An Interview with Eric L. Pines

Communication Skills — In patent law, effective communication with clients is paramount. We must fully grasp their needs to ensure we don’t overlook crucial information. For example, when working closely with clients regarding their inventions it is really important to listen carefully to them in order to hone in on the details so you can draft a well crafted patent application.

The legal field is known to be extremely competitive. Lawyers are often smart, ambitious, and highly educated. That being said, what does it take to stand out and become a “Top Lawyer” in your specific field of law? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law”, we are talking to top lawyers who share what it takes to excel and stand out in your industry.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kasia Zebrowska-Trauben.

Kasia Zebrowska-Trauben is an Associate at Caldwell’s Santa Monica Office and focuses her practice on the preparation and prosecution of foreign and domestic patent applications, assessing the patentability and developing patent protection strategies for business growth and success and preparation, and prosecution of trademark applications, and Intellectual property portfolio strategy and management development and management of trademark portfolio.

Prior to joining the firm, Kasia served as counsel for various fashion apparel start-up and established companies offering counseling on topics such as intellectual property acquisition, creative design patent preparation and prosecution, trademark application preparation and prosecution, intellectual property infringement analyses and licensing.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law? Did you want to be an attorney “when you grew up”?

Growing up, I never really saw myself becoming a lawyer. My family background was predominantly medical, so naturally, I pursued biology and pre-med studies in college. However, after a couple of years, I realized that science wasn’t my true passion. I shifted gears and pursued an MBA in finance. During my finance studies, I found myself drawn to law-related courses. A standout professor, who was also an attorney, sparked my interest in the legal field. Engaging with him about the intricacies of the legal process intrigued me. In the final year of my MBA program, I decided to take the LSAT, ultimately leading me to enroll in law school. It was there that I discovered my fascination with intellectual property law.

Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?

At Caldwell, my focus is primarily on patent law. I specialize in patent prosecution, which involves drafting, filing, and negotiating patents and office actions with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Our main objective is to secure patent protection and rights for a range of inventions to benefit our clients. It’s a collaborative process between the client and attorney, requiring us to engage with patent examiners at the USPTO. Negotiating with them to address any issues or concerns they may have is essential for obtaining patents. Additionally, I assist various companies with their overall intellectual property strategy, helping to maximize their IP portfolios and optimize their business strategies. I find this aspect particularly rewarding as it involves a broader perspective beyond just patent prosecution.

You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?

  1. Teamwork: Collaboration is key to my approach. I thrive on working with colleagues, especially when tackling complex patent issues. Being able to brainstorm and devise strategies together in our office environment is incredibly rewarding.
  2. Flexibility: As a patent attorney, I encounter a variety of legal issues beyond patent prosecution, including trademarks and copyrights. I’m always ready to leverage my expertise to assist with other cases that require my experience and knowledge.
  3. Motivation/Determination: The path to becoming a patent lawyer is challenging and requires unwavering determination. For instance, obtaining registration as a patent attorney involves overcoming hurdles like the rigorous patent bar exam. It takes dedication and persistence to navigate this journey, including passing the state bar exam after completing law school.

What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I have a creative streak. One outlet for this is my fashion podcast, where I get to exercise my creativity by developing topics and conducting research. It’s akin to being a journalist, and I find great joy in the process. I have a lot of experience in working with various fashion/ apparel companies and have always enjoyed researching the new laws concerning fashion- mostly in the intellectual property space but also in other areas of the law such as the latest California Garment Worker Protection Act.

Do you think you have had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?

Yes, luck has certainly played a part in my success. For instance, it’s been instrumental in connecting me with the right clients at opportune moments. Additionally, luck played a role in how I landed at Caldwell. I had been following them on social media for some time before they opened an office in my favorite building in Los Angeles. Living just a few stoplights away, it felt like fate. After reaching out to the owner on social media, I was thrilled to secure the job a few months later.

Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?

At this stage of my career, with over a decade of experience as an attorney, I’ve found that work experience holds more weight than the specific law school I attended. While having a law degree is essential, practical experience is paramount. Additionally, having an MBA can be beneficial. For those aiming for positions in big law, the prestige of the law school they attended may carry more significance.

Based on the lessons you have learned from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your twenty-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?

Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. Even though pursuing a bachelor’s in science initially didn’t seem like the right path, it ended up being exactly where I needed to be. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. Now, when I work with biotech clients, I’m amazed at how quickly that knowledge from my undergraduate studies comes flooding back, despite it being years ago. If I could offer advice to my younger self, it would be to worry less during school. I was always anxious about what came next, obsessing over summer plans and lining everything up perfectly. Looking back, I realize things tend to fall into place, and I wish I hadn’t stressed out so much.

This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

My primary motivation and drive behind the work I do stem from my family. Having two children, it’s important for them to see me working hard while also finding joy in my work. I genuinely love coming to work every day, especially when I get to drive past the ocean on my commute and collaborate with wonderful colleagues. I work with great people, so I think that’s kind of a nice example for them, and sometimes they’re taken aback, like, “you love your job?” Yes, I really do.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I enjoy discussing my podcast because it’s something I find fun and look forward to each month. My podcast focuses on fashion and the law, allowing me to stay updated on the latest happenings in the fashion world. In my free time, I dedicate myself to researching recent legal and fashion news, sometimes both, to select a topic for the podcast. I love delving deep into the chosen topic, conducting thorough research, and gathering all relevant legal documents. It’s a rewarding project that I engage in once a month.

Where do you go from here? Where do you aim to be in the next chapter of your career?

I’m eager to continue making a significant impact here at Caldwell and strive to attract more clients. With our growth trajectory, I find it incredibly exciting. As we expand our office in Los Angeles, I’m thrilled to take on a leadership role in that project. Working closely with the construction team has been a rewarding experience for me.

Without sharing anything confidential, can you please share your most successful “war story”? Can you share the funniest?

I have a client who developed an interesting shoe accessory. She runs a small business and sought to patent the accessory. Each patent filing is assigned to a patent examiner, and we had several back-and-forth discussions, including over the phone. Just a few months ago, we received a notice of allowance for her invention. This was a significant win for her small business, especially as a sole inventor. I was delighted to be part of her journey and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her throughout the process.

What do you think will be the future of how law offices operate, and what do you prefer?

I prefer coming into the office every day. Being social, I enjoy the company of others, especially after experiencing the isolation of COVID. Working remotely isn’t for me. Regarding the future of law firms, at least here in LA, many are transitioning to a hybrid model. Previously, it was almost evenly split between in-office and remote work, but now I’m seeing firms requiring new attorneys to be in the office five days a week. Some senior attorneys opt for one or two hybrid days. This seems to be the emerging business model for law firms.

How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future? Can you explain what you mean?

Since COVID, the legal world has seen a significant increase in remote client meetings. This shift has allowed us to reach a broader client base without being restricted by location. Looking ahead, I anticipate this trend of remote meetings continuing, providing greater accessibility and flexibility for both clients and legal professionals.

Based on your experience, how can attorneys effectively leverage social media to build their practice?

Social media has become increasingly prevalent in the legal world, especially since COVID. Attorneys are realizing its potential as a tool to connect with clients and raise awareness about their practice. By maintaining an active presence on platforms like Instagram, attorneys can ensure they’re on the radar of potential clients. For instance, someone with an idea for a patent may stumble upon our website or Instagram and learn about the patenting process. In my case, social media helps attract more listeners to my podcast. Whenever I share a new episode, I notice an increase in listenership. Overall, engaging with social media can lead to more clients, listeners, followers, or whatever the law firm may be seeking.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law?”

  1. Communication Skills — In patent law, effective communication with clients is paramount. We must fully grasp their needs to ensure we don’t overlook crucial information. For example, when working closely with clients regarding their inventions it is really important to listen carefully to them in order to hone in on the details so you can draft a well crafted patent application.
  2. Detailed-oriented — Patent applications require meticulous attention to detail. Whether drafting an application or responding to an office action, it’s important to ensure all outstanding items are addressed smoothly and efficiently to avoid wasting time.
  3. Good time management skills — Time management is critical in patent law, especially when unexpected requests arise. For example, a patent examiner may ask you to prepare something that you were not anticipating, and then of course, in the interest of your client, you have to be efficient about it.
  4. Business Acumen — Understanding our clients’ business priorities is essential for crafting effective strategies. By aligning legal advice with business objectives, we can provide tailored solutions. For example, a start-up client’s goal may be to expand their business to target and other big box stores and we have to be able to provide the most effective strategy in that scenario.
  5. Teamwork — Collaboration is key in patent prosecution. Internally, I work closely with patent practitioners, paralegals, and researchers to deliver comprehensive solutions. For example, if I get an patent office action that someone else has worked on previously I oftentimes will go to them and discuss the matter, any experiences they had with patent examiner in that case, all are very helpful in the patent prosecution area. Externally, building strong relationships with clients and investors is crucial for success.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and Conde Nast, would be my top choice for a private breakfast or lunch, and I’d also love to have her as a guest on my podcast. As one of the most renowned editors in history, she’s made significant contributions to both Vogue and the fashion industry as a whole. Her leadership at Vogue has been revolutionary. I recently read a fantastic biography about her that was released last year, and it left me with so many questions about her life and career. It would be a dream to sit down with her and have the opportunity to learn from her experiences firsthand.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

See the full interview here.

About the Interviewer: Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative. A formal federal employee himself, Mr. Pines began his federal employment law career as in-house counsel for AFGE Local 1923 which is in Social Security Administration’s headquarters and is the largest federal union local in the world. He presently serves as AFGE 1923’s Chief Counsel as well as in-house counsel for all FEMA bargaining unit employees and numerous Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs unions.

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