A Commentary on Women in the Profession and MVSJune 19, 2018

A recent article appeared in the Lexis Nexis news piece “Law360”, describing the dismal results of their annual “Glass Ceiling Report”. The article concluded that there had been “limited progress” for female attorneys in a male-dominated profession. Women have represented over 40% of law school students for decades, according to the American Bar Association, yet, only one in five equity partners (in over 300 firms surveyed) were women. For the practice of Intellectual Property patent practitioners, the numbers are staggeringly worse. With the requirement of a science or engineering degree in addition to a law degree, the field is male dominated times two. 

I am gratified to report that as a woman equity partner at MVS for more than 20 years, our firm stands out in stark contrast to this norm. For example, this year with the addition of Cassie J. Edgar as a lateral partner, one half of the MVS partners (PLC member attorneys) are women!  

The firm legacy of including women began as far back as 1985, where the first female patent attorney in the state of Iowa, Pat A. Sweeney, joined the firm. Pat left the firm and went to Pioneer DuPont where she rose to Chief IP Counsel and then went into private practice for 20 years. She re-joined MVS “Of Counsel” in 2016. 

In my own experience, my law school class of 1992 was the first in school history to graduate more women than men. I became an equity partner and have served on the management committee of MVS for more than 15 years and have served as managing member of the committee for more than 10 years.  

The women of MVS continue to lead by example as we participate in committees and organizations to help promote women entrepreneurs, women business owners, and women inventors. We also support Science Technology Engineering and Math initiatives for young girls at elementary and middle schools. 

There is much work to do, but I am proud be a part of MVS and its legacy as a leader in gender equality. 

Heidi S. Nebel is the Chair of the Biotechnology & Chemical Practice Group at MVS. She serves as the Managing Member of the Firm and has been assisting clients with intellectual property matters for over 25 years.

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