Using your education

26 Oct 2005 | Network Updates
A partner at the global intellectual property firm Sughrue Mion, Susan Pan focuses on IP rights in Asia.

Susan Pan, patent lawyer

A partner at the global intellectual property firm Sughrue Mion, Susan Pan focuses on IP rights in Asia. During her time at the firm, Pan has played a key role in seeing several hundred patent applications in diverse technologies become issued.

What’s your favourite thing/least favourite thing about your job?

There are several gratifying aspects about being a patent lawyer. Among them are using my formal education (B.S. Electrical Engineering and JD [Doctor of Law]) on a daily basis, thinking about the law to find new ways to better serve our clients, and training new attorneys. The aspect that I least enjoy is the administrative matters, especially generating and reviewing bills. But of course, this is indispensable to any business.

How is science business – the business of science – changing for women?

In more recent years, it appears that more women are graduating with the requisite requirements to practice patent law, i.e. the engineering/science background and a law degree. As more women enter the profession, there will be more support for this group of attorneys as they move throughout their careers. Over the time I have been in practice, I have also seen greater flexibility to allow attorneys to have more choice in their work-life balance. I think this especially impacts young women attorneys.

What are the top three trends affecting women in the business of science?

  1. Greater networking and mentoring opportunities for women
  2. Proliferation of home-based service oriented businesses
  3. Emphasis on creativity, such as science applied to practical causes, thereby encouraging new products and product improvement.

What advice would you give to young women looking to make a career in the business of science?

Learn as much as you can as soon as you can. It may mean short-term sacrifice, but it will allow you to have a good grasp of what your strengths and weaknesses are in any given area. This will allow you to concentrate on what you enjoy or shore up any areas where you feel your skills are relatively weaker. Also always keep expanding your knowledge base.

What are the big ideas that affect your work at present?

The value in many high tech companies derives from their intellectual assets, rather than their physical ones. Intellectual property, especially patents, largely contributes to that value, but it is extremely difficult to quantify. I think patent practitioners need to become more comfortable with the fact that often the legal advice they dispense impacts the corporate bottom line and look for ways that the legal parameters can enhance it.

Are there any differences in the ability of women to get ahead in different science-based industries?

It is very important that women be vigilant about expressing what they are interested in and pursuing it. This is especially true for the hard core technical or design work. Otherwise, the technical assignments, where you expand the most professionally, will be given to others.

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