Morgan Chu – IP guru

5 minutes with... Morgan Chu

Morgan ChuWhen did you decide to become a lawyer? Why? 

I decided to become a lawyer after I finished law school and started practicing law! When I was in law school, I did not know that I wanted to be a practicing lawyer. I thought that studying the law was interesting, and that was a good enough reason for me to be in law school. I always enjoyed learning something new, and I could have become a professional student. From my first taste of being a lawyer at Irell & Manella, however, I fell in love with practicing law.

Starting out, what did you expect from a career in the law?

I expected fewer intellectual challenges, but I was pleasantly surprised that there seem to be an endless stream of tough problems to solve.

How did you get into the areas of law you are known for today? By design? Chance? Both?

Luck and word of mouth. I was lucky. A client wanted me to be in charge of a patent case after I had been practicing for one year, when neither I nor anyone at Irell & Manella knew anything about patent law or the technology in the case. Of course, the senior partners explained to the client that we could not take the case. The client was insistent and promised to hire outside patent counsel to assist and to dedicate in-house patent lawyers to the case, as well as a technical consultant who could teach me about the technology. We were successful at trial and on appeal. Word of mouth recommendations brought another client, and then another.

What do you consider to have been your big break?

Joining a law firm that provided a lot of support for whatever one wanted to pursue, while entrusting real responsibility to very junior lawyers.

What differences do you see in today's legal market compared to when you started?

The private practice of law has always been a balance between professionalism and business. For the market as a whole, the shift has been more toward the business end, but there are major differences among law firms. Some firms still give great weight to the professional side of being a lawyer who has an important role to play in our larger community.

"Some firms still give great weight to the professional side of being a lawyer who has an important role to play in our larger community."

What achievement are you most proud of? 

Playing a small part along with many others in providing opportunities and support to help young lawyers develop and mature, and go on to great careers with our firm or elsewhere in law or other endeavors.

What do you consider your greatest failure or regret?

At age 25 I thought I knew a lot about the world, but there was so much that I did not know or appreciate. I wish I was wiser, especially about the great strengths one can always find in other human beings.

What law would you change, abolish or create? 

The law often resists change, and that can be good for many societies at many times. There are times, however, when the law should be a means of promoting positive changes to make a better world.

Who is your legal hero? 

I have many heroes, best described as individuals who stood up against impossible odds to secure a bit of justice for someone else.

What career would you have in your second life? 

Maybe a 'professional student', if that ever becomes a career path. Maybe a teacher. Maybe something else because the world may be a different place than it is today. Why am I limited to having only two lives?

What slogan would you like to be remembered by? 

I do not think I would like to be remembered by a slogan.

What advice would you give to students hoping to ultimately get into the areas of law in which you are expert?

Work hard, take chances, enjoy what you are doing every day, and find time to smell the flowers along the way.