkman. Like Young, he found IP to be a natural draw. As a physician “I did molecular gene therapy research, clinical trials and patient care,” George said. IP gave him the chance to combine these skills with the law and enable him to “continue working with cutting edge biotech companies.” The Foster City, Calif., biotech company Cell Genesys funded his medical research for several years. Jumping from an established position in the medical profession to take on a new career was “the most scary decision of my life,” acknowledged George, 49. But he said the desire to become a lawyer “was a lifelong thing that wouldn’t get out of my head.” He said he has had no regrets. And like Young he has been drawn to the San Francisco Bay Area. He joins Latham & Watkins’ Menlo Park, Calif., office in mid-March where he will handle transactional work. “All the real excitement in IP law goes on down here,” said Young.

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