Partner Spotlight: Mark Whitaker

Mark Whitaker is co-chair of the firm’s global IP Litigation Practice and cross-disciplinary Intellectual Property Group. Mark’s clients benefit from his more than 30 years of experience crafting litigation strategies in high-stakes patent and trade secret litigation. He is a U.S. Navy veteran, serving as a member of the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Mark is also a past president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association and was elected to their prestigious Fellows membership. In addition to his regular practice, Mark is also co-chair of the firm’s Diversity Strategy Committee and is a frequent speaker at the American Bar Association and numerous CLE events across the country.

Briefly describe, in two or three sentences, your practice.
My practice involves litigating high-stakes, complex intellectual property disputes involving patents, trade secrets, trademarks, and copyrights. And I practice exclusively in federal district courts, the U.S. International Trade Commission in so-called Section 337 investigations, and related appellate courts.

Why did you choose to make MoFo your professional home?
MoFo had and has a reputation in excellence in IP litigation. The firm really possesses a very talented group of lawyers, partners, and associates, who work with a lot of energy toward bringing the best results for our clients. MoFo is also simply a nice, fun place to work where colleagues truly work together and collaborate as opposed to working in silos with limited interaction between the practice groups.

I’ve also been involved in diversity and expanding diversity and inclusion in the various organizations that I’ve been a part of. And one of the things that truly drew me to MoFo, as well, beyond the legal work and its reputation in IP litigation, was the fact that it was a progressive leader in diversity. It’s been a real pleasure to be a co chair of the Diversity Strategy Committee that helps drive some of these strategic initiatives for D+I. It is a place that I have enjoyed the past nearly five years and expect to enjoy on into the future.

How do clients benefit from having diverse teams of lawyers working for them?
Diverse teams naturally bring a broad breadth of backgrounds, education, life experiences, and intellect to problem solving, which is important in the work that we do. Having teams that look and think like all of America brings knowledge to every legal endeavor that less diverse teams simply cannot. As a trial attorney, it is especially important for our trial teams to look like the jury sitting in front of us. Having diverse teams is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart business thing to do to bring about the best and most positive results in client matters.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month for me is really a time to reflect gratefully and with some awe at the strength, resilience, faith, and bravery exhibited by all of the Black people and leaders who came before me. It’s also a time to pick up new books and references, to study, and fill in gaps of my own knowledge base about the black experience in America. To that point I currently have Promised Land by Barack Obama and Water Dance by Ta-Nehisi Coates on my reading list.

I think most importantly, it is a time for me to remember that I would not be here today at MoFo or even in the legal profession perhaps without all of those selfless sacrifices and countless deaths of those who have fought for equality and justice before me. I just wouldn’t be here.

If you could have dinner with any civil rights pioneer who would it be and why?
This is a tough one for me because there are so many conversations that I would love to have with people over the years. But if I was going to pick one, it would be Thurgood Marshall, because he was the true impetus behind my desire to become a lawyer. There’s a quote that he has about the word equal and what it means that has always stuck with me from the time when I was young. It’s been sort of a guiding light for me.

The quote is “Equal means getting the same thing at the same time and in the same place. A man can make what he wants of himself if he truly believes that he must be ready for hard work and many heartbreaks. In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” Those words to me were true when I was just a young boy and they seem to cross every generation. Thurgood Marshall’s quote is so true for our generations today. I’d also like to ask him about all the pickup basketball games that I know that he played when he was a young justice of the Supreme Court. So, I would love to have dinner with him and just pick his brain.

How have you seen the legal industry shift in recent years with respect to diversity and inclusion?
The legal industry has struggled with respect to diversity and inclusion in particular with retaining diverse talent in law firms. Of course, there are a myriad reasons as to why, ranging from the problem of favoritism and silos in firm structure all the way to systemic and institutional racism. But corporations have taken steps to force change and that has been very helpful.

Until firms internalize and understand that D+I is important to their financial bottom line, struggles will continue. But I am heartened by the fact that many firms and companies in recent years have begun to embrace D+I and open doors formally shut to diverse attorneys, especially in leadership roles in law firms. I do believe progress is being made, but we are far, far from finished.

MoFo is a leader in this area. And the firm does put diverse attorneys into leadership roles all the way up to the executive committee. That is something that is absolutely necessary. It’s necessary for our recruitment purposes. It’s necessary for our retention of good diverse talent and it’s also just the right thing to do because again, bringing and having diversity on your teams is important to the bottom line and ultimately allows us to achieve the best results for our clients.