Sonal N. Mehta, Class of 2002
1) What brought you to law school?
Not the practice of law! I thought I wanted to be an academic or work in policy. I even spent my 1L summer working for the State Department at the United States Mission to the European Union. But then I got back to Boalt for my 2L year and starting getting involved in the IP community and with BTLJ, . . . and the rest is history.
2) Please describe the position(s) you held on BTLJ and when.
Submissions Editor (2000-2001)
Articles Editor (Spring 2001)
Editor in Chief (2001-2002)
3) Please describe your most memorable law school moment.
I can barely remember specific moments from 14 days ago, let alone 14 years. But my some of my most vivid memories of law school are from my time as EIC of BTLJ. I remember long days and nights spent at the BTLJ office (then in Simon Hall), worn copy of the Bluebook in hand, doing final reads on articles and working with the Production Editor to get the final proofs together. I also sometimes have flashbacks to being yelled at by one author that was particularly challenging. He would call at least twice a week and refused to speak to anyone else at the journal.
4) Please describe your current professional position and your journey there.
I am a partner at Durie Tangri, a litigation boutique in San Francisco where I litigate patent and technology disputes. Prior to joining the firm last year, I was a partner in Weil, Gotshal & Manges’ patent litigation practice in Silicon Valley. I started at Weil as a summer associate back in 2001 and was with the firm from 2001 to 2015, minus the year I served as a law clerk to the Honorable Paul R. Michel of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
5) What are some lessons you learned from participating in BTLJ that are relevant to your professional life?
Law is a team sport. And details—even seemingly tedious ones—are important. (Although, I don’t think anyone in the real world cares nearly as much about whether a comma is italicized as we did back in the BTLJ offices during a final read!).
6) What advice do you have for current law students?
I think too many young lawyers obsess about what their career is going to look like in ten years—will they work at a firm or somewhere else, will they make partner, how much money will they make, how will they generate business, etc.—rather than focusing on their career now. Look for every opportunity to get experience early on. Develop skills. Practice. Learn from your professors and peers in school, and from other lawyers (on your side or the other side), clients, and judges once you are out of school. Focus on becoming a truly great lawyer. Everything else will follow.
7) What is one piece of advice you would give to new lawyers?
Invest not just time but mental energy in your clients. The obvious reason is that colleagues and clients notice when you do. But that investment and ownership also shapes how you do your job. It causes you to strive for excellence. It encourages you to be more actively engaged in big picture issues and strategy. It encourages you to learn from the inevitable failures or setbacks. And it promotes strong personal relationships with your colleagues and clients, which makes what we do so much more rewarding and fun.