As senior associate general counsel at the University of Minnesota, CBS alum Paul Savereide (J.D. '91; Ph.D. Cell and Developmental Biology, '91) draws on the skills he learned in the lab to provide guidance on a range of issues from data privacy to patents for new technology. He shares a bit about his path from Ph.D. to J.D. and offers some advice to biology students interested in the law.
You work in the area of intellectual property and patent law. What attracted you to that particular area of the law?
While I was working on my thesis research, I was living in a house with five law students. One of them who was a close friend of mine was studying to become a patent attorney. During discussions with him about a career in patent law, I started thinking about all the new opportunities in the emerging biotechnology industry. It was the mid 80s, Genentech had just gone public, scientists were filing applications for gene sequences and groundbreaking court decisions affecting the industry were being handed down.
What inspired you to pursue a law degree at the same time as an advanced degree in the biological sciences?
I was not planning on graduating with two degrees in the same month. Primarily, I was driven to complete my law degree as soon as I could once I made a decision to pursue patent law. Unfortunately, as often happens, experimental results in the laboratory were not coming as quickly as I had planned. I took a full year and a half of law school classes working in the lab when I could and then spending the next two years ferrying back and forth between law school on the West Bank and lab work in St. Paul.
Does your training as a scientist inform your work in the University’s Office of General Counsel?
Training as a scientist involves more than acquiring knowledge in a specific subject area. Skills that I learned working in the close quarters of my advisor’s laboratory such as problem solving, self-direction, collaboration with co-workers, and writing to be understood are all skills I continue to use.
Describe a typical day at work. What do you like most about your job?
My work at the Office of General Counsel involves a number of different areas of law including patent, trademark, software purchasing, research and services contracts and data privacy. It is hard to call any day typical. Even after eight years, I can still tell my wife that there’s always something new to learn.
What advice do you have for CBS students and recent alumni who may be interested in a career in the legal field?
Reach out and talk to lawyers about their practices, especially in areas of law you are interested in. They can dispel some of the common myths about how lawyers do their jobs and give you real-world insight into the kinds of work you might get in that particular area of practice.