Stephanie Parker, Jones Day partner ()
In what at first may appear to be an oversight, there isn’t a single mention of intellectual property law on the website bio of Stephanie Parker, the lawyer who led the team that achieved last week’s record-breaking $2.54 billion patent infringement verdict for client Idenix Pharmaceuticals.
But it was no blunder by the marketing team at Jones Day, where Parker is a partner. The co-head of the firm’s business and tort litigation group has dozens upon dozens of trials under her belt. But when it comes to intellectual property law, the epic patent battle between her Merck-subsidiary client and Gilead Sciences was Parker’s first attempt at an intellectual property case.
“This is my first patent case. It’s my first IP work,” Parker said this week. “But honestly, I think a jury trial is a jury trial is a jury trial and jury persuasion and jury advocacy goes across all substantive lines.”
To be sure, Parker had help from her intellectual property partners and associates at Jones Day as part of a team of lawyers who tried the case. While Parker wouldn’t discuss the case itself, which still awaits a judge’s decision of whether to treble those damages, she did speak with the Daily Report about how she developed her practice, her work in training younger associates to be trial-ready and the fact that she is the rare female lawyer who has so often first-chaired trials.
Parker, based in Jones Day’s Atlanta office, has tried everything from white-collar criminal matters to contract disputes since finishing up a two-year federal clerkship in 1986. The bulk of her practice has been focused on products liability and mass tort cases for clients in the tobacco, chemical, pharmaceutical, gasoline, medical device and automotive industries. One of Parker’s main clients is R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., for which she leads about three trials a year. As lead counsel for R.J. Reynolds in its Engle progeny litigation in Florida, which involves more than 9,000 plaintiffs, Parker has tried every bellwether trial in the Engle litigation.
In January 2015, Parker was named head of Jones Day’s products liability practice and then in January of this year added to her duties leadership of the 425-lawyer business and tort litigation group. While that group contains some intellectual property lawyers, it is separate from the firm’s IP department.
In an era of clients increasingly steering clear of the courtroom, Parker’s passion remains trial work. She tries to instill that in the younger attorneys at her firm. Through her leadership, Parker has made a point to have a mix of seniority levels on her trial teams. She has tried cases with only herself and a group of associates or only one other partner and the rest associates to ensure the firm’s younger lawyers get into the courtroom. Even for those not on the actual trial team, Parker makes sure junior associates get to attend depositions or sit in on courtroom action, at no cost to clients, to give those lawyers that real-life perspective on trying cases.
“It’s important for law firms, in terms of their long-term strategies, [to develop] a deep bench as well as a broad bench,” Parker said.
Jones Day, known for hiring ex-Supreme Court clerks, has a robust appellate practice. That group, led by partner Beth Heifetz, works closely with Parker’s team on client matters as a matter of course. Parker also works with Heifetz on joint training opportunities.
“I work very closely with Beth to make sure that we get the right mix between the two groups and to make sure that some of her folks who may never want to try a case, go to a deposition or trial to see that,” Parker said.
Above all else, Parker said, she emphasizes to young lawyers the importance of teamwork. Whether a matter requires only a few lawyers or dozens, “it’s not about one lawyer. No result is about one lawyer. It’s all about teamwork,” she said.
As a report last year by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession found, when it comes to trial work, women are rarely leading those teams in the courtroom.
Parker emphasized her deep support for younger women now having the opportunities to make the choices they have when it comes to work-life balance. And she praised the support law firms are giving younger lawyers.
“But one issue our society has to face, if you do jury trial work, you can’t leave at 3 in the afternoon,” Parker said, adding that most of the work is going to be out of town. “So I think that there is some self-selection by younger women. I think it’s wonderful women have those options and choices, but in terms of moving forward on a linear career path, I think that is definitely an issue for our society.”
A big part of being a successful trial lawyer, Parker said, has nothing to do with gender and lots about knowing your audience and the facts.
“I think, for any lawyer, male or female, I think, for any lawyer, you are a better lawyer if you are able to recognize both your strengths and your weaknesses,” Parker said. “Whether you are a woman in a courtroom or a man [in a courtroom] for a different case, sometimes that can be a strength, and sometimes that can be a weakness.”
Parker’s strengths came to bear in the Delaware federal court over those two weeks in December that led to the largest patent verdict in U.S. history. Not bad for a first crack at IP law.
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