New Pilot Student Program Will Promote Female Leaders at Santa Clara Law
By ELIZABETH KELLEY GILLOGLY B.A.’93
In 2005, JULIE MAR-SPINOLA J.D. ’87 was serving as VP, Global Affairs–IP, Litigation & Licensing for Atmel. She got a call from the Recorder, which was putting together an article about Mallun Yen, who had just been promoted to head patents at Cisco. “While the focus of the article was on Mallun, it highlighted that there were women in IP law, but very few in leadership roles,” recalls Mar-Spinola, who is now Chief IP Officer and VP of Legal Operations at cybersecurity company Finjan Holdings, as well as a member of Santa Clara Law’s High Tech Advisory Board and the Patent Public Advisory Committee for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “I reached out to Mallun, and we got together with five other female in-house IP leaders. We recognized that, collectively, we were one of the largest employers of legal services in the Valley at that time. Because of our respective relationships with major law firms, we had the ability to communicate and encourage these law firms to promote women in their ranks.”
And so ChIPs was born, founded by Anirma Gupta, Noreen Krall, Michelle Lee, Julie Mar-Spinola, Mona Sabet, Emily Ward, and Mallun Yen. Standing for “Chiefs in IP,” ChIPs is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing women at the confluence of law, technology, and regulatory policy. “We have the dual purpose of increasing diversity and inclusion in these fields as well as enabling the progress of innovation that benefits our society,” states the ChIPs mission statement at chipsnetwork.org.
“Women really need support—from other women and men—in getting meaningful leadership roles because it remains very difficult for women to attain leadership roles whether in government or corporations. The stats are still dire,” explains Mar-Spinola, adding “if you look at the website of many corporations or firms, you will usually see what I call the 20 percent rule, meaning, on average, only 20 percent of an organization’s leadership roster—boardroom or executive team—is made up of women, so that if there are five leaders, only one of them will be a woman. There is no good reason for that, and it needs to change if the U.S. economy is to reap the benefits of a more diverse and powerful thought resource.”
Now more than 1,200 members strong, ChIPs is looking to reach out to and mentor young female law students. This fall, Santa Clara Law was chosen as the first law school in the nation to host the first ChIPs Student Chapter, which will be coordinated by Professor Colleen Chien and Professor Laura Norris J.D. ’97, a longtime ChIPs member and the founding director of the Entrepreneurs’ Law Clinic at Santa Clara Law.
“When I started my career in the 1990s, I didn’t have that type of camaraderie and mentorship from other women in my field. It’s energizing and exciting, and will no doubt help shatter the glass ceiling.”
LAURA NORRIS J.D. ’97
“Santa Clara Law is honored to be chosen by ChIPs to run a pilot student ChIPs chapter program. It is a great fit with Santa Clara Law’s highly ranked IP law program,” says Norris, who with Chien is collaborating on organizing and recruiting for the new chapter, which launched in August. “We hope that the student chapter will help develop the next generation of leading women in IP by providing them with networking and professional development opportunities with our extensive alumni network as well as the members of the ChIPs organization,” says Norris. “When I started my career in the 1990s, I didn’t have that type of camaraderie and mentorship from other women in my field. It’s energizing and exciting, and will no doubt help shatter the glass ceiling.”
“In just a few years, ChIPs has become the premier professional development organization among female IP lawyers,” says Chien, who has been a member since the beginning. “The annual meeting is a gathering for seeing old friends and making new ones, all in the service of promoting women and leadership. The ChIPs leadership is comprised of women at the top of their game and of the profession, and I’m excited to be part of extending the ranks to students in law school and even high school.”
Santa Clara Law student Missy Brenner J.D. ’17 is the first president of the Santa Clara Law ChIPs chapter, and at the first event promoting the new chapter in August, 28 new law student members signed up. Mar-Spinola became Brenner’s mentor through the Entrepreneurs’ Law Clinic this past spring. “I am thrilled to help bring our local ChIPs chapter closer to Santa Clara Law students. My relatively new ChIPs membership has already connected me to a variety of inspiring women, whose focus on deepening knowledge and smoothing the way for coming generations really resonates with me. I hope that by introducing more students to ChIPs at an early stage in their career—as in my experience—we can create powerful mentoring relationships and strengthen the field of women leaders in IP law and policy,” says Brenner.
Mar-Spinola says, “I am especially proud that ChIPs selected my alma mater for its first student chapter and excited to have Professors Norris and Chien overseeing the chapter, with Missy at the student helm.”