Merchant & Gould: Triumphs of Women Attorneys

2024 Feature Nominations

Merchant & Gould is proud to spotlight seven exceptional attorneys whose unwavering dedication and outstanding legal acumen have left an indelible mark on the firm’s legacy. In a profession where excellence knows no gender, these remarkable women have risen to the forefront of their fields, shaping the future of law and inspiring generations to come.

These legal leaders are all part of Merchant & Gould, where after more than 120 years, they have named the first woman as managing director over seven offices. With a proven record of excellence, Heather Kliebenstein now extends her talents to this new leadership position.

“I started with Merchant & Gould as a summer associate back in 2003 and then as a first-year associate in 2004,” says the new managing director. “It’s wonderful to look at our younger associates and see that they don’t have to worry about the same things I had to worry about. They can come to work and show up as their true self right away.”

Her colleagues agree that this time and this firm have provided valuable opportunities for their growth and success.

Rachel Zimmerman Scobie is a partner and co-chair of the firm’s litigation practice group. “One of the most exciting changes I have seen over the past 20 years is the increasing number of women trial lawyers,” she says. “When I started out in patent litigation, I was frequently the only woman lawyer in the courtroom. Today, that is rarely the case.”

Also a partner, Paige Stradley echoes these sentiments. “In the time since I began practicing just over 10 years ago, I went from working on nearly all male-led teams and, largely teams on which I was the only female, to working on numerous women-led or even all-women teams. It is inspiring to now see so many more women in roles as lead litigators and to have many more women role models.”

Another thing all these attorneys seem to agree on is how unique Merchant & Gould is and how they feel being a part of this firm has helped them grow and succeed.

Co-chair of the firm’s mechanical practice group, Julie Daulton, describes the firm in this way. “We are one of the oldest intellectual property firms in the United States, and I see the legacy of patents that were prosecuted by Merchant & Gould for clients globally. I’m grateful to be part of the team. My colleagues are some of the finest and most able people I have ever come to know.”

“The people are what make this firm unique,” says Danielle “Dani” Mattessich, partner and co-chair of the firm’s trademark practice group. “Working at Merchant offers the advantage of working with a close-knit team, hands-on experience with experts in all facets of intellectual property law, and growth opportunities. Merchant cares about and supports its employees while also challenging them to grow

“I have been working at Merchant & Gould for nearly 20 years now,” offers partner Julie Skoge. “My longevity here is based entirely on the wonderful attorneys who have trained, mentored, and otherwise helped me along the way.”

For her part, Kliebenstein sees not only the unique status of Merchant & Gould today but also the innovative path the firm is on. “I am excited about the implementation of technology into our practices to help manage the day-to-day work and streamline client communications. I think artificial intelligence is going to be a net positive for the legal practice and I am looking forward to Merchant being on the forefront of that change.”

The accomplishments of these attorneys highlight the remarkable strides being made in creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace.

Building on the trend of greater inclusivity, Kliebenstein notes, “In the legal field, especially in areas like intellectual property law, we’re seeing a more diverse mix of professionals, which is becoming increasingly common. There’s a wealth of role models who’ve pursued diverse career paths. It’s especially notable in leadership roles where I believe we’ve reached a critical mass. This shift in representation, I think, is the real game-changer.”

Free to be themselves and explore their passion, these attorneys like so many others, are finding joy in the work they do.

“I think what I find most rewarding is working with my inventors on their new ideas and hearing their invention stories,” says partner Anneliese Mayer. “Inventing is so personal and creative. I love being part of bringing that idea to the world. And working with new ideas keeps my practice fresh and exciting.”

As the legal world evolves toward greater diversity, these standout attorneys are reshaping the narrative and setting new standards for success.

“Today, the community of support is significantly larger and extremely collaborative, both within the firm and outside the firm,” observes Kliebenstein. “That change is impactful because it’s always easier to continue your path when you have others with you, or when you can see examples of the paths other women have taken.”

With unwavering determination and a passion for providing excellent client service, these attorneys are proving that hard work and purpose provide good results for their clients.

Susan Cushing

Susan Cushing is the associate editor of Attorney at Law Magazine as well as a staff writer. She has been contributing to the magazine for more than eight years.

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