Susan L. Pollet
Chair of the Archive and Historian Committee
Q: When and why did you become involved in the
A: I joined the WWBA in January 2013 after attending a WWBA
program on how to network. At that
event, I met WWBA President Lonya Gilbert who encouraged me to join and
subsequently asked me to be a Co-Chair of the Intellectual Property
Committee. Since I was a teenager, I
have been an activist for women’s rights.
Joining a professional organization with a mission that aligned with my
values and the opportunity to collaborate with attorneys to support the WWBA’s
mission persuaded me to become a member.
Q: Which activities and positions of the WWBA
have you participated in?
A: Since 2013, I have been a Co-Chair of the Intellectual
Property (IP) Committee. Over the years,
the IP Committee has provided programs and written articles for the WWBA
newsletter on patent, trademark and copyright cases and practice tips. We also teamed up with Accelerate Westchester
to provide members of a panel presenting IP Law for Entrepreneurs.
In 2014, I was asked
to also be a Co-Chair of the Awards Committee and have continued to serve on
this committee as well. The WWBA
promotes it members for public recognition by nominating and selecting members
for awards given by the WWBA and organizations such as WBASNY, the New York
State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. The Awards Committee works diligently to gain
recognition for our WWBA members by preparing the nominations for these awards,
because these awards and recognition can help the nominee establish a career,
reinforce a request for a better job or higher salary, and provide external
validation of the member’s work. An
unexpected benefit for me has been learning about and obtaining a greater
appreciation for these nominees, especially from the letters of recommendation
supporting their nominations.
Since its inception
in 2016, I have been a participating mentor in the WWBA’s mentorship program
mentoring Pace law students, typically mentoring at least two to three students
Building up a law
practice requires skills not taught in law school. To help our members, I have brought in
speakers such as Janet Falk, who gave a presentation on how to be the one
reporters call, and taught us how to write a press release and a media profile.
I was elected to be
one of the Directors of the WWBA Board of Directors for the 2022-2023 year,
with a focus on furthering the mission of the WWBA in my new role. I hope to continue this work if I am
re-elected as a Director for 2023-2024.
Q: What would you like to see the WWBA accomplish
in the future?
A: I am deeply concerned about the current movement to strip
away hard-won rights. We have seen what
the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade has unleashed
in our country, and other rights and civil liberties are being targeted. It is vitally important that the WWBA stay
laser focused on its mission to promote justice for all, regardless of sex, and
to advance the social, economic and legal status for women through the
law. We must also continue to expand opportunities
for women and to raise the level of competence and integrity in the legal
profession, especially now when our democracy is being undermined with the
assistance of lawyers who willfully ignore their oaths to promote claims of
fraud in our elections and our election processes that they know are false. We
need to prepare the next generation of lawyers for the battles ahead to fulfill
Q: Please tell us about your legal career.
A: My over 40-year legal career was not straightforward. I graduated from New York University with a
B.A. in Biology and worked as a research assistant in different academic
research labs in New York City and Boston until I decided to go to law
school. In my final year of law school,
I was offered and accepted a position at the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission, which was subsequently rescinded by the next administration the
month I was graduating. We were also in
a recession. I found myself competing
with experienced attorneys for any job openings that came up. For the next two years, I worked as a
temporary lawyer on an hourly basis for different law firms.
I finally began
working full time for a former New York Assistant Corporation Counsel who had
set up his own general practice firm. He
encouraged me to take the patent bar exam to be able to represent clients
before the United States Patent and Trademark Office to help them obtain
patents. You must have a science or
engineering degree to take the patent bar exam, but a degree in biology was not
considered a qualifying science degree at that time. However, I had enough credits in chemistry,
physics, math, and geology to qualify to take the exam.
After passing the
patent bar, I tried to develop a patent practice, but quickly realized that I
needed to work in a firm that either specialized in intellectual property law
or had an intellectual property group to be trained in this specialized
practice area. It took a couple of years
before I found a small boutique IP firm willing to hire me, where most of my
work for three years was trademark and patent litigation. I joined a multinational law firm where I
worked for six years, learning patent preparation and prosecution and being
Involved in all phases of litigation and appeals of patent, trademark, copyright
and unfair competition actions.
All that experience
served me well when I went to work in house as a patent attorney at Wyeth, a
global pharmaceutical company. During my
15 years there, I acquired the skills to work with various research, development
and business groups to develop and manage complex global patent portfolios for
different therapeutic/research areas, to lead multi-disciplinary patent teams,
and to provide legal counsel and educate management and scientists regarding
patent and trade secret issues and rights and obligations under
agreements. I also acquired
administrative skills when I managed one of our satellite patent law offices
located at a research site.
After Wyeth was
acquired by Pfizer, I left the company and came full circle back to private
practice. Leason Ellis offered me an Of
Counsel position in 2011, giving me the opportunity to build my own practice
and to develop and lead the Pharma/Biotech Patent Group. It was a challenging time to start a new
practice with the Great Recession unfolding and the pharmaceutical industry
confronting the expiration of patents covering their major drug products. I had no book of business when I started and
it took several years to build up a practice, with lessons learned along the
way. I take great pleasure in working
closely with clients to build and protect strong intellectual property
portfolios that add value to their businesses.
Part of my practice is devoted to helping individuals and small startups
identify and protect the intellectual property assets that they are creating
and using my industry experience to help them avoid mistakes that could
adversely affect their business.
Q: What advice do you have for new lawyers
entering the profession?
A: Your first job will not be your last job. Focus on learning transferable skills. You must invest in your own professional
development. Work with coaches, take
classes, and attend webinars to learn the soft skills and business skills they
did not teach you in law school, such as how to develop business,
presentation/speaking skills, networking, effective time management, fostering
client relations, what technological innovations will improve your workflow
Be curious. Give yourself a half hour each day to read
about something new. It will expand your
knowledge base, and clients will appreciate that you are keeping an eye on
future trends that might have an impact on what they are doing.
Join a bar
association (preferably the WWBA!) and get involved with a committee, attend
events, and build up a network of attorneys to whom you can turn to for advice,
learn from and have fun together.
Most important of
all, remember that being a lawyer gives you the privilege of helping your
clients, whether they be persons or companies, using the tools of law. Your overarching focus should be on how you
can provide value to the client, whether it be addressing their wants and needs
or the conflict between their wants and needs, resolving a problem, or fighting
for them in court, not on how many billable hours you can rack up. If you maintain that focus, you will have a
meaningful career as a lawyer, one you will look back on with pride.
Q: How have you balanced family responsibilities
and your legal career?
A: It takes a team to raise a family and be a lawyer. You cannot do it all without help.
Q: When you are not lawyering, which community
activities and other interests do you pursue?
A: Having a
child with special needs led me to volunteer in different capacities for many
years for Heartsong, which provides creative arts therapies to children and
adults with special needs, including working one-on-one with children during
music and art therapy sessions, serving on the Board of Directors and the
Advisory Board, and co-chairing Autism Awareness at Citi Field. For over 16 years, I have been involved and
now co-lead the WCT Social Action Knitting and Crocheting Group. I created our motto, “Repairing the World One
Stitch at a Time.” We work year-round to
make blankets, shawls, hats, scarves and other items for victims of domestic
violence, cancer patients, the homeless, and families in need. I read for relaxation, but sometimes get
caught up in the story and stay up way too late. Most important of all, weekends are family
time. It may include chores, but we are
all doing things together.