My Dream Job In Intellectual Property Law
A little over 5 years ago, I thought I had my whole life planned out. I had finally received my first contract offer as a full-time dancer in a Ballet Company, not just a trainee or apprentice, so I knew that ballet would be my career for at least the next 20 years. However, my predicament quickly changed; 6 months into my contract I found myself in a hospital bed after breaking my leg and told it would never fully heal. Yet, despite my loss of a career I loved, this experience ultimately taught me that I do not have to be a dancer to find fulfillment in life. I know that it is about as cliché as stating in a personal statement that you know something is cliché, but I really have enjoyed the long journey that brought me to decide on Law as a career. Because, what that journey taught me is that there is no such thing as a perfect career choice for me. A legal career is not something I have dreamed of my whole life; however, it is the career that I feel will allow me to help people as best I can which the past 5 years have taught me is what I am really looking for.
The first time I truly understood the joy that comes from helping people was in the pharmacy technician job I took after my injury. While I was working the counter, I found it in the little things such as helping a patient through an insurance claim. Then when I began compounding, I found it in things such as finding ways to avoid allergies or helping show patients how to dose their hormone therapy. Now as I am helping in a proteomics lab, even though I no longer even see the patients, that joy is even more pronounced. The cell lines I grow or the plasmids I clone are being used for things such as finding treatments for cervical and breast cancer or learning how to prevent preeclampsia; and I find comfort in knowing that someday these patients will receive even better care.
One of the main reasons I want to go into intellectual property law is because I want to continue helping these researchers create innovative treatments. Researchers should have access to all the data that they need for their projects, but also need to ensure that they are properly compensated for their work. These kinds of assurances are what I believe creates the best environment to encourage innovation that will continue to make the world a better place; and I have seen how IP law, when practiced in good faith, helps give researchers those assurances by allowing them access to things such as patent protections so they can freely share the data from their experiments with colleagues without worrying about compromising their financial interests.
Unfortunately, I have also witnessed how IP law, when not practiced in good faith, can stall innovation, and often favors profits over patients. Patients going into debt due to $1500 insulin bills and siblings unable to afford medications for their parent’s Alzheimer’s medication. Whether it is using “Pay to delay” kickbacks to fend off competition, purposefully delaying a drug to guarantee that the most popular drug has exclusivity, or the many other ways bad actors have learned to game the system for monetary gain, it is the same to me. Because at the end of the day, all these practices harm real people.
But hoping for a better system is not enough for me, I want to be a part of the change. I want to continue helping researchers design and develop new treatments and protect them from the lawsuits they often face when they bring that treatment to the market. Not only do I understand the ins and outs of how PBMs work and how medications are priced from my time in pharmacy, but I also understand the research that goes into drugs and have a general knowledge of how many drugs work at the cellular and molecular levels. Which puts me in a special position to help the patients most harmed by the often anti-competitive and abusive IP law practices that some drug manufactures use to control the market by protecting the researchers trying to bring new and cheaper treatments to the market from the mountains of litigation they often face.
Maybe the old me would not understand why I want to be an intellectual property attorney. But these past 5 years have taught me that I do not have to be on stage to find meaning in my life. While I do miss the stage, I have found just as much, if not more, meaning in being an advocate for patients, both in a pharmacy setting and at the lab bench. Soon, I hope to be an even better advocate for them in court. These patients need someone in their corner, someone who, such as myself, remembers that the primary goal of scientific research should be new discoveries and innovations that improve people’s lives, not things like rushing new drugs to the market or profits.