As my biographical information said, I had a prior career in book publishing. I love books, reading and buying them, and still find it difficult to walk by a bookstore without stopping. I enjoyed my career as a retailer, publisher, and distributor, meeting many interesting authors and learning a little bit about so many topics.
While in my first corporate position, which was well before desktop computers were customary, I observed that notices posted on bulletin boards indicated that such and such had left to pursue other interests. I quickly realized that this language was a euphemism that someone had been fired. Not wanting to get fired, I contemplated what these individuals had in common and concluded that they had become complacent and hadn’t changed with the time. Vowing not to let that happen to me, I decided to reinvent myself midlife.
Flash forward nearly 20 years: I was turning forty and was at a library conference in Los Angeles, pretty soon after the Loma Prieta earthquake. I was then a vice president of marketing at an international book distributor. My company had downsized/rightsized and it was necessary for me to assist in setting up the booth at this national trade show. Not a problem — until we ran out of Velcro® fasteners, which we used to hang posters onto the booth. Even then, I was in LA, in a convention center, so not a [real] problem. Nevertheless I got stuck thinking about how I was turning forty and that my biggest challenge was finding Velcro. I now refer to this as my “velcro epiphany.”
Thinking about my future after arriving home in New Jersey, I was driving and reciting the nursery rhyme that went “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief.” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinker,_Tailor) Becoming a doctor would take too long, Indian chief? Not gonna happen. But lawyer—I could leverage my background in marketing relative to trademark law and my publishing background as to copyright law. I was energized about pursuing a new and intellectually challenging career. Soon I had registered for the Kaplan® test prep course and the LSAT exam. A year later, I was sending off my applications to law schools.
Unfortunately, the day after transmitting my applications, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was very lucky because it was caught in an early stage. Notwithstanding my diagnosis, I was determined not to let cancer stop me from moving on to my new exciting and intellectually challenging career. Following treatment, I was able to start law school only a semester later than I had planned.
I thoroughly enjoyed law school (and the break from the daily emails, teleconferences, meetings, etc.), remaining focused on a career in intellectual property law. After graduating in ’98 and passing the bar in ’99, I secured an exceptional position as an associate attorney with Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP, the largest specialized intellectual property law firm in the west and recognized as one of the nation’s leading IP firms. I learned the practice of trademark and copyright law from some of the best IP lawyers in the business, My practice focused on serving a diverse group of clients, many nationally known for their innovation and commercial success. (In 2010, the Townsend firm merged with Kilpatrick Stockton and is now known as Kilpatrick Townsend Stockton.)
After ten years at Townsend, having learned the ropes from some of the best, I struck lout on my own and launched Mary L. Shapiro Law, doing the work I love.