Norman Hedges, through his work at the IU Maurer IP Law Clinic, helps Hoosier inventors and entrepreneurs propel and protect their creations and innovations while also preparing law students to be future IP attorneys. In addition to his professional work at his alma mater, Hedges helps National Guard members at Camp Atterbury through the Lawyers for Soldiers program. He also is active as a leader and trustee at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church and School.
How does working at the IP Clinic differ from your prior work at big law firms?
Because the IP Clinic focuses on clients of limited financial means, I currently work mostly with small businesses, such as startup businesses that cannot otherwise afford IP legal services. My prior practice was mostly patent-centered, but my current practice includes all areas of intellectual property including patents, trademarks, copyrights and other areas of IP. Fortunately, the Indiana IP community has been very generous in helping supplement my IP skills and knowledge.
When did you first decide you would become a lawyer, and what motivated you?
I decided to become a lawyer while a junior at Purdue University studying mechanical engineering. While I thoroughly enjoyed the subject matter, I didn’t see being a corporate mechanical engineer as an intellectually rewarding career path for me. I happened across a patent attorney and discovered that there was a career path that satisfied my curiosity about new technologies without having to invest a lifetime in any single technology.
What was your most memorable job before becoming an attorney?
Caddying. It was a flexible outdoor job that allowed me to spend time with my brothers and several friends while being introduced to influential members of the Fort Wayne community. Ultimately, it resulted in a full scholarship to Purdue University as an Evans Scholar.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your practice?
Mentoring. I’ve always enjoyed mentoring fellow students, young lawyers and clients. My current position at the IP clinic allows me to mentor full-time while working with law students and small companies.
What’s a common misconception you encounter with inventors?
Particularly for individuals and new businesses, that once you receive a patent, life in business will be easy. While obtaining patents may be important for some businesses, there’s much more hard work and time required to
Who is someone who inspired or mentored you, and what did you learn from them?
My older brother, Doug Hedges, and uncle Don Rush. Both gave me critical advice on my career path. My older brother convinced me that you can do anything with an engineering degree and my uncle advised me to attend law school as soon as possible before life gets in the way.
What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not in the office?
Planning and starting DIY projects — not necessarily finishing them.
If you could change one law, what would that be?
The Supreme Court’s prohibition on patenting abstract ideas.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Seek more advice from those with more experience.
What’s your advice to someone who’s thinking about a career in legal education?
While not as financially rewarding as private practice, there’s tremendous flexibility in steering your courses, area of research and client base.
What’s your advice to a younger person who’s thinking about a legal career?
Speak with as many practicing attorneys as you can to educate yourself on law school and the practice of law.
What’s something about you not many people know?
I have a fraternal twin brother who has two sets of twins.•