Christine Kanz of Hoyng Rokh Monegier in Germany talks about her career in IP law, what she learned from a recent client matter, and life outside work.
When did you decide to pursue a career in law?
Quite spontaneously, after graduation from secondary school. I had already applied to university to study molecular biology when something made me change my mind.
Why did you choose IP law?
My first contact with IP was in the area of trade mark law during an internship with the French car manufacturer Citroën. My PhD thesis was on trade mark law. But when I found out that patent law would allow me to combine my still strong interest in biology and chemistry with the practice of law, it was a done deal!
How did you get into the IP profession? Did you experience significant challenges?
When I started my career in 2000, there was still some bias against women in patent law. Luckily, that has changed, especially in the pharmaceutical sector where there are often many female members in international teams.
Why and/or how did you join your current firm?
I started my career at a big international law firm, which was very exciting for the first few years. But in the end, I thought that a boutique firm would be a better fit for me. Luckily, the patent litigation team I was part of decided to spin off. It has been the best thing that could have happened to me.
What do you enjoy most about working for your firm?
The international environment is still exciting to me. I enjoy working with my colleagues from other offices and learning from them that there are many ways to solve a problem. I really like that we are a team, meaning our work is not about individual success but about doing a good job overall.
What makes your role/work fulfilling? Why do you enjoy IP work?
The high degree of professionalism not only within our firm but also on the part of clients, judges and experts is extraordinary and makes for excellent working conditions. My work is challenging every day and very little of it is routine. We work in diverse teams, including high-profile technical experts and economists, and this provides me with fresh insight and allows me to learn every day.
What career advice would you give to women interested in joining the IP profession and getting to your position?
It is important to have a good mentor. This can be someone in or outside the organisation. I encourage young professionals to talk about their career ambitions early on. It helps to discuss career development and to prepare for discussions about career steps.
What is your most memorable piece of work as an IP practitioner?
It's difficult to pick only one case. Generally, it will be where my work makes a difference, for the company or in advancing the law.
Could you briefly share two interesting client matters you handled within the past 18 months?
I handled an extraordinarily exciting case for a big pharmaceutical company in the field of HIV. This case was exceptional because I learned a lot about the difficult times in the '80s when doctors simply had no treatment options until a life-saving drug finally came to market. It was such a big step forward, and I have the greatest respect for the scientists who were involved in its development.
Did you find any part of the work you have just described uniquely challenging? If so, what were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
The unique challenge with this case was that we needed to convince the courts to take a fresh look at the legal question and to differentiate the case from others that appeared to have addressed the same question but in fact did not.
What qualities and skills are required to do your job?
Persistence, curiosity, an ability to listen to people, to ask questions, and, of course, drafting skills.
What key principles do you follow or use to deliver the best possible outcome(s) for a client?
To ask questions until you really do not have any left and to acknowledge when you don't understand something.
What if things don’t go or aren’t going according to plan, what keeps you going or motivated?
When clients recognise and appreciate that we've given our best.
Are you working on any interesting project(s) outside your firm? If so, please tell us a little bit about the project and why you care about it
I am part of a neighbourhood initiative to save a specific piece of forest close to my hometown. It is a very healthy, old tree population that is about to be sacrificed for a public project which could easily be carried out elsewhere (although not at the same cost).
What is your favourite food and sport?
I love the Italian kitchen and wines. My favourite sports are running and skiing.
Could you share a fun and interesting fact about you?
I am the mother of two teenage daughters, which is both interesting and fun!
Kanz is a lawyer who specialises in pharmaceutical and biotechnology patent litigation. She became a partner at Hoyng Rokh Monegier (Germany) in June 1998. Read more about Kanz here.