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Women in Technology: A Discussion with Partner Natalie Bennett

November 03, 2020

With the ChIPs Ninth Annual Global Summit in full swing, we asked one of our very own ChIPster, intellectual property partner and ML Women in Tech co-leader Natalie Bennett, to share some of her insights on adding more diverse perspectives to the tech and IP spaces, and what issues she’s tracking as 2021 approaches.

What steps can be taken to make the technology industry and the practice of IP and tech law more inclusive?

The first step is awareness. It’s still common to see CLE panels, litigation teams, or the designated leadership of industry or IP-focused bar associations to be all or predominantly male. If I notice this imbalance, I think female clients do as well. It is incumbent on anyone assembling a team in this space to be sufficiently attuned to diversity and inclusion and to be conscious about finding ways to make women, people of color, and other diverse individuals more visible.

Tell us about a professional challenge you’ve had to overcome as a result of your gender.

Being taken seriously by those who are not familiar with your work can be a challenge as a woman. A few years ago, I tried a case where opposing counsel never seemed interested in anything substantive I had to say, but during the trial each morning, he would comment on the suit I was wearing that day. Ultimately, he had to listen to the substance of what I and the other women on our team had to say because the jury was predominantly female and returned a verdict in favor of our client, a woman-owned business.

You are a leader of Morgan Lewis’s ML Women in Tech initiative. Why was it important to bring this community of women together?

The firm’s ML Women in Tech initiative is one way for us to help ensure that the collective knowledge and accomplishments of our impressive team of women lawyers serving clients in the technology sector—especially our rising partners and associates—are understood and can be leveraged within and outside the firm. We hope to establish a strong cross-practice, technology-focused network of women who can support and promote one another as well as the legal counsel and solutions they offer clients.

The new year is just two months away. What issues are you watching for your tech clients as 2021 approaches?

In the years ahead, I’m interested in learning whether juries ascribe higher values generally to IP because of our increased reliance on technology during COVID-19. Whether it‘s the technology underlying video platforms, devices like the Peloton Bike that allow us to work out with others at home, printers designed for home use, or medical devices that help us care for ourselves without having to go to a doctor’s office, our world has changed. It seems probable that in the years ahead, lay juries deciding patent and trade secret disputes may have a higher appreciation for the value of technology because of the ways technological solutions propelled us forward during this otherwise difficult time.

Morgan Lewis is a proud sponsor of the 2020 ChIPs Global Summit. Learn more about the firm’s efforts to harness the strength of its women to create new opportunities for growth and innovation in partnership with our clients.