Women's Leadership InitiativeQ&A with Kaylee Willis

Kaylee Willis is an intellectual property attorney who practices in the areas of patent, trademark, copyright, biotech and technology law. She works with clients on a wide variety of technologies, and drafts and prosecutes all stages of U.S. patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Describe a pivotal moment that influenced your career path.

I had an internship in a drug crime lab my senior year of college where I got to work on some really awesome drug chemistry projects and experiments. The work was super interesting and catered to my science background. But, it also made me realize how isolating the lab bench can be at times. It made me rethink what industry I wanted to pursue a career in. I thought about what other career paths I could pursue that would allow me to feed my science interests while also broadening my work space. Fast forward a few months, and I decided on law school, specifically aiming for a career in patent law.

What is the best advice you’ve received about how to be a successful attorney?

I had a professor early in law school that told our class that law school teaches you a new way of thinking, rather than specifically teaching you how to practice law. I think that notion really rings true and has made me more adaptable as an attorney. That “way of thinking” gives you the competence to practice in any area of law you choose, and the confidence to take on new issues and projects you might not have experience with.

Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.

I’d have to say my mom and my grandma. Both have owned and managed successful businesses in their careers while simultaneously raising families, and being phenomenal cooks and party-hosting connoisseurs. They both are true examples of “doing it all” while being selflessly humble about their accomplishments.

What are the top three pieces of advice you would give to an aspiring female professional?

  1. If you find something you’re interested in, pursue it — regardless of the demographics
  2. Never be afraid to be the only woman in the room.
  3. Treat other female professionals as your allies, even if they also are your competition.

What is most important when it comes to balancing your legal career alongside your interests outside of work?

Efficiency. It’s really amazing how much you can get out of your time (whether it be in or outside of work), when you work and plan efficiently. Whether it be making sure I’m home in time to get some gardening in, fitting in some gym time or meeting a friend, having a workplace that provides the tools and resources to work efficiently means you can put out a high-quality work product while also freeing more time for interests outside of work.