Corporate Counsel Profiles Juanita Brooks

Juanita Brooks, an intellectual property litigator and San Diego-based principal of Fish & Richardson, is featured in the December issue of Corporate Counsel, reflecting on her more than 40-year career. Brooks received a Lifetime Achievement award Oct. 3 at Corporate Counsel's National Women in Law Awards 2018 program for her steadfast contributions to the legal community.

Brooks recalled her career's early days at Federal Defenders of San Diego to Corporate Counsel. It was the late '70s, and while the program was race and gender blind, the world outside was not.

"As a young Latina in San Diego, I was constantly mistaken for the interpreter," she said in the interview, noting how other lawyers would call her over to interpret for them. "It never occurred to them that I was a lawyer," Brooks, who went on to open the city's first Latina-owned criminal defense practice, added. She set up her private practice in an old house where several male attorneys had offices. Brooks recalled referring cases to colleagues who rarely did the same. "I was told men had families to support," she said.

In the 1990s, Brooks, a mother of two, started doing civil litigation, including patent cases, and joined Fish in 2000 where she's developed a nationally-renowned intellectual property practice and continued working to combat the underrepresentation of women, and people of color, in the profession.

A member of the firm's management committee, Brooks has helped shape Fish's culture through diversity initiatives that have become blueprints for firms nationwide. These initiatives, the publication noted, include a 1L Diversity Fellowship Program that provides fellowships to a diverse array of first-year law students and the OnRamp Fellowship Program a one-year paid fellowship for experienced female lawyers returning to the legal profession. Fish is one of 15 firms involved in the latter program.

Brooks also created a forum in Fish's San Diego office where women can meet to share their concerns and successes. The forum, a precursor to the firm's EMPOWER initiative, has since been implemented in Fish offices in the U.S. and abroad. Additionally, Brooks was a driving force behind the firm's adoption of a creative and flexible hours policy.

"She's a champion of women," Betsy Flanagan, a principal in Fish's Minneapolis office, told Corporate Counsel. Brooks worked side-by-side with Flanagan to ensure her success in cross-examining witnesses in her first "big-time trial experience."

This is just one example of Brooks' empowering others, the publication noted. She recently led an all-woman appellate team to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to affirm a decision throwing out a $200 million jury award against their client Gilead Sciences for the infringement of two Merck. patents. The Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment, holding the patents unenforceable because of Merck's "unclean hands." Brooks had earlier argued, and successfully convinced a lower court, that Merck's legal counsel had acted unethically.

The National Women in Law Awards annually honor top women lawyers who are making remarkable impacts on the legal community. Whether a trial lawyer, firm leader, jurist or in-house counsel, they are often on the cutting edge of the profession shaping the law, achieving results and aiding those in need.