Daidre L. Burgess began her legal career at Patterson Thuente IP as a law clerk in 2005, and in August 2022, she advanced to principal. At a firm where diversity and inclusion are considered vital to the delivery of innovative legal solutions, Burgess has built a thriving practice centered on patent preparation and prosecution for domestic and international clients in the chemical, biotech and mechanical technology areas. Her technology experience spans agriculture-related compositions, biomedical formulations, click chemistry, CO2 abatement, fuel cell technology, green fuels and materials, medical devices, consumer goods, printing, packaging and lenticular technologies.
A chemical engineer, Burgess’ early talent won her a place as a development engineer at 3M’s Coated Abrasives Lab right after graduating college from the University of Minnesota. The youngest member of her project team, Burgess was named co-inventor on two U.S. patents — US6758734 and US6846232.
“During that time, I had a really patent-savvy manager,” she recalls. “I learned a lot about patent law through her, and when she gave me the glamorous job of working with the patent attorneys at 3M, I fell in love with it.”
Burgess says she has remained at Patterson Thuente because, from the start, she was given the opportunity to do real work on real projects. “I was able to work with Jim Patterson from day one. Amy Salmela, who is a few years ahead of me, also took time to train me, along with a couple of other people who are still here as well. By the time I became an attorney, I had a full plate of work and hit the ground running.”
Burgess joins Patterson and Salmela as one of five principals at the Minneapolis law firm. Burgess de-scribes the firm’s culture as familial. “Many of our attorneys have been here almost their entire legal careers. That speaks volumes of a place.”
Burgess was also named HR principal, a role she says she was given because she likes to understand what qualities draw people to the firm and make them stay. “There is an open door to talk to me and work through any situation together. I want to share my experiences to help them navigate their challenges.”
In a legal field made up of STEM professionals, IP firms seeking diverse candidates are facing big recruiting challenges. Patterson Thuente has made recruiting, hiring and retention of diverse lawyers a priority. “What I really want to focus on is retention. I think when women decide to have families, for example, it can be a very difficult balance. The private practice of law in general is very stressful. Job sharing and part-time work are very difficult to do, so a lot of women drop off in that seven-to-10 year period of time. As a newly minted principal, I want to be able to show women coming up behind me the path forward to leadership positions — even if they decide to have a family.”
With the support of the firm, Burgess has found ways to balance the demands of career and family. “It means being more flexible with my schedule and making myself available at different times, such as later in the evening. What has worked for me is putting up boundaries and keeping them. It doesn’t mean I care less or am less committed. As long as I do what I say I will do, I’ve earned that respect.”
Six years ago, Burgess’ husband was offered a job in Los Angeles. In order for him to accept the job, Burgess would have to work remotely. “I broached the subject without knowing the answer, but there was no hesitation from the firm’s management. I had a full plate of work servicing my own clients, and I was able to work from California from 2016 until my recent return to Minnesota in July.”
Burgess has had success developing relationships with clients who are “similarly situated” in their lives and careers, and she recommends this strategy to other women who are building practices. “A lot of my client contacts tend to be similar in age and have kids, so we both understand the need for flexibility for things like moving a meeting. It has worked well for me, personally and professionally.”
Burgess works with a number of domestic clients who have large foreign portfolios, as well as international clients in Denmark, Sweden and the U.K. “In the last two years, I’ve made quite a few trips overseas and have gotten to experience different cultures and ways of working. I like to work with clients who let me be part of the team as if I were their own employee. There is one client I’ve been working with for 15 years, and I’m one of the most senior persons on the team. I enjoy developing that institutional knowledge and really understanding what they need as a business.”
Recently, Burgess has been doing more portfolio strategy work. By showcasing how the development of a client’s IP portfolio enhances a startup’s valuation, she was able to help them secure multiple rounds of significant financing. She also helped an inventor and friend patent a wine stopper and sell it through Amazon.
Daidre L. Burgess observes that it is an exciting time to be a woman in the law. “In this transitional period at the firm and in the profession, and as we’re seeing a new generation of decision makers, I think it’s important to show attorneys coming up that we’re making real changes — and we’re not just going to pull the ladder up behind us. I want more than ever for our junior attorneys and female attorneys to recognize that hard work pays off. This is a welcoming place with rewarding opportunities.”