Kimberly Gatling shares with students her road to patent law
By Ashleigh Wilson
JOMC Journal Assistant Editor
Local attorney Kimberly Bullock Gatling recalled how she was first introduced to her career field, patent law, by stumbling upon a graduate school fair held during her junior year.
Gatling met a representative from the University of Maryland. Unmoved by his sales pitch, he eventually posed the question, “Have you ever thought about patent law?”
Gatling replied that she had never heard of it, the representative explained that patent law combines and engineering degree with a law degree and works with inventions. Gatling quickly became interested and wanted to learn more. The representative later introduced Gatling to his daughter, a patent attorney in New York.
“From the conversation, I decided I was going to law school to become a patent lawyer,” Gatling told students recently at N.C. A&T State University, which also is her alma mater.
The representative’s phone call to his daughter changed her career path, Gatling said, adding that her open mind allowed her to graduate from George Washington University Law School in 1999 with a juris doctorate degree.
Gatling’s “diligence” has awarded her 14 years of working for the Smith Moore Leatherwood Law Firm. Currently a partner at her firm, a prestigious position for any lawyer and especially for a black woman, Gatling has received many accolades over the course of her career. More recently, Gatling received Best Lawyers’ 2014 Lawyer of the Year award for the Greensboro area based upon the nominations of her peers.
“Always be open to possibilities,” she advises.
Currently, Gatling deals with drafting and prosecuting software and handles mechanical patent application. She notes that a large portion of her practice involves prosecuting and enforcing trademarks plus litigation and licensing concerning intellectual property.
“I like the licensing work the most because I love drafting contracts,” Gatling expresses, “but I find the litigation most challenging because there are always unexpected twists.”
Her work hours are typically from 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. and if necessary, she works in the evenings and on weekends if she has deadlines. Gatling’s describes her work schedule as partner to be fairly flexible as she comments, “I can work from home very easily, and I do that when I need to be home with the kids.”
Gatling has made the most of every opportunity afforded to her and believes she has succeeded since the graduate school fair her junior year.
“It’s hard work (but) that’s just a part of private practice life.”