Sidebars

Kimberlynn Davis: Achieving Goals, Imperfectly

March 30, 2021 Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP Season 1 Episode 2
Sidebars
Kimberlynn Davis: Achieving Goals, Imperfectly
Chapters
Sidebars
Kimberlynn Davis: Achieving Goals, Imperfectly
Mar 30, 2021 Season 1 Episode 2
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP

Kim Davis is a rising star in the patent bar. Kim earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Emory University and her scientific training is instrumental in her practice, which focuses on prosecuting foreign and domestic patent applications in pharmaceuticals, the chemical arts, and metallurgy, due diligence and freedom to operate analysis, and client counseling and portfolio strategy for companies, universities, and research institutions. Among Kim’s many honors and accolades, she was recognized in 2018, 2019, and 2021 as a Georgia "Rising Star" in the area of Intellectual Property by Super Lawyers magazine, and named a “40 Under 40 Leader” by Emory University Alumni Association in 2020. Kim also serves as the co-chair of KT Voice, Kilpatrick's resource group focused on promoting the interests of Black attorneys.  Kim is also a National Board Member and Chair of the Atlanta Advisory Board for Jumpstart, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring all children enter Kindergarten prepared for success.

The story of how Kim got to her present position and her current career success is full of pivots, twists, and surprises. In this episode, Kim pulls back the curtain and shows us how her relentless drive for excellence and achievement, which has been a constant factor in her life since her high-school days, allows her to navigate an imperfect career path to reach her perfect outcome.

Highlights include:
•  The eternal question: doctor or lawyer? (1:06) 
•  A valedictorian competition, a pivot, and a prestigious new path (3:40)
•  A reality check, a gut reaction, and yet another pivot to a new career (8:02)
•  An Eli Lilly internship provides a glimpse of two potential futures: bench science vs. patent law (12:13)
•  The importance of honesty for finding the right mentor (17:00)
•  Being proactive in building networks pays huge career dividends (20:01)
•  Working 9-5…and 5-9 (in evening law school) (26:05)
•  Making the move from to Kilpatrick Townsend (29:44)
•  Designing a great career takes thought…and a checklist (31:48)
•  Tackling the PTO presidency during a pandemic (34:29)
•  When your career takes an unexpected detour on its way to partnership (37:09)
•  How to be a great mentee and how to mentor others (42:22)
•  The value of being “the only” in your category (46:33)

Show Notes Transcript

Kim Davis is a rising star in the patent bar. Kim earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Emory University and her scientific training is instrumental in her practice, which focuses on prosecuting foreign and domestic patent applications in pharmaceuticals, the chemical arts, and metallurgy, due diligence and freedom to operate analysis, and client counseling and portfolio strategy for companies, universities, and research institutions. Among Kim’s many honors and accolades, she was recognized in 2018, 2019, and 2021 as a Georgia "Rising Star" in the area of Intellectual Property by Super Lawyers magazine, and named a “40 Under 40 Leader” by Emory University Alumni Association in 2020. Kim also serves as the co-chair of KT Voice, Kilpatrick's resource group focused on promoting the interests of Black attorneys.  Kim is also a National Board Member and Chair of the Atlanta Advisory Board for Jumpstart, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring all children enter Kindergarten prepared for success.

The story of how Kim got to her present position and her current career success is full of pivots, twists, and surprises. In this episode, Kim pulls back the curtain and shows us how her relentless drive for excellence and achievement, which has been a constant factor in her life since her high-school days, allows her to navigate an imperfect career path to reach her perfect outcome.

Highlights include:
•  The eternal question: doctor or lawyer? (1:06) 
•  A valedictorian competition, a pivot, and a prestigious new path (3:40)
•  A reality check, a gut reaction, and yet another pivot to a new career (8:02)
•  An Eli Lilly internship provides a glimpse of two potential futures: bench science vs. patent law (12:13)
•  The importance of honesty for finding the right mentor (17:00)
•  Being proactive in building networks pays huge career dividends (20:01)
•  Working 9-5…and 5-9 (in evening law school) (26:05)
•  Making the move from to Kilpatrick Townsend (29:44)
•  Designing a great career takes thought…and a checklist (31:48)
•  Tackling the PTO presidency during a pandemic (34:29)
•  When your career takes an unexpected detour on its way to partnership (37:09)
•  How to be a great mentee and how to mentor others (42:22)
•  The value of being “the only” in your category (46:33)

April Abele Isaacson:

Welcome to Sidebars, Kilpatrick Townsend's limited podcast series focused on women and patent law. I'm April Isaacson , a patent litigator and partner in the San Francisco office.

Kim Davis:

And I'm Kim Davis, a patent prosecutor and partner in the Atlanta office. We're here to discuss the gender gap in the patent bar and have candid conversations with female patent practitioners on their career paths.

April Abele Isaacson:

Welcome back to Sidebars. I'm April Isaacson . In this episode, we're kicking off our interview series and I have the pleasure of interviewing my co- host Kim Davis. As a litigator, I'm used to interviewing witnesses, taking depositions and conducting direct and cross-examinations. So this is going to be fun. Kim, are you ready to get started?

Kim Davis:

Oh boy. I hope I am after that. I'm a little bit nervous now, April. I tell you, I feel like I'm on the witness stand.

April Abele Isaacson:

Well, no need to be nervous. I'm certainly not trying to be Oprah here, but you know, I'll do my best. Certainly Kim you're a patent prosecutor with a PhD in organic chemistry and a BS in biochemistry. What made you pivot from science to law?

Kim Davis:

Such a good question, April and such a long answer. Listeners, grab your popcorn because you're in for a ride. I promise to give the shortened version, right? I can't say short version, but shortened version. So it started back in undergrad. I went into college thinking, okay, this career path, which I'll share with you in a second, is what I'm going to do forever. So growing up, I was always told that I was branded as the smart kid, right? So when you're the smart kid in my community growing up, it was two options basically laid out for you. You're either going to be a doctor or a lawyer pick one, nothing in between. Nothing else. Just stay focused on one of those two . So when I finished up high school , believe it or not , I had no clue as to what I wanted to commit to for the rest of my life. Believe it or not, like really, that I think we can talk about that later about how it's so unrealistic for us to be able to make that commitment at such an early phase. But I decided that I was going to be, guess it, a doctor.

April Abele Isaacson:

Let me, let me ask you, so you said there were two choices, lawyer or doctor. You're a lawyer now. So what made you decide that you wanted to be a doctor back then?

Kim Davis:

To be honest with you, April, and I don't want anyone to think any less of me about this, but , um, I went to this school in high school. It's Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. It's what we call a residential high school. It's about five hours away from where I grew up in New Orleans. And I was just homesick. I , I really was started looking into colleges and where would I attend? I knew I wanted to be in New Orleans. I have a family history of attending Xavier University of Louisiana grade school. And their reputation is we're number one in placing African-Americans into medical school. So if I'm going to stay at home, if I'm going to continue somewhat of a family tradition of going to Xavier, guess what I need to be a medical doctor. So let's do it. So interesting thinking. I know, but that's how I arrived at.

April Abele Isaacson:

Well, let's go back. You mentioned that you went to high school, that was five hours away from home. What made you decide that you were going to go to that high school?

Kim Davis:

So, so the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, and there are several schools that are like this in different states. You know, I know there's a North Carolina school, there's an Alabama school and , and I'm sure each of the states may have one. It's the top school right in the state. It's the one that provides the biggest challenge. And to be honest me , and you'll hear more about this later. I'm a planner. That's my super power . I'm a planner in every way. So when I was entering high school as a 10th grader, because I went to junior high and did seventh through ninth at that school and mapped out what it would take for me to become valedictorian of my local high school. After doing the math, I realized it wouldn't happen. I had all A's. So the grades weren't the issue. The issue was that there was the social studies class back in junior high, that was not an honors class per the school requirements. They didn't offer an honors social studies, but my number one competitor, who went to a middle school, so she was able to attend the high school and take honors social studies there. She of course had all A's as well, but she had that extra point that was awarded by virtue of it being an honors class. So I could either hold tight at my home school and wait for her to make that B, which would never happen. I knew her well. Or I could go ahead and say, you know what, this isn't going to happen. Let me challenge myself in another way. So I went ahead and made the decision to go there.

April Abele Isaacson:

Kim, I just want to pull that thread a little bit. Was it about the girl and the competition, or was it about the goal that you couldn't be valedictorian if you were to stay at your local high school?

Kim Davis:

Well, it was both. Right? So, so the goal was in a way, if you think about it being the best, but also being recognized as the best. It's hard to say it that way, but it's so true. It's both, right? So when I realized that, even though we both know, and I'm speaking, when I say both the, the girl from school, the young lady from school and me, we both knew I was the best. Let's , let's just be honest with that, but it would not be recognized as such. So what else could I do that would help me along with my career, right? Expose me to more at an early stage and Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts was the answer. It probably should have been the answer, regardless of whether I would have been named valedictorian or not, because the school did challenge me in ways that I'd never been challenged at my home school, but it took that occurrence to happen for me to get there. But funny how that happens, sometimes things have to occur for us to realize that the pivot is necessary to get to where you really should be

April Abele Isaacson:

The high school that you went to for junior and senior year. Were there valedictorians at that school?

Kim Davis:

No. No. So you mean Louisiana School? That there were no. No, we, it was almost akin to more of a college experience or even a graduate school experience, if you will. We had our own tracks so to speak. So there was the math track, there was the arts, there was the humanities, there was the science. So there was no clear way to rank all of us. So because of that, no, they were like, you are all exceptional in so many ways. Yeah, it's just the , to have the school's name on your resume speaks volumes in and of itself. So, no, we didn't have those designations at that school.

April Abele Isaacson:

Which track were you on at that school?

Kim Davis:

I was on more of a humanities track at that time.

April Abele Isaacson:

Interesting. So then when you went to college earlier, you mentioned that you were, had decided that you were going to go to medical school. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Kim Davis:

Sure, sure. So I started up at Xavier. I was chemistry pre-med , I mean, I had my checklist, right. I was like, these are all of the things that you will need to do to get out of here. You're going to graduate with a 4.0, I was just that neurotic about certain things. And, and it's going to be great. You're going to get into medical school. You're going to go where you want to go and you're going to be, Oh my gosh, what did I think I wanted to be back then? Was it an OB/GYN? Don't ask me why. I think that's what I decided in my head that I would do. So, you know, it was business as usual. I was checking all the boxes. Everything was perfect until the pre-med advisor . One of his requirements was that we spent some time in a hospital or some sort of clinical setting, just something. So we would get the actual exposure to a career as a medical doctor. So I decided, okay, we're going to go ahead and do this sophomore year. It's going to be great. I signed up for a hospital in uptown New Orleans, bad move , number one. So I got there, the sheltered girl from the West Bank of New Orleans, right. It was an experience like no other, I lasted two days and went back to school saying, I need to change my major. This is not going to work for me. I cannot do this for the rest of my life.

April Abele Isaacson:

Isn't it interesting how just a small experience like that can kind of change the trajectory of your life. What was it about that experience on a high level that made you decided you want to turn in different direction?

Kim Davis:

Yeah, it was, it was amazing. It was so many just unhappy people. And I know you're looking at me like him, you're dealing with unhappy people right now, but in a different way, you know, sick people crisis after crisis and just the urgency of it. And again, I mean, I am a very young, what was I, 19 at the time? So maybe my decision to pivot was a bit premature. Maybe if I had a different experience in maybe a pediatric clinic, for instance, maybe I would be a medical doctor to this day, but that was not my experience. And that made me completely change paths.

April Abele Isaacson:

So you went back to college after a couple of days at the hospital and decided, okay, not going to be a doctor. What happened after that?

Kim Davis:

So I sat down with my advisor at the time and she said, well, Kim, you know, you, you love the sciences. You're in organic right now. And you love organic chemistry, which very few people do. So let's not talk about a complete departure from the sciences because you love it. Let's talk about a shift to research. So, you know, the young, 19 year old I am, with no exposure to anything other than what I had set my mind to. Wondering, so what does that entail? What is a career in research? So we talked a little bit more about it. I was exposed to a few different programs after applying and then being rejected and then being offered a slot again.

April Abele Isaacson:

Oh, let me, let me interrupt there. So being rejected , how did that feel for the person who's always kind of gunning to be the best?

Kim Davis:

Oh, absolutely terrible. Oh, it is the worst thing. It was such a necessary experience, but for someone like me and I'm sure many of our listeners, it, it almost takes you to your breaking point. Right? But then you get up and you realize, hey, you know what, maybe I need pursue something different or maybe I need to keep at it until I master it. So that was one of those experiences for me.

April Abele Isaacson:

Well, as a fellow lover of organic chemistry, I completely sympathize with you wanting to do that. Why don't you talk a little bit more about what happened after you decided to go in the direction of research?

Kim Davis:

Sure. So what , what I did, I was a member of the program. It's an NIH funded program, the Minority Access to Research Careers program. So as a part of that program, we performed research during the academic year, but then we were required to do summer internships where we were able to, you know, get even more exposure and either a government setting or an industry setting or the, like I chose Eli Lilly and Company for my first internship. And that was between my junior and senior year is when we did that internship. So I loved everything about the company, hated being in the lab. I mean, in the lab day in and day out was torture for me sitting and talking to the same three people.

April Abele Isaacson:

I completely understand having worked in the lab. Was it something about your personality of wanting to be more exposed to other people? Or what was it about that, that you didn't like?

Kim Davis:

That was absolutely it , you hit the nail on the head. The chemistry didn't bother me. I actually loved it. I prefer to be in group meetings where we were meeting with everyone else, discussing the findings of our research versus being at the bench, doing the work. Right. I found it very isolating. And I shared this, you know, I'm a very open person. You've come to find out. I shared that with my mentor at the time she understood completely. She said, "Kim, I get it. Maybe, you know, being in a lab is not for you." She was like, "but don't get me wrong. You are not getting out of my lab. You are here with me this summer. But what I will do is introduce you to others around the company so that you can be exposed to other departments." That's when I met the patent law group. And that's where all of this came.

April Abele Isaacson:

When you met the patent law group, what was it about that introduction or the meeting that really compelled you to be looking into the law?

Kim Davis:

So it's the connection to the science, right? And I know so many in the field shared this experience like you , your heart is there. You care about the research. You want to see all of these groundbreaking innovations take flight, but at the same time, you don't want to commit your life to that same research project, right? That, that's my experience. That's my feeling. I didn't want to be in the lab doing that same project, but I do have a passion for the science. So it's natural to be able to use my scientific abilities, but in another manner to help promote advancements in the field,

April Abele Isaacson:

What a wonderful opportunity that Eli Lilly gave you to be able to be exposed to these other groups and be able to consider patent law as a potential career option after you had that meeting and had the internship for the summer, what happened next?

Kim Davis:

After the meet? Well, during the meeting, let me back up a little bit during the meeting, I was told, well, Kim, if you want to do what we do here. So we , we sat for a couple of hours. If you want to do what we do here, I suggest that you go to graduate school. And the reason the person suggested that I attend graduate school was because number one, in the hardcore sciences, like the biotechs and the chemical fields, the PhD was becoming necessary. And then back then the other issue we were, what was this 2002 , um, believe it or not the economy wasn't great. So I was like, there's no rush to get out into the job market, go to school, get that PhD, and then decide to go either to law school or work as a patent agent.

April Abele Isaacson:

Well, yeah, certainly living in California in 2002, that was when the .com bubble burst. So yeah, the economy definitely was not good then, but it's interesting because the economy wasn't good. Well, why don't you go get a PhD, which is a huge time commitment, which is really interesting. So, so you went through that meeting and then what happened next?

Kim Davis:

And , and it's a huge time commitment, but I'm that lover of school. Like my family would joke all the time that are you going to be a career student, Kim, is that what's going on at this point? And I would respond, maybe, maybe if you support me during this process, maybe I just will be a career student. But , after that, that was the next set of boxes on my checklist, if you will. Right. So I began looking for potential lab groups to join. I got a ton of advice from not only my mentors that Xavier, but also at Lilly about how to choose a lab group. You know, identifying which lab groups would be great in my mind, I needed to go to a school located in the South. I'm just a Southern girl. I needed to be close to home. And they're great programs at many of these schools. I decided on Emory, I walked through the door with my checklist, of course, explaining to all of the PIs that I could potentially work with, what my future plans were in terms of becoming a patent attorney. Most of them quickly sat me down and said, no, no, no, this is what you're going to do. Now you're either going to do academia or you're going to do industry because that's what we do there.

April Abele Isaacson:

Apparently they didn't know Kim Davis

Kim Davis:

Or my mentor, Dennis Liotta , he is the one that I eventually chose. Dr. Liotta, or I shouldn't say eventually chose, readily chose. Dr. Liotta was completely supportive at my first mention of patent law. When I told him that he said, that is a perfect plan. You're doing the right thing by going in , making sure you deepen your scientific base and your knowledge let's do this. You're going to have your research project, but I'll make sure that you're able to network with those in patent law. And we can design a career path for you here in the lab, and as well as doing a few other ventures to where you can achieve that goal.

April Abele Isaacson:

So that's what we did. What do you think it was about Dr. Liotta that made him different than some of the other PIs that you had spoken to?

Kim Davis:

Oh, so so many things, he's very forward-thinking I would say, so while some, it took a while for them to get on board with the whole notion of commercializing your research. He realized early on that, you know, I have groundbreaking therapeutics that are useful for treating HIV. How selfish would it be of a lab to say, no, we're just going to hold this here for research purposes. We're not going to do anything with it. He was forward-thinking enough, as many others have been to go ahead and work with the offices of technology transfer in, in order to commercialize those innovations. So it's that, and it's also just everything about him is, he's just genuine, right? He cares about people. There's always an underlying reason as to why he is going down a certain path if you will. So it matters to him, the number of people that could be treated by way of the research that we were performing in our lab, not a dollar by any means.

April Abele Isaacson:

Can you talk a little bit more about the experience of the research or other people that you met during your time at Emory?

Kim Davis:

Yeah, I can. Let's see. So there are a few experiences that I think there are so many, so I hate to start naming and then out of fear of leaving one out, but I will first call out our Nova Shea chapter, right? So Nova Shea for us, or wait, wait, wait, let me back that up. We started out as the black chemistry society. BCS is how we started out. So there it was a select group of black graduate students in the chemistry department at Emory. I could count them on my hand. And we were a very close knit group. We remain to this day, a very close knit group, and it's amazing to see the different paths that we've all gone on. Some of us are business owners. Some of us are in tech transfer . Some are directors at major corporations. It is just really, really amazing to see a network that started out so strongly continue that way. The second group that I need to call out would be the technology transfer crew. So I started as the second intern or one of my colleagues and I, we started as the second and third together. And we joined the first intern who was a very close friend, and now the director of a tech transfer office who happens to be a client. So it comes full circle, right? Those relationships, but that experience, in the tech transfer office and Dr. Corey Acuff was the leader of the internship experience. At that time, it really gave me my first true look into patent law. One day, Corey set a patent application, or really an invention disclosure. And I guess the , the start, the shell of a patent application and said , "okay, Kim, you want to do patent law, go ahead and flesh this out." So it was such a great experience to be able to have that hands-on experience. And , and then , all of the introductions that he later made have turned into the reason why I am, where I am today, in terms of those relationships that blossomed.

April Abele Isaacson:

Do you recall what it was like when you were looking at that first invention disclosure and what was going through your head?

Kim Davis:

I was thinking, what is this? So I , I understood the invention, right. And I knew how to write about the invention, but as I worked more and more with Cory said, okay, Kim, and how broad can we get? I'm like, well, that's a loaded question. We can get as broad as you need to go. He's like, okay, let's go there . Like, but , but there's no limit on it. He said, but, but you have to find the limit. You have to learn how to figure out what the prior art surrounding that invention entails and find where our sweet spot is. That covers our invention as well as providing, you know, the appropriate amount of protection against competitors entering the field. So have fun. So it was interesting.

April Abele Isaacson:

You were learning kind of that pull, that you get, so to speak between prior art in having a valid patent and then having a patent that you can enforce. Is that an accurate statement?

Kim Davis:

That's an accurate statement. And the beauty of the experience is that as an intern, my only limit on time was the time that I was spending elsewhere, such as in the lab. I didn't have to say, Oh my goodness, my budget is only X amount to do this search. I was able to immerse myself into the technology and understand where we would go

April Abele Isaacson:

After working in the technology transfer office. Kind of what happened from there during your time at Emory.

Kim Davis:

So during the tech transfer internship, so we weren't paid interns. We were not, which is expected, but Corey always felt an obligation to do more for us. It was like, you're spending your time here with us. You're helping us in so many ways. My commitment to you is to make key introductions to people who potentially can change your life by way of providing an open door to a career opportunity. So Corey followed through on his promise completely. He introduced me to Tina McKeon, who I still work with to this very day. And she hired me right out of the lab. She met with me after Corey urged her to, according to Corey . He had to tell her three times, according to Tina, she followed through the first time around. So however it went, we had breakfast one time and she hired me. We were working together at Fish & Richardson.

April Abele Isaacson:

Well, I don't know Corey , but I do know Tina and I feel pretty confident that her version of the story is probably accurate because that sounds like Tina to me. So you, you, you met Tina and then what happened from there?

Kim Davis:

I started working as a tech spec at Fish & Richardson. Just learning the career a little bit more on a technology specialist at that time (Tech Spec), basically we perform the same duties as a patent agent, but had not yet taken and passed the patent bar. So of course you couldn't sign anything. But you were training in that position if you will. So I worked as a tech spec for a while. I took the patent bar, maybe, maybe I guess, about seven or eight months into my time there at Fish & Richardson. And then what year, what year was that Kim? That was, let's see, 2009.

April Abele Isaacson:

So you took the patent bar and then what happened from there?

Kim Davis:

From there? It was business as usual back to the checklist, right. I pulled it out and it was, it was law school time. So I went ahead and applied for law school for an evening program because I wanted to continue working by day as an agent and attending law school at night. I applied for the Georgia State program, which is our local evening program in town, which is absolutely great. Our intellectual property department, they are second to none. We really are doing some great things in that program. Finished up in three and a half years and became an associate. During that time though, I've glossed over some of the history of, we had a few moves from between the time that I started law school to the time that I finished law school. So I applied when I was at Fish & Richardson, we ended up moving one day. I learned that my core group was starting their own firms. So I went along with, and then Tina let me know that she was g oing t o make a move back to Big Law. And I went along with t here, things just lined up in that regard to where it made the most sense for me

April Abele Isaacson:

From the time you were at Eli Lilly and started to first think about being a patent attorney , kind of where did things go in terms of deciding that you wanted to focus in a specific area, for example?

Kim Davis:

So you mean like in terms of organic chemistry, correct? Or do you mean prosecution versus litigation?

April Abele Isaacson:

Well , yeah. Yeah, that's a , it's a loaded question. So what made you decide that you were going to focus on patent prosecution versus litigation? And the reason I ask is I was a summer associate and I did both at the firm where I worked. And then I decided for some of the reasons you articulated about, for example, the lab being isolating, that I wanted to be a litigator. So what was it about those two choices? It pulled you towards patent prosecution?

Kim Davis:

Well, the organic chemistry decision made sense for me just based on my exposure as an undergraduate, all of my work was in the medicinal chemistry space and I enjoyed that work. I loved the coursework. I also love being in the lab. I think I love the lab work a little bit more than the actual coursework for orgo, but so that was a natural fit. Um, the prosecution versus litigation decision. I don't think I actually gave much thought early on to whether I wanted to be a prosecutor or a litigator because the path for a non-attorney of course , practicing in this space is that of a prosecutor, right. And the need for the deep understanding of organic chemistry or whatever field you're in, that comes more on the prosecution in up things. So it just made sense for me to be a prosecutor. And I hadn't really thought much about litigation until really I was in law school basically,

April Abele Isaacson:

When you were at Lily and you met with some of the folks that were in the patent group at that point, then you were thinking patent prosecution. That was kind of what was in your mind. That's right. And that you talked about the group left Fish & Richardson and went to another firm. And then now you're at Kilpatrick Townsend and your partner here in the patent prosecution group. Talk a little bit about your experience here.

Kim Davis:

My experience here has been great. I, and I'm not just saying that because we're on Kilpatrick's podcast right now. Trust me when I say we , we, aren't just doing, you know, the necessary lip service. I'll share a little bit more about my initial transition into the farm back when I was still a law student. So our group, a bunch of us came over, I would say at least about, bunch is a strong word, maybe five or six of us came over from that, firm along with Tina. And we first focused of course, on getting the practice in order ,, most, if not all of Tina's clients came along with. So that was great, which speaks volumes about her reputation in the field and how clients value her. So we , we focused on that initially that was phase one, but phase two quickly became integration within the broader firm. And when I say we were welcomed fully, I mean, that's an understatement. So I just think back and , and can remember everyone who stopped by the office just to welcome me and then share what projects they were involved in and how I could be a part. And then when I would reach out to someone how they welcomed me onto the team and, and found meaningful roles from me within teams . And it's been the same experience throughout. I've seen so many positions here at Kilpatrick. I've been a patent agent moved to associate, to senior associate, to counsel, and now partner. And each of those positions has allowed me to see a little bit more into the inner workings of the firm . And I, nothing has made me say, "oh, goodness, it's time to abort mission, turn around." If anything, it's drawn me in even closer to the, the spirit of the firm and our culture here.

April Abele Isaacson:

I know you've talked about the Kim Davis checklist quite a bit. Why did you decide to go to law school rather than remain a patent agent?

Kim Davis:

So that answer would take quite a while to answer that question would take a long time to answer as well, but the short end of the stick is , I didn't want to, and how do I say this? We designed certain programs here to where there are no limits even as a patent agent, but there are certain boxes since we're talking about the checklist, certain boxes that I wanted to check, that I would not be able to, if I remained a patent agent. So while I would still be able to have my clients, fully prosecute , I would not be able to perform certain duties that come along with my position, such as penning an opinion, for instance, rather than just supporting or becoming a partner for instance, that isn't achievable by agents in the firm currently.

April Abele Isaacson:

You've been a patent agent. You've been an associate, you've been counsel , and now you're a partner at a major law firm. How does that feel?

Kim Davis:

It feels great when I actually take the time to reflect on it and take it all in rather than going with the motions. And , and that's, that's the issue mainly with, with the box checkers, if you will, you know, it's always onto the next now, what do I have? And especially when we're so over-extended and, and I've shared with others that COVID has allowed me an opportunity to step back a little bit from the business as usual, and just checking all the boxes and making sure I progress. I still don't think I've fully had time to take it all in. I haven't done that vacation or that celebration for obvious reasons. But when I stopped to think about it, it feels great.

April Abele Isaacson:

You mentioned that COVID had you kind of take a step back a little bit from things. Can you expand upon that?

Kim Davis:

Yeah. My life was just a hustle and flow. Like I just kept everything moving. I have two young boys right now they're four and seven. I keep them pretty busy and it's needed, right?

April Abele Isaacson:

That's a shocker. That's a shocker that you keep them busy. I bet they have their own little smaller checklist.

Kim Davis:

They do, they do in the older one really takes well to checklist . Believe it or not. He creates checklists . Now. Usually they involve things like, "oh, mommy makes sure you do this for me." And that for me, they're all about him, his checklist , but no, he definitely is a checklist lover as well. But, but I had to pause from all of the events and activities, all of the you know, the therapy sessions and the sports activities. And all of the organizations I was involved in, I was at their school. I'm very involved in , in their education and believe it or not and April, I don't know if I've ever shared this with you. I was the PTO president last year. Like when I go in, I go all in.

April Abele Isaacson:

You haven't shared that with me, but nothing about that is even remotely surprising.

Kim Davis:

Oh. And it was an experience because of course we can't do anything halfway. We have to make sure that we're still meeting the standard set, if not exceeding and surpassing those, set by the former PTO president who happened to not have a similar role in, in the firm as, as I do. So if I'm saying that in a nice way, but I think everyone understands my point there . Just not, not really knowing how to step back a minute and say, okay, it's okay to be involved, but Kim really, you do not have to go all in. So what COVID did for me, it took all in away from me, right? So it was okay. Yes, PTO has a role, but you can't come to school. You can't hold any events. You can't do this. So basically take a step back. You are room parent. Yes. I know that, but Kim, you can no longer volunteer in the class. You can't do this. So take a step back. Therapy sessions, my then two year old , I noticed a slight hesitation in his speech and I'm like, not on my watch. We are starting speech therapy two days . So even those sessions, you know, there there's a pause on that. So I , I think it afforded me the opportunity to really reflect on everything that I was involved in and everything that my children were involved in and make sure that I'm being a little bit more thoughtful and strategic as to what we truly need versus the extra.

April Abele Isaacson:

When, when you've had a few things that maybe didn't perfectly go as planned per the Kim Davis checklist. How did you, how did you deal with that?

Kim Davis:

Oh, April. Here's the litigator coming out of it . Okay. So my personality is one such that when it first happens, I'm devastated, right? My poker face is pretty much non-existent . So you immediately see it on my face. And because you will know what I'm thinking by looking at me, I share it. I share it openly. So I'll share with you the transition from senior associate to counsel. I got a call from our Department Chair. So this is scary. Right? You get a call from your Department Chair, it's like, "Oh crap. What did I mess up to where he has to come down and talk to me?" So he told me, well, "Kim, you know, I want to come and chat with you. Are you downstairs?" "Yep. I'm in my office. Come on down. I'm here and ready." So he came down, he said, "well, we have some news to share. And I think you'll be very excited about this. We're promoting you this year," and oh, goodness guys, I'm bracing myself. Like I have my hands clutching my desk. I'm like, oh yeah. I said, this doesn't seem like how they told me the elevation to partnership worked , but hey, whatever, maybe they're doing something special for me because you know, you're Kim Davis. So maybe that's what's going on. I'm kidding about that. But he said, "well, we we've decided that we're going to promote you to counsel this year." And guys, you can only imagine what the look on my face was, because again, that was not on the checklist. Counsel was nowhere there. And in my mind, based on what I understood, which was completely wrong. Let me say that upfront. I thought that there were two paths, right? I thought there was associate to counsel or associate to partner. And I thought that I was being diverted on the associate to counsel path with no opportunity for partnership. So that was the look, right? That was the look. But we had further discussions and I'm sure my Department Chair readily picked up on that. And he was like, okay, let's talk about this some more. So we had that discussion. I understood the reasons behind it. But then my next phase, after seeing how unhappy I am with a decision I've been called in the troops, right. My support system. So I remember that day, as soon as he left my office, I took it in, I took a deep breath and then I got on the phone with Tina. She was traveling at the time. I think she may have been doing like, I don't know, depositions that day. It was something major she was traveling for , but I immediately got on the phone. "I need to talk to you." And we chatted about it. And she, she took the time to listen to me and, and to hear my concerns and to share her thoughts about it. And, and the long story short, it all worked out for the good, I actually think it was a necessary step for my development. I was only about, oh gosh, five years out of law school when we had that discussion when the promotion to counsel happened. So it was, it all happened very fast. Everything my Department Chair told me was absolutely right. And then serving as counsel allowed me to see behind the curtain a little bit more. Right. I was able to see the law firm as a business. I'm able to see a lot more of it now that I've been elevated to partner, but I was able to see a glimpse of it to let myself know that. Yep . I'm still all for it. I'm completely committed to it. Let's go for it.

April Abele Isaacson:

I'd like to take you back to sophomore year in high school. If hypothetically, you thought that you may be able to be the valedictorian at your local high school, would you have stayed there?

Kim Davis:

I think I would have. And that would have been the biggest mistake ever.

April Abele Isaacson:

And you mentioned earlier that the first time round for one of the scholarships you were up for, you didn't get it. How did you deal with that situation?

Kim Davis:

Same, same process that I outlined the senior associates to counsel position. At first, when I got the call that, well , Kim, you know, you were next up on the list. We only had two slots available this year. You didn't get it, but you are a runner up, you know, the face, right. That's the first thing you deal with. And then my, the person that I've been to too with my mom. Everything about how, "oh, you know, blah, blah, blah. I didn't, I don't know why they wouldn't pick me and this and that. And I don't want to do it anyway." Only to have them call back a couple of months later and say, yeah, one of the people in the program he doesn't qualify because of his grades. So you're next up on the list, Kim , we would love to have you. And so I had to, you know, eat all of those words because I ended up joining the program.`

April Abele Isaacson:

You talked about some important mentors that you've had along the way. Can you talk to us about your approach to mentoring?

Kim Davis:

Yes. So , yeah, and I have hit on a number of huge mentors that I've had , ones that have, have really paved the way for me to be where I am today. I will say that as of late, I guess, starting with my transition to counsel , I've had a number of unofficial mentors, I guess I would call them. And , and they range from other partners at the law firm. I'm thinking the T y Lords, the Jamie Grahams, the Kris Doyles. So many others, Susan Spaeth, so many who aren't officially my mentor, but I look to them to be mentors. April, as of late, you, you are a major mentor in my life that I like to bounce ideas off of. And just, and just watch how my mentors move and navigate. So seemingly effortlessly through this, t here, this path, but in turn I realized how, how much work was needed on my mentors' parts. And I'm thinking in particular, of Tina, Oh, she had the task. Her, her torch was the heaviest, right? Every time they pass that torch, her, she had to take me from the very raw graduate student that I was in attempted to polish me up as best she could, as best she could make it happen. I think she's done an excellent job. There you go. There you go. And others are helping with that process. But now, I mean, it's my absolute commitment, my duty to make sure that I'm mentoring others in the same way. We have a very new member to the patent team. And she's probably like Kim, I didn't ask you for this help, but we have weekly calls and I don't take up a lot of her time. I take 15 minutes every Tuesday morning, 15 minutes, it's a check-in call.

April Abele Isaacson:

Is there a checklist?

Kim Davis:

Oh, there's not a true checklist. Like I haven't written it down, but sort of because we go through the same steps every week. It's like, okay. So tell me about your week. Okay. Tell me how you implemented what we discussed last time around. Okay. Are there any issues that have new issues that have come up over the past week? We talk about a game plan for her to strategize around it and make sure she's addressing any concerns. And then that very next week we go through the same sequence. Like, have you implemented what we've discussed? Has it been working? What do we need to change?

April Abele Isaacson:

Is there any particular approach you've had to mentoring for black female patent practitioners?

Kim Davis:

And she actually is a black female. She's not an attorney. She's , she's training in this role. So akin to the technology specialist position that I told you, I entered as and yeah, there, there is,. I will be candid with you and let you know. My fear is that she will not, she, she, not that she won't receive the same training because we do provide the same training, but there are some unspoken rules that I want to make sure she hears out loud, because I think it's very important for her to hear those out loud. I'm, I'm a firm believer in, you know, if you can see it, you can be it, right? So she has so many great examples within Kilpatrick that she wouldn't necessarily have other places in that I didn't necessarily have other places. So I want her to not only see the black female patent practitioner partner, but have a relationship with her and she can hear my actual stories and know the challenges that anyone in this career faces, but in a way that is more tailored to her and , and maybe even more achievable just by virtue of seeing it and then believing it.

April Abele Isaacson:

Kim, what is the advice that you would give to those who have found themselves as "the only," for example, in a meeting, a courtroom classroom, et cetera.

Kim Davis:

My advice is to own every bit of it take advantage of being that only it , it took me a while to become my authentic self. And when I say my authentic self bringing true New Orleans, born and raised, Xavier University of Louisiana, graduate bringing that Kim to the table, you had a toned down version of Kim, but that isn't benefiting anyone in the end, right? If I'm not able to bring my experience, my very unique experience, mind you when we consider the teams , if I'm in a room where I'm the only, if I'm not bringing my perspective, I mean, who I benefiting? Why am I even there? Right. So own your differences. Be proud of them. Don't back down from them. Um, people, people detect when you're being less than your true self. So just have fun with this. And the only way you're going to be able to do it as being your authentic self and many thanks to Colleen Bear for teaching me that

April Abele Isaacson:

Well, I certainly would never want to have anything less than the true and authentic Kim Davis. And I have to say that, just listening to you, talk about your story and how you arrived at this moment has been not only enlightening, but absolutely inspiring. And I really thank you for sharing.

Kim Davis:

Thank you. And this was not, it wasn't completely painless. April, you're good, but it was an enjoyable experience as well. Thank you so much for doing this.

April Abele Isaacson:

Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed Sidebars, we invite you to check out the Kilpatrick Townsend Medicine and Molecules blog at kilpatricktownsend.com to read, watch, and listen to other related insight on patent law. We'll also put that information in the show notes. The opinions expressed on this podcast are own and are not those of Kilpatrick Townsend.

Kim Davis:

Also, we would love it if you would rate us or leave a review, it helps others find the show. See you next time!