Jessica Van Dalen isn’t just a leader as a patent attorney in a traditionally male-dominated practice area. She’s also credited with building important connections between Purdue University, where she earned a degree in material science and engineering, and IU Maurer. She’s also a leader in volunteering her time and efforts — notably, receiving the Indiana Bar Foundation’s Pro Bono Publico Award in 2017.
What appealed to you about a career in intellectual property law?
I was attracted to IP law because it is a good blend of both engineering and law. When I was younger and thinking about “what to be when I grow up,” I thought about a career in law. However, throughout high school, I gravitated toward math and science and ultimately chose engineering as my college major. I genuinely enjoyed the work I was doing in my engineering curriculum but also held on to the idea that I might want to go to law school one day. When I eventually learned about IP law, it seemed like the best of both worlds!
When did you first decide you would become a lawyer, and what motivated you?
Law was on my radar as a career option as early as middle school, in part because people would tell me that I was good at arguing different points and that I should become an attorney. I don’t have any attorneys in my family, so I wasn’t quite sure what being an attorney would be like, but I retained the suggestion throughout the years. However, it wasn’t until college when I learned about patent law that I really began to pursue career options in law, especially IP law, more aggressively.
Who is someone who inspired or mentored you, and what did you learn from them?
All of the mentors in my life have reinforced the idea that good results often come from a team effort. With that mindset, I really value the opinions of others, treat everyone like equals, and realize that I often could not achieve everything I have without the help of others.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your practice?
I really enjoy being able to provide clients with options. I work with clients who want to know if they should obtain patent protection and help them determine the best way to go about it, including identifying the countries they should they seek patent protection in, identifying whether a product infringes on someone else’s patent rights, etc. It is rewarding to walk through this process with them and provide them with the information that makes them comfortable, helps to launch a product, etc.
What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not in the office?
I like to be active. I sit at a computer so often during the week, so it’s nice to get out and about in Indy and elsewhere in the evenings and on weekends. I enjoy running, hiking, walking my dog and traveling.
What has been your most rewarding volunteer or community service effort?
I have volunteered in several different ways throughout my career so far. First, I work with the IP Clinic at the IU Maurer School of Law and volunteer with the PatentConnect for Hoosiers program to help pro bono clients with IP matters. Through this program, I have had a great experience helping solo inventors and small businesses obtain patent protection in an effort to advance their products and businesses. I also volunteered for years through Faegre Baker Daniels’ School 39 program, where I volunteered in a classroom at IPS School 39 to work with students in a one-on-one capacity. This was a great way to give students some individualized attention to practice various skills they were working on.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Maybe retired! But in reality, in 20 years I would like to lead a team of attorneys on substantive patent work while also mentoring newer attorneys and helping them to have the experiences I have been able to have. This might mean a more significant role in a client team and/or a more significant role within my practice area.
What’s something about you not many people know?
I love all animals — large and small — and one day hope to own both a horse and pygmy goats! But, for now, I’ll stick with my three rescues at home — my dog, Kylo, and my cats, Olivia and Miles.
What has been your most memorable case?
For me, the overall experience for the client is the most memorable and rewarding part of my career. For example, seeing a client’s product in the market is a really exciting moment! I know that the client is thrilled to be able to see their vision come to life and it’s nice that I was able to play a part in that process.
How do you see the legal profession changing in the next decade?
I see the legal market becoming more and more flexible with different working arrangements. This may mean more options to work remotely or more flexible work commitments. I also hope that the legal market will continue to diversify and recognize the value of being an inclusive profession.
What was your most memorable job before becoming an attorney?
When I was a student at Purdue University, I was a note-taker for students with disabilities. I would attend class with a student who had a learning or physical disability and take notes on their behalf to ensure that they were receiving the same information and in the same way as all other students in the class. It was really rewarding to be able to help fellow students in this way and also very interesting to attend many different classes that I would have never taken on my own!
If you hadn’t pursued a legal career, what would you be doing instead?
I would likely be working as an engineer in some capacity. I really enjoyed my engineering curriculum and contemplated several different job options in the engineering field before deciding to pursue law school.•