As the old film noir TV show told us, “There are 8 million stories in the naked city,” and each one is unique. The same holds true for legal professionals – each one has a story of how she or he discovered the law and overcame obstacles on the way to becoming a lawyer. Of course, in this day and age, law school is more expensive than ever, so prospective students often seek out scholarships in order to help assuage the cost.
Many organizations award scholarships to law students, and one such organization is the American Intellectual Property Law Education Foundation (AIPLEF), which was created to increase the diversity of the IP bar. Over the last 12 years, the AIPLEF has awarded many scholarships to worthy law students, and many of these students have gone on to excel in intellectual property law.
One such student is Myron Stout, now legal counsel, intellectual property, at Shell Oil Company. Stout grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, the son of a single mother who was the first in her family to go to college. He received an engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma, but wanted something more.
After considering getting his MBA, Stout happened to speak to a judge during a fundraising call for the university. The judge asked Stout if he had considered IP law, and Stout admitted that he had never heard of it.
Contacting every law firm in Oklahoma City in the hopes of getting into the field, Stout managed to leverage a connection from the university to get a job with a firm of “old white guys who had never hired an engineering student,” as Stout tells it. Eventually, after working hard and asking a lot of questions, he got a good taste of what patent law was like.
“IP is a great experience,” he says. “Clients come in happy to see you. Usually lawyers get bad news, but dealing with inventors, you work with their dreams, not their nightmares.” And, as someone with a curious intellect, IP law also presented Stout with new and novel challenges each time he picked up a case.
Stout says he learned of the AIPLEF scholarship while visiting Pepperdine University. A student there mentioned it to him, and he sent in his application. Then, the summer before he left for law school, he got a call from Andrea Ryan, former president of the AIPLEF. Stout got the scholarship, which “made a huge difference” for him financially.
He describes the scholarship as “a trampoline getting [him] into this career, providing an extra level of confidence.” He has appreciated connecting with other attorneys in the IP community, and notices an increasing number of minority candidates each time he attends the American Intellectual Property Law Association annual meeting.
“I’m not saying it feels like the UN,” he jokes, “but there are more minorities than in 2004. 20 years ago you could count them on one hand, but the landscape is starting to change. The fabric of IP attorneys is starting to look a little more colorful.” He credits the AIPLEF as an agent of change, bringing awareness of the diversity issue to the IP community, offering encouragement to young people and helping the community grow.
The network of people that Stout has met through his association with the AIPLEF continue to be a support for him. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and every year, the network of people that I trust has increased with positive people around me that are encouraging,” he says.
Stout is pleased that the Foundation is helping students and making a difference, and the IP community is benefitting from that. People are more conscious and aware of the lack of minority representation in the profession and, with the help of AIPLEF scholarships, perhaps more students like Stout can achieve the dream and join the network.
For more on IP law, check out the following: