Jeannie Heffernan, an intellectual property partner in Kirkland’s Austin office, was selected as a “Top Women in IP” honoree as part of the 2022 Texas Lawyer Awards. She shared insights with Texas Lawyer about launching the Firm’s IP litigation practice in Texas, and the importance of diversity and mentorship.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What are some of your proudest recent achievements, and why?
Launching the IP litigation practice in Texas and helping to establish the Austin office. After spending so many years practicing in Texas courts with Texas counsel and for Texas clients, I feel like I have finally come home. I am proud of the successes we have had here over the years for our IP clients and gratified to be in the position to hand-pick a diverse team to carry us forward. I am thrilled to lead that charge with my new partners Kat Li and Austin Teng.
What can law firms and other organizations do to more effectively move the needle on gender diversity?
Put their money where their mouth is and tap women to lead, just as Kirkland did with me. Place women in front of clients as an expert in a particular area and provide the resources necessary to develop that expertise. Make sure the women on your teams have meaningful roles that put them in the courtroom “well” with opportunities to be on their feet and give them the training to succeed at that. Review your teams to see whether all the administrative work is assigned to women, and if it is, equitably reassign it. Give billing credit when women have a touch-point with the client, and, crucially, include women in client-development efforts so they can grow those touch-points. Start early —I got incredible opportunities as a Kirkland summer associate, which laid the groundwork.
What’s one piece of advice you would give that you wish you had been given starting out?
Don’t view asking for advice or help as a sign of weakness. That will limit you in countless ways. Mentorship, sponsorship, allyship—whatever you call it—is key to your success and that starts with you asking. But also figure out what you can give back to the person you ask