Taras Czebiniak, Class of 2012
1) What brought you to law school?
It was a bit roundabout. As a young kid, I remember the first episode I saw of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which both scared and fascinated me and I kept watching. The ship’s computer, and Majel Roddenberry’s voice, became my favorite character so I went to study Computer Science in undergrad. I branched out into classes in Science & Technology Studies – a humanities view of science and technology, and the people who advance them – where we had a class that exposed us to Supreme Court cases on the admissibility of scientific testimony. I suppose that’s when the law school seed was planted, so after a two-year stint as an antitrust/litigation paralegal at a firm in New York, I went off to Berkeley Law knowing that I wanted to refocus on a career that involves science, technology and intellectual property.
2) Please describe the position(s) you held on BTLJ and when.
After being a worker bee the first year, I was among those elected to Articles Editor second year, and then I was Editor-in-Chief for the third year. It was a challenging and rewarding trajectory, and I remember being at an event at BAM and planting succulents with a friend when the election results email came in. I was just so ecstatic that the membership had entrusted me the honor of serving the Journal as EIC.
3) Please describe your most memorable law school moment.
As for many of us, Berkeley Law had so many fantastic and memorable experiences that it’s hard to pick one. I suppose that during the summer of 2010 was a funny anecdote that BTLJers, especially editors, can relate to. I was working at the International Trade Commission in Washington, and as you know, new editors do a soup-to-nuts summer article edit. Mine was a bear – a fantastic piece on copyright, but chock-full of citations to hard to find, foreign sources. The Library of Congress was near and had those sources, so I’d go there to citecheck. My co-editors were far flung, one in Turkey and about 7 hours ahead. At one point I needed a key piece of information from her while sitting at the LOC’s terminal, which had very limited external internet which fortunately included Gchat. I think my co-editor was out partying at the time, but she hunted down information I needed and chatted it to me so I could find some obscure microfiche. An international, technological, on-the-fly collaboration based on dedication to our article and our team and IP — an experience I won’t forget and a perfect example of the work-hard-play-hard culture that I think makes BTLJ so unique!
4) Please describe your current professional position and your journey there. (Feel free to include hyperlinks to exciting projects you may want our site visitors to see.)
I’ve gone down the BigLaw route, and after graduating, I joined Ropes & Gray as a corporate associate in the Intellectual Property Transactions (IPT) group. My IPT work can be roughly divided into M&A due diligence focused on IP, and commercial agreements (usually some form of license). It was nice to move back to the east coast – I started in Boston, at the Ropes & Gray head office in the Prudential Tower, and I recently transferred to New York and enjoy being back in the Big Apple. While I might not be designing talking starship computers – that childhood dream — I’m lucky to work on transactions involving intellectual property and technology. I’ve learned so much from many brilliant colleagues here, and I hope very much to continue in this field.
5) What are some lessons you learned from participating in BTLJ that are relevant to your professional life?
I think that communication and managing varying personalities – up, down, and sideways — was a key experience that applies especially to the legal field. BTLJ is an organization of dedicated, driven individuals, perhaps with different thoughts on achieving goals. Communication, negotiation and understanding a colleague’s point of view are skills that apply daily to the law firm environment.
I also like to share some advice from Prof. David Caron – “Be Bold!” While he never said it directly to BTLJ, I think that those words helped push me to run successfully for Articles Editor and for EIC, and they continue pushing me to make what I think is the right decision even if it’s a bit outside of my comfort zone. Lawyers are generally risk averse, so sometimes we need that extra push – and it pays off!
6) What advice do you have for current law students?
See above! I would also encourage everyone to take full advantage of the school and student environment, because once you’re out, life is likely to become a lot more structured, especially if you end up in a firm environment. For me, this took the form of living and participating in life at the International House, where I met so many lifelong friends from all over the globe. Berkeley in particular has such a vibrant life outside the walls of Boalt Hall, so take that study break once in a while to experience it.
7) What is one piece of advice you would give to new lawyers?
I’m still a very new lawyer! Career-wise, I’m trying to stay curious, be indispensable and knowledgeable, and focus on making life easier for my colleagues and senior lawyers (and hopefully for me, too). But check out the other spotlights — I very much like their advice too!