As one of the most successful intellectual property attorneys in the United States, Mika Mayer knows what it takes to reach the pinnacle of her profession. Her work as a patent lawyer in the medical device, drug delivery and pharmaceutical fields led to her being named a “Super Lawyer” in 2013, a rating that recognizes attorneys who have achieved a high degree of peer recognition in their field. In all, Mayer has participated in, or led, more than 400 intellectual property due diligence reviews for some of the most sophisticated health care companies and investors in the world.
Mayer recently spoke with Diversity Executive about her climb to the top, her interests away from practicing law and her surprisingly good skills as a rapper.
Why is it important for women to get into patent law?
It establishes a precedent for success! The STEM fields are seeing rapid economic growth globally. We see a lot more women in in-house counsel and other decision-making roles within our clients. Many judges are women. Women fill our jury boxes. So promoting and encouraging women to advance in legal practice makes good business sense, in addition to being the right thing to do.
You achieved significant success at a young age. What were the biggest challenges you have faced in such a rapid climb?
I think women especially might doubt their own success and thus be driven to always reaffirm the qualities that made them successful in the first instance. That drive can cut both ways, and sometimes the challenges I faced were simply self-imposed. Of course, it was very challenging to be taken seriously early on in my career when I still looked like a teenager. Indeed, just last week a colleague referred to me as “kiddo.”
What advice do you have for women in the first year of their career? What do you wish you had known?
My advice to all new lawyers, whether women or men, is to make sure they really like what they are doing. I think it’s important that work matters to them, not just as a job, but as something that adds to their life rather than taking away from it. My advice to women seeking to advance their careers is to take control. Be clear about goals and go after them tenaciously.
When I first started, I wish I had been more aware about the nuances of communication and been a better communicator. An important part of my work is communicating, and while that seems self-evident, what is not always as evident is how other people perceive or receive your words. There is a real need for self-awareness and careful attention to the needs of others involved, and this is a skill that is constantly evolving for me. I wish I had better communication skills when I first started, but I am always working toward improving this, even now.
How can women avoid the frustration and anger that come with experiencing gender bias?
There is no great or simple answer for this. I think being able to recognize and deal with bias for what it is — bias — is a reasonable way to process it. I also encourage women to heavily rely on their personal and professional networks for support, suggestions and guidance as soon as they have a concern.
If you weren’t an attorney, what would you be doing instead?
I think I would enjoy a profession that had me both active and seeing tangible results. For example, a construction worker or personal trainer.
Bonus question: I read somewhere that you were an aspiring rap star and performed a rap for your colleagues. Could you give me a quick verse?
Yo, what’s up everybody it’s about that time
For an itty-bitty ditty, yep a med device rhyme
So let’s get popping, we’re going to tell you about
The med device group and all of our clout.
We got people doing stuff all over the place
From PA to LA, we’re all over the space
We seen devices for the ear, eye, nose and throat,
Sinuses and spines for kids, I don’t mean to gloat
But we know our anatomy from bones, lungs to heart
And we’ve seen almost everything taken apart.
Seriously people we’ve seen it all
Things to make you, skinny, pretty, short, or tall
Things to make you breathe and things to stop your snore
There is never a day that I would call a bore
I’ve worked my way through some hairy prior art
Written patents galore, and it’s just a start
We write opinions, apps, and memos, and even responses
Provide lit support, come on take your chances.
And we’ve got the best clients a gal could ever want
They play with the big boys, yo I don’t mean to flaunt
I think you probably got everything that you heard
When it comes to med devices our group is preferred.
Eric Short is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.