Don’t Disappear this Summer: Navigating a Successful Remote IP Summer Experience

Author: Program on IP & Technology Law

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The Program on IP & Technology Law has continued its summer webinar series with events that address novel legal issues and practical challenges associated with the coronavirus. On Wednesday, June 10th, the Program hosted a webinar on how to thrive in your remote IP summer experience. The webinar shared advice on how to succeed in a remote work environment over the summer, including how to interface with partners via videoconferencing platforms; and how to properly stay in contact and network with others at your organization or firm given social distancing and remote work. Remote working has also brought novel legal issues for IP attorneys ranging from postponed deadlines to novel ways of communicating with clients. 

A marriage of practical and substantive issues, the webinar provided students with the practical knowledge to thrive over the summer at their IP firm and organization. Guest speakers included Michael P. Shepherd, a 2002 Notre Dame alumnus and Principal at Fish & Richardson; James Silbermann, Senior Counsel for Enrollment and Intellectual Property Legal Services, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; Shannon Hughes Mastick, a 2016 NDLS alumna and associate at Marshall Gerstein; Steven Nyikos, General Counsel at Dayblink and a 2015 NDLS alumnus; and Veronica Canton, an ABA-IPL Young Lawyer Fellow and a 2018 NDLS alumna. Our speakers reflected on the best ways to work remotely and stay in touch with colleagues, and on the novel IP issues they are facing in their daily practice. As you work remotely over the summer, consider these takeaways from our discussion.

#1 Communication and your Network are Building Blocks

Working remotely during your summer experience means that effective and clear communication is more important than ever. Reaching out to your colleagues will prevent you from fading into the background and going unnoticed. Michael Shepherd stressed the importance of communication while working remotely, especially in the absence of physical interaction, “It’s challenging for attorneys to keep track of reaching out to all their summer associates. By not disappearing and constantly checking in with people, you will build good communication.” 

Shannon Hughes Mastick seconded this, “It’s important to make sure people don’t forget about you during your virtual summer associate experience.” Communication through phone calls and video chat (as opposed to email correspondence) is a more effective and personal way for employers to remember you and get to know you. It can be intimidating to initiate communication in your summer job when you are working remotely, but remember that your employers are going through this for the first time as well. 

Communication with your employer will help to build “foundational relationships that can affect your future career trajectory”, Steven Nyikos said. James Silbermann added that even though there may not be in person communication or firm-wide events, “networking within your network” and letting your mentor or direct supervisor help connect you with other people can be very helpful to build stronger relationships during your summer experience. 

Learning how to communicate effectively during a public-health crisis like the one we are in now is a skill that will prove valuable in the future. Also, take full advantage if your firm is having virtual coffee time or happy hours. Use these opportunities to showcase your interests and to get to know your peer associates as well as those working at your firm/company. And as Veronica Canton highlighted, given that “everyone is dealing with all different kinds of stresses right now”, the public health crisis has supported more personal and less adversarial connections in everyone’s work life.

#2 Today’s Challenges Lead to Tomorrow’s Skills

The challenges faced today due to COVID-19 have led to a new way of working. Developing new skills is necessary to help better prepare you for this new working environment. Your office may also be your bedroom, and it’s therefore easy to just hop out of bed and into your work day.  Being prepared and planning your day like you are going into the office can lead to more efficiency. Veronica Canton gave several helpful tips for working through a video computer screen - “wear a solid color, try to have a simple background behind you, and always have a blazer or jacket near you.” You never know when you are going to be asked to jump on a call.  Having these simple things nearby to prepare yourself will help you be ready whenever someone wants to speak with you. Alongside these tips, learning to block out your time and schedule when you are going to work and for your whole day, Steven Nyikos shared, will allow you to be more efficient and prepared during your virtual summer experience and beyond.

New skills and knowledge are by no means limited to practical issues. These challenging times have called for novel IP legal solutions. The USPTO, for example, has in part responded to current events with its COVID-19 Response Resource Center. New programs help ensure that innovators are still getting the proper help they need through the patent process while patents pertaining to COVID-19 and public health are prioritized. Making the switch to remote working has been almost seamless, James Silbermann noted, a fact appreciated by practitioners in the field who file and interact with patent and trademark examiners, Michael Shepherd and Shannon Hughes Mastick noted. 

Working remotely also raises cybersecurity issues for companies Steven Nyikos shared, in addition to related privacy law concerns. Be aware that the novel legal issues you may be learning to affront now as part of your summer experience may also serve you well for future practice. Take advantage of the remote work environment to flex your writing skills, a strength that will come in handy in the future, Michael Shepherd observed. It’s also a time to explore your passion for an area of law and, therefore, create security even in uncertain times. “Doing what you enjoy will create longevity in your career.”, Steven Nyikos noted.  

COVID-19 has created shared understandings amongst people, whether it’s between you and your colleagues or your opposing counsel. There is a sense of common ground Shannon Hughes Mastick noted, that everyone is feeling, and it reminds us all that we are people. This has allowed for personal connections to form, especially those that might not have formed in-person. Remembering that everyone is dealing with different kinds of stress during this time supports thinking of the person first, which particularly allows you to cultivate meaningful and lasting professional relationships over the summer and throughout your career.