With Penn’s Alumni Weekend running from May 15th through May 18th this year, we’re taking the month of May to salute some of our amazing M&T alumni. This special A Day in the Life post comes to us from M&T alumna Adina Stohl, currently an attorney at Irell & Manella LLP in Los Angeles.
Please briefly describe what industry you’re in and what your particular position entails:
I work as a litigation attorney at a general practice firm with a large intellectual property practice. As the legal industry is by its nature a service industry, the firm’s practice includes involvement in almost every industry, spanning the gamut from securities to medical devices to entertainment. Specifically, I work to promote and protect the legal and financial interests of the firm’s clients. My job involves a significant amount of reading, research, writing, and conversations and collaborations with clients, colleagues, outside attorneys, experts, and – of course – the courts. As an associate, my work is always supervised by a firm partner.
What time did you get up this morning before work?
This morning I got up at 6:45 am. My son is my alarm clock.
What time did you start working, and what time were you done for the day?
I arrived at the office a little before 9 am. I left at around 2:30 pm for a client meeting and got home at 6:30 pm.
What were some of the projects you worked on today?
My practice covers a wide range of disciplines, with a focus on intellectual property. Generally, a large portion of my day is spent working on patent litigation.
Today, two non-patent matters occupied the majority of my time in the office.
First, a recent circuit decision outlined a new clearer standard for insider trading tippee-tipper liability. Numerous district courts have been slowly interpreting and adopting that standard. Many of our clients are publicly traded companies or otherwise involved in securities trading. To best protect their interests, we make it a point to keep them abreast of changing laws to avoid future litigation. Although the firm’s focus is litigation, we are in constant contact with our clients to help them on the contractual and compliance side to avoid becoming the target of a litigation.
Second, my colleague and professional mentor and I brain-stormed the impact of a days-old Ninth Circuit decision, applying California law to bar the enforcement of a pre-dispute contractual jury trial waiver. Contracting parties are incredibly concerned by the possibility of expensive and protracted litigation. To militate some of these costs, parties often agree – at the time of contracting – to adjudication by someone other than a jury, for example by an arbitrator or by a judge in a bench trial. There are also strategical advantages to these decisions. Specifically, we discussed how to adjust our strategy to help clients currently facing litigation as well as those engaged in contract negotiations.
Additionally, I spent the late afternoon meeting with a client for one of the firm’s large pro bono cases. I have taken a lead position on this case since February. Although the specifics of the case are highly confidential, this case has afforded me the opportunity to work directly with senior partners at Irell, co-counsel, opposing counsel, clients, and very distinguished experts and to effect tangible, positive community change.
Who specifically did you interact with today, besides coworkers (clients, interns, researchers, executives, founders, etc.)?
In addition to interacting with my coworkers, I spoke with a current client and opposing counsel in an ongoing matter. I also routinely speak with potential clients, co-counsel at other firms, and retained or potential trial experts, many of whom are leaders in the technology industry and the medical profession.
Are you currently traveling or about to travel for work?
No. Right now, everything is local. However, we routinely travel to advance client interests whether to meet experts, clients, to conduct interviews and depositions, and for trial. Recently, I was part of a patent defense team set for trial on the east coast, but which we instead successfully settled on the eve of trial on very favorable terms.
What was your favorite part of the work day?
My favorite part of the work day was the brain-storming session. We, as a firm, pride ourselves on our creativity in anticipating and solving client problems. There is no formula under which we operate, but rather, we fully immerse ourselves in our clients’ business, technology, or project to dissect, understand, and rebuild our clients’ interests. Our clients include some of the most innovative companies and individuals; our job is to keep up with their ingenuity from a legal perspective to help them succeed and protect their success.
What are some of the challenges within your position that you particularly enjoy?
I am constantly on my toes. I work in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment. Our clients turn to us, particularly in the patent context, with their “bet the company” cases. We cannot – because our clients, their employees, and the industries they serve cannot – afford to fail. Our work is intellectually stimulating and we never settle for mediocrity, both which make my job, although challenging, particularly rewarding.
How did you end up in your current position or school?
Two events during my time at Penn shaped my career today. First, I had the privilege of working on a computational model for predicting radiation exposure in digital breast imaging based on positional changes. As a woman, I was particularly thankful to the incredible researchers at Penn for their efforts, but was equally disturbed by their lack of property protection. Engineers, whether medically-focused or otherwise, contribute immensely to society and their contributions should be applauded and protected. Second, I took a negotiations class at Wharton under Professor Blum, which taught me that regardless of the merits of a party’s position, a zealous advocate is necessary to advance that position and that, if done correctly, both parties can and should benefit from an exchange. It was then my peers in the M&T Program who helped me understand that these two ideas were most successful when combined. I knew that I would never become a Nobel laureate, so I looked for a career in which I could advance and champion the creations of those who could.
How did M&T help prepare you for where you are today?
The greatest thing M&T taught me was to think out of the box. I never would have expected that I could advance the development of science through a career in law. M&T made me believe it was possible.
Most importantly though, the greatest gifts I received from the M&T program are the life-long friendships I made – those fostered in the classrooms and labs, reinforced in the M&T office, and solidified through collegiality and respect.
What advice do you have for those who might be interested in pursuing a similar path?
Do it! Find something – or some things – that you love and figure out a way to turn it into a career. I solve puzzles and work with some of the best and brightest lawyers, businessmen, and scientists for a living. Also, reach out to alumi and the office for help. We all want to see you succeed and would be happy to provide you with individualized advice and guidance.
Adina is currently a litigation attorney in Los Angeles, CA. She graduated from Penn and M&T in 2011 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Biomedical Science from Penn Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Wharton with concentrations in Marketing and Legal Studies. She also holds a JD from Columbia Law School. Adina loves to hang out with her husband and baby, enjoys bicycling, and traveling to the Swiss Alps.