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GW Law alumni abound at Kramer Amado

During law school, Arlir Amado, JD ’99, took a job as a patent researcher for a small company run out of his future business partner’s bedroom. By the time he graduated from GW Law, he and Terry Kramer had agreed to expand the business into intellectual property (IP) law. The two formed KramerAmado and spun off the research group into Kramer IP Search. 

Nearly two decades later, the firm has three partners, 17 attorneys (13 of whom are GW Law alumni), and 36 employees at their new offices in Alexandria, Va. The firm handles cases from patent applications to product strategy in the fields of electronics, chemical engineering, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, communications, technical design, software, business methods, and the Internet. 

“Our goal is to continue to grow,” says Mr. Amado. “We work with companies all over the country, Fortune 500 companies, international companies, and law firms, globally, due to the international nature of intellectual property.”

The firm also is committed to fostering a diverse group of lawyers. “Almost half of our attorneys are from underrepresented groups in law (minorities and women),” Mr. Amado says. “They are members of the National Bar Association (for African American attorneys), APABA (Asian Pacific American Bar Association) and HNBA (Hispanic National Bar Association). We believe we have one of the more diverse IP boutique firms and are very proud of that.”

KramerAmado has deep connections to GW as well, hiring many associates from the law school. “GW is right here,” says Andreas Baltatzis, JD ’03, the firm’s third partner. “It has a great IP program. Both Arly and I worked at the firm during law school. It’s how we like to hire and train.”

The firm recruits on campus and through GW Law’s career services office. Katie White, director of employer outreach, has been a great asset, Mr. Amado says. He and his partners like to bring students in as clerks during their first or second summers, and, since the law school is so close, students frequently continue on a part-time basis during their second and third years.

“It was an easy transition [from law school] because I had been working here and getting to know my bosses,” says Shoshana Marvin, JD ’11. “I was doing a lot of work already. Clerks do lots of researching. As an associate I do a great deal of research, but I also do legal writing and opinion writing for clients.”

In addition to an interest in intellectual property law, clerks and associates need backgrounds in science or engineering, Mr. Baltatzis says. It’s important because patent lawyers have to pass the U.S. Patent and Trademark exam (USPTO), in addition to the bar exam. 

Mr. Baltatzis’ and Mr. Amado’s career paths are instructive. Both planned to go to medical school while in college. They studied biology, Mr. Amado at the University of Central Florida, Mr. Baltatzis at Case Western Reserve University. But before they graduated, they realized they were more interested in science than medicine. Patent law suited their goals. 

“I really enjoy science,” Mr. Baltatzis says. “The discovery and being at the cutting edge is what interests me about patent law. I’m always looking at new things, always learning something new.”

What surprised him coming out of law school, however, and working at a law firm, was the client-attorney relationship. “What they really don’t teach you in law school is how to get clients and how to meet their expectations,” he says. “What are their expectations? How do you create a work product that the client is looking for? In our practice, we try to teach our associates to write in a way your client can understand. Be straightforward, do not produce legalese.”

Intellectual property law requires a lot of footwork, researching existing patents and cases where the laws have been applied. And with technology changing so swiftly, the laws can change at a rapid pace too. KramerAmado associate Gideon Eckhouse, JD ’06, explains the intricacies of intellectual property laws and what they protect by pointing to a can of Diet Coke. 

“There are six different issues on one can,” he says. “Copyright, for example, is for creative works, such as books, television shows—or the ad print on the Coke can. Patents are for new inventions, the actual new idea, trade secrets for how Coke is made or how the cans are made. Trademarks are for the logos.”

Mr. Eckhouse often works with pharmaceutical companies in risk management. “I start with a patent search to identify risk and write an analysis of risk,” says Mr. Eckhouse who has a master’s degree in analytical biochemistry. “This is a niche area of patent law that intersects with FDA regulation.”

Sandra King, JD ‘08, explains further. Patents for drugs, for instance, may hinge on one new pharmaceutical ingredient. “You have to understand the compounds and if they are similar,” she says, hence, the need for a technical background. She has a pharmacy degree from Rutgers University. “You have to know how to read the patent, which is very technical. You have to understand organic chemistry and pharmaceutical formulations, how to form tablets or capsules.”

Kyle Trout, JD ’10, was drawn to intellectual property law because he likes learning about new technology. “Every day there’s a new puzzle on my desk,” says Mr. Trout, who has an undergraduate degree in computer science and engineering. “One hot-button issue in patent law is whether business methods and software should be patentable. The cool thing about KramerAmado is that I am not pigeonholed. I work on software and electronics, and then expand into mechanical fields or medical devices.” 

Often the lawyers work directly with an inventor. Eric Nuss, JD ‘97, is an electrical engineer. Before going to law school he worked with radar for the U.S. Navy. “I am a technology junkie,” he says. “I counsel the inventor on patent matters. I look for what other patents are out there and any risks of infringement.”

Outside of the office, Mr. Amado says, patent lawyers dig deep into their hobbies, learning every aspect. That depth surfaces during after hours at the firm, which hosts ping-pong tournaments and happy hours where some employees spin their extensive vinyl record collections. 

“Patent people are interesting,” Mr. Amado says. “We’re probably not as in touch with today’s Top 40 hits, but here at the firm, we have deep knowledge in areas such as old jazz, vinyls, and graphic novels. What I find fascinating about my co-workers is that once you find what their interests are, they know so much, and we can learn so much from each other.”

Mr. Amado encourages outside interests; in fact, he encourages a balance between life and work. The partners installed a ping-pong table and video game consoles to bring out the lighter side of employees. “We don’t want people to burn out,” he says. “We want them to have a have a family, have a happy life.”

Ms. Marvin is testing that balance, as she is the first female associate to go on maternity leave. The small firm didn’t have a policy until about a year ago; one hadn’t been needed before. 

She has been out for about three months and will return on a part-time basis, working at home one day a week for six months. “After eight weeks, I called Andreas and said I need more time,” she says. “He said, ‘We totally understand; take more time.’ They have been wonderful. You aren’t stuck in a lockstep like in a big firm.”