Principal, Fish & Richardson
For someone who had no intention of being a lawyer and essentially took the LSAT to beat his sister’s score, Michael Hawkins has accomplished plenty in nine years as an attorney. A specialist in patents, Hawkins helps companies like Google fend off patent trolls while also protecting the intellectual property of medical-device businesses.
Hawkins was majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota when he met the managing principal at Fish & Richardson. He tried to sell Hawkins on becoming a patent attorney, but Hawkins wasn’t convinced. Then his sister-besting LSAT score generated scholarship offers, so Hawkins decided to go to law school at the U. He ended up getting valuable expertise working at Fish before and during law school.
“By the time I graduated law school, I had been doing patent law for almost three years,” says Hawkins, a principal at Fish. “I already had my own docket built up and I was responding to patent examiners on applications I drafted years ago.”
Hawkins’ practice has two parts: steering large companies through post-grant proceedings after patent-holding companies sue them, claiming infringement. Early in his career, Hawkins built expertise in the intricate rules and regulations of the U.S. Patent Office, which helps him successfully convince patent examiners to throw out the original, yet faulty, patents — and subsequently, the claimants’ lawsuits.
For medical device clients, Hawkins both works to obtain strong patent protection and serves informally as their in-house counsel. He has helped many early-stage companies build robust patent portfolios that set them up for venture capital funding, commercialization, and strong growth.
In all, being a patent attorney is a perfect fit for Hawkins, who still gets to use his engineering skills on the job. Overall, he prefers the faster pace of law. “The work is intriguing,” he says. “In patent law you get paid to learn about cutting-edge things, really innovative companies and their newest ideas. It’s fresh.”
In addition, Hawkins serves on Fish’s 1L Diversity Fellowship program, both selecting candidates and serving as a mentor. He also volunteers for the Federal Circuit Bar Association’s pro bono inventor assistance program for low-income inventors.