Editors’ Note: As part of our ongoing Faces of MoFo series, Palo Alto litigation associate Lily Li talks about her passion for practicing law and the value of mentorship.
Growing up, I always liked science and thought I would become an engineer one day. It all changed when I saw a job posting for a patent engineer position at a semiconductor company after graduating from college. The company’s general counsel, who was a former MoFo attorney, recognized my potential even before I knew about it and ultimately led me to pursue my legal career. With his help, I passed the patent bar, worked on patent prosecution and litigation matters, and sat in during jury trials and Federal Circuit hearings—even before I went to law school.
It was during this time that I discovered my passion for law. I enjoyed being immersed in cutting-edge technology and fascinating legal issues. I decided to go to law school while continuing to work full-time as an in-house intellectual property manager. Attending law school while working full-time was challenging but the work experience I gained plays a crucial part in my legal career. Knowing the clients’ perspectives and how to meet their business objectives and manage risks allows me to better serve my clients.
Since graduating from law school, I have been representing technology companies in high-stakes intellectual property litigation. Practicing intellectual property law is thrilling because of my curiosity about both technology and law. With a technical background in electrical engineering and artificial intelligence, I am always eager to learn new technology. The law is also constantly changing, causing me to have to come up with new and better ways to solve novel problems.
I am lucky to have great mentors who recognized my potential and fostered my growth. They made me believe that I can be a successful attorney regardless of my gender, color, or ethnic background. Practicing law is not just my job, it is my passion. As Oprah Winfrey has said, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” As litigators, we are on the battlefield fighting for our clients. Clients come to us because we listen, understand, fight, and win. There is never room for “good enough.” Only if we bring our full attention and effort into each case will we be able to put up a fight.
Aside from my billable work, I enjoy working on pro bono cases. Whether helping people to escape abusive relationships or helping families who face legal barriers to staying together, I find pro bono work satisfying because it allows me to fight against injustice and to change the lives of others in positive ways. I am currently representing a mother of three children, who was abused by her ex-husband, in a cancellation of removal proceeding. I know I have to fight for her so she will not have to be separated from her children and deported to a country she left 28 years ago when she was ten years old. I am grateful for the opportunity to help people who need it the most.
One of the reasons I chose MoFo is because of its diversity and inclusion. Being born and raised in China, I have a unique cultural background and perspective. MoFo has created a culture of inclusion that embraces the unique ideas and perspectives everyone brings to the firm. At MoFo, everyone has the opportunity to excel. I find it invaluable to work with people who have different insights and experiences, which results in more creative and innovative solutions to complex legal issues.
Outside the office, I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling, and photography.
Me at a farm in New Zealand