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Margaret Shyr, an associate at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. (Courtesy photo)

As lead technical associate in Agilent Technologies v. Twist Bioscience, a trade secret case involving synthetic DNA technology, Margaret Shyr helped the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan team secure two key motion wins on behalf of Twist Bioscience, resulting in a two-year stay of fact discovery.

Describe yourself in one word.


What kinds of new technologies should tomorrow’s lawyers be able to use effectively?

Design technologies, in particular for presentations and graphics, are important, and their use is not something that I saw in law school. As advocates, we can leverage design to improve the experience for and persuasion of our audience, whether it be the opposing party, the jury or the judge.

What’s one area of technology that you’re most excited about and why?

Synthetic biology and its enabling technologies are endlessly fascinating, because it combines so many scientific disciplines—from computer science to biochemistry. There have been explosive leaps in the technology in the past few years and, with that, game-changing new companies and benefits for humankind.

Who is the most important mentor you’ve had thus far in your career? Why?

Kevin Johnson, a partner in Quinn’s Silicon Valley office. Every time I have been able to observe him in court, with members of his team, with our adversaries and with current and potential clients, it has been a huge learning experience. Even though he is the busiest person I have ever seen, he still makes time to impart wisdom and attorney survival skills on me and many other associates and partners. Kevin has also always encouraged and enabled me to seek roles and opportunities to grow as an attorney.

What drew you to practicing law in the technology industry?

I have always loved science and technology and have huge respect for those who bravely explore, experiment and develop technologies. I realized long ago that I was meant to advocate for and protect innovation and innovators. The law is a means to that end.

What’s the best piece of career advice anyone ever gave you?

A lawyer I worked with before law school told me that, as lawyers, we don’t create anything tangible. We are not the engineers, the scientists or the artists. All that we have to show for ourselves is our work product. So it should be as perfect as it can possibly be. I think about that advice every day.

What’s the best part of working in the tech sector?

Dynamic subject matter and legal issues. The great thing about technology—no matter the field—is that there are always new developments.

What’s the biggest challenge?

One of the most challenging but enjoyable aspects of my job is to constantly learn about new technologies that at first seem like pure magic.

How do you describe what you do for a living to people you’re meeting for the first time?

I help clients resolve disputes, particularly those where technology is a central aspect, and that includes preparing the case with an eye toward trial, should it become necessary.

What’s one way technology has made your life easier?

Because I work on really interesting technology issues, those technologies make it easy to wake up excited to work.

One way it’s made your life more difficult?

Technology makes things so easy and fast that patience is a difficult virtue to hold on to.

Name an important opportunity you’ve had in your career and what you did with it?

I was working as a patent agent and, right before I was about to start law school, I had a job offer to go in-house with a wonderful client. I was torn but declined. It was a terrifying decision in 2011. But it was the right one. I love litigation and would not have realized how much unless I walked away from that opportunity.

In 50 words or less, what’s the best way to address tech’s gender gap?

Two factors keep me in pursuit of a career in technology law: inspiration from working with phenomenal women partners, executives and entrepreneurs in technology, and encouragement from leaders I’ve worked with, particularly Quinn partners, who have never questioned my abilities or potential based on my gender. To the contrary, I’ve had so many opportunities and so much positivity from them, which tells me that there are no limits.

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Ross Todd

Ross Todd is bureau chief of The Recorder in San Francisco. He writes about litigation in the Bay Area and around California. Contact Ross at rtodd@alm.com. On Twitter: @Ross_Todd.

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