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This is a story about women, but it begins with a man named Leslie. Back in 1980, S. Leslie Misrock knew biotechnology was going to be big. The U.S. Supreme Court had just decided that living organisms could be patented. And Misrock, who was then a partner at New York’s Pennie & Edmonds, realized that lawyers with a life sciences background would be in demand. He decided to start up a biotechnology practice, and he began a search for talent. The next year, Misrock found that talent in the form of two unlikely academics, Jennifer Gordon and Laura Coruzzi. Gordon had just finished a Ph.D. in biochemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Misrock heard through a professor that she was an exceptional writer. He offered her a position as a clerk at Pennie & Edmonds and agreed to foot the bill for her legal education. At the time Gordon, now 47, was pondering a career in chemical fermentation. But she decided to ditch the lab for the law. “I really [didn't] feel like spending the rest of my life next to a fermenter,” Gordon recalls. Misrock discovered Coruzzi at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where she was completing postdoctoral studies in biology. For Coruzzi, now 49, Misrock’s offer came right on time. It was the early days of the Reagan administration, and federal grant money had dried up. Coruzzi decided to give law a chance. Gordon and Coruzzi met in 1981 at Pennie & Edmonds. The “patent twins” clerked by day and attended Fordham University School of Law together at night. They attended many of the same classes, shared notes, and became friends. The women graduated in 1985, and popped champagne corks together when they each made partner in 1989. Misrock died last year, long after his prediction came to pass. Today, Coruzzi, a patent prosecutor, heads up Pennie & Edmonds’ biotech practice. She advises pharmaceutical and biotech clients: In the 1980s, she worked with the National Institutes of Health and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. on the patent for ddI, an AIDs drug. In the 1990s, she worked to patent gene therapy drugs. Gordon, a litigator, is also part of the firm’s management team. Over the years, she’s had her share of victories in the courtroom and the boardroom. In the late 1990s Gordon negotiated several settlements for Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. over a critical technology — called PCR — that makes it possible to duplicate small sections of DNA. Last year, in a jury trial in district court in New Jersey, she won a preliminary injunction for Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. that took rival Schering-Plough Corporations’ swine vaccine off the market. Patent law is a traditionally male field of law. Only 8 percent of IP partners are women, according to a year 2000 survey by the American Intellectual Property Law Association. At Am Law 100 firms, 13 percent of partners in 1998 were women, according to a survey by The American Lawyer. Neither number is great, but at least one of them breaks out of the single digits. Partners like Coruzzi and Gordon represent the “XX” factor — a growing group of women who are breaking through the glass ceiling and making a name for themselves in the biotechnology field. Especially at IP boutiques like Pennie & Edmonds, biotechnology is the place to be for women. Five out of Pennie’s eight women partners are biotechnology lawyers. At New York’s Kenyon & Kenyon, the ratio is six out of eight. Women also tend to make up a disproportionate number of biotech partners. One-third of the biotech partners at Washington, D.C.’s Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, for example, are women. More than 40 percent of Washington, D.C.’s Howrey Simon Arnold & White’s biotech partners are women. “The ratios are getting to where they should be,” says John Normile Jr., co-managing partner at Pennie & Edmonds — which is another way of saying that women have come a long way since Leslie Misrock’s epiphany. The Supreme Court’s 1980 ruling in Diamond v. Chakrabarty was biotechnology’s Big Bang. In Chakrabarty the Court ruled that living organisms could be patented, sparking the birth of biotechnology as a business and creating the need for lawyers schooled in the so-called soft sciences. Shortly after the Court’s Chakrabarty decision, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office relaxed its requirement that practicing patent attorneys needed an engineering or physics background. The office would now let attorneys with biology backgrounds sit for its qualifying exam. IP firms needed to gear up quickly — even if it meant bringing women and nonengineers into the fold. Kate Murashige — considered by some to be the mother superior of female patent lawyers — took full advantage of the opportunity. Murashige, who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, began attending law school at night after she lost her passion for teaching introductory college courses. In 1980 she started practicing patent law in-house at Syntax, a pharmaceutical company based in Palo Alto, Calif., that was willing to hire an in-house lawyer with no patent experience. Today, the 66-year-old attorney is a partner in the San Diego office of San Francisco’s Morrison & Foerster. For decades, biology (and to some extent, chemistry) was considered more woman-friendly than the so-called harder sciences, like engineering and physics. But whether that early inclination toward biology was nature or nurture is difficult to say. Some women say that biology, with its focus on living organisms, is a natural lure for women. Others point out that women were traditionally shut out of other sciences. “Women did not gravitate toward [engineering], because it was not considered a ‘woman’s science,’ ” says Denise Loring, a partner at New York’s Fish & Neave who holds a master’s degree in molecular biology. As an undergrad working in a protein lab in the 1970s at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Loring says, she crossed paths with plenty of other women. Not so when she visited the engineering school. Many IP lawyers who are women say that science simply presented fewer opportunities for women at the time than did law. “There was more of an old boys’ club in science,” says Coruzzi. M. Andrea Ryan went into patent law in the late 1970s partly because she figured that there would be less competition with men at corporate firms. Ryan is now assistant general counsel — patents at WYETH Genetics Institute, an arm of American Home Products Corp. Jumping from science to the law doesn’t necessarily have much to do with gender — often it’s about cash. Lisa Haile, for example, entered law school in 1989, when she realized she couldn’t live on the $15,000 a year she was being paid in a postdoctoral position researching cancer cells at the La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation, now called the Burnham Institute. Haile is now co-chair of the life sciences practice in the San Diego office of Palo Alto’s Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, where profits per partner hit $525,000 in 2000. Female lawyers are coming into their own at a time when biotechnology is driving profits at many of the boutiques and general practice firms with IP specialties. At Pennie & Edmonds; Finnegan Henderson; Milwaukee’s Foley & Lardner; and Boston’s Foley, Hoag & Eliot, women head the biotech or life sciences practices. Women are also the top lawyers at biotech companies like Affymetrix Inc.; Cygnus Inc.; and Roche Molecular Systems Inc. “We have benefited from the success of women,” says Christopher Foley, managing partner at Finnegan Henderson, precisely in part because of their expertise in the biotech and pharmaceutical practices. The influx of female biotechnology lawyers has also shaken up many old-line IP firms. “Instead of having a single-digit percentage of women, we have double digits, and that inevitably leads to a change in the culture of the place,” says Jesse Jenner, managing partner of New York’s Fish & Neave (and an XY). “I think it certainly tends to cut into the old-style male macho ethic.” Women, it turns out, are often great at recruiting — at recruiting other women, that is. One attorney calls it “clustering” — a handful of women settle at a big firm, and soon there is a small colony. Others call it the new girls network. Take Baker Botts. Seven of the eight biotech attorneys at the firm are women. Rochelle Seide, a Baker Botts biotech partner, says that the support that women partners give to each other is key. Word gets out. Women tell their friends, often other women, about a job opening or a lateral slot. Outside counsel and in-house counsel cluster, too. Haile, the Gray Cary partner, says she has had patent prosecution work referred to her through a local networking group of women high-tech and biotech executives. Stephen Bent, a biotech partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Foley & Lardner, says that there is an advantage in sending a woman attorney out for business development if the GC of a potential client is a woman. The chief patent counsel of one biotech company recalls that when one of her outside lawyers was turned down for partner, she transferred work to that lawyer when she left for another firm. Melinda Griffith, general counsel at Roche Molecular, says that she has made Pennie & Edmonds’ Gordon the partner in charge on some of her cases, partly due to the bonds they formed. While Loring was working with Susan Schaffer, senior litigation counsel at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, on a handful of agricultural patent infringement cases, the two women discussed not just litigation strategy, but personal and family issues. Schaffer says that she has asked to use Loring on cases since then. “I’ve been able to form a rapport with women in-house clients in the same way men used to form rapport with male in-house clients on the golf course,” says Loring. Leslie Misrock would be pleased. Related Chart: Making Inroads: Women in Biotech at Leading IP Firms

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