Change can be hard, especially if you’re a rule follower like Lindsay White. From her first day as an undergrad at California Polytechnic State University, White had mapped out a path for her future. That path changed many times—and changed quickly—but White’s persistence has led her to a better place than she ever envisioned for herself: director of global litigation and investigations at Applied Materials, an international leader in engineering solutions.
“I’ve had to learn to understand my priorities,” White says of her many career transitions. “Change can be OK. In fact, it can be better than just sticking to the original path.”
Growing up loving math and science, with many engineers in the family, White originally intended to pursue a career centered on materials engineering. So when she decided to transition to the law after taking a sports law class during her senior year in college, her choice came as a shock to those who knew her. “My uncle in particular was pretty astonished,” White remembers. “But I was convinced that by combining my engineering background with law school, I could litigate some amazing cases.”
White proved that belief true during her internship in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California with Chief Judge Vaughn Walker in 2006. “I learned so much from working with his clerks and ended up gravitating toward patent litigation,” White recalls. “I thought it was so interesting that I could work with cutting-edge technology as well as really old technologies.”
After graduating from law school in 2008, White spent a year working as an associate for Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder. “But lo and behold, I came on right as the recession was hitting,” White says. “Shortly after I was hired, Day Casebeer was acquired by a global IP firm called Howrey, and I was thrown into a global setting with hundreds of other lawyers.”
When Howrey dissolved less than two years later, White followed a practice group to Dewey & Leboeuf in Silicon Valley. “Dewey tanked about a year later,” White says ruefully. “My career path was the opposite of what I had intended. Starting out in law, I had this idea that I would join one law firm and stay there until I retired. That obviously didn’t happen.”
“But I learned from all of those transitions,” White continues. “I realized that as long as you’re doing patent litigation, you’re still following the same rules. All of the law firms I was at were doing the same thing, just with a different client base and a slightly different perspective.” What mattered most was the people—the people she was working with and working for.
“Change can be OK. In fact, it can be better than just sticking to the original path.”
Those insights—as well as the hand-in-hand client experience White gained as a senior associate at Paul Hastings—made her a valuable commodity in the IP litigation space. “I’m told that I was one of the fastest hires ever in Applied’s legal department,” White says. “My now manager called me on Tuesday to set up a coffee meeting, and I had an offer by the following Monday.” White was excited by the opportunity, the team, and Applied, which brought her full circle to her undergraduate materials engineering roots.
White’s work in litigation and investigations is the “bread and butter” of the Applied team, but she does “everything from run-of-the-mill investigations to law firm security assessments to pushing forward strategic initiatives for the company. Anything that touches IP,” White says. “If someone at Applied sees something suspicious at a trade show or has an issue with a third party, they come to us. If an employee is sending confidential information or if we see that our products are being sold on third-party websites, we step in.”
To succeed in those efforts, White explains, she and her team rely on having the trust of Applied employees that “we will get the job done. People have to be able to come to us and say, ‘We think that this may be an issue.’” She has worked to build that trust by applying a hands-on approach to her investigations, ensuring that she scrutinizes every aspect of a situation before deciding whether and how to push the issue.
White prides herself on being right there with the team as they dig into their cases. “If my team is there until two in the morning, I’m there right alongside them,” she says. “I don’t think you can lead without doing that, without being a part of the team.”
White’s “part of the team” mentality was instilled in her from a young age, she says. “My family owned a sports bar in the Bay Area when I was young,” White offers. “I grew up there. I bused tables and waitressed and did everything in between. So early on, I learned how to work with a variety of personalities, adapting to help everyone get to a common goal, whether that’s faster food service or making a client feel at ease or winning a case.”
Hilgers Graben PLLC:
“Lindsay is an outstanding lawyer and an innovative thinker who gets things done. Lindsay’s consistent execution, strategic and practical guidance, and energetic approach will no doubt have a positive and transformative impact on Applied Materials for years to come.”
–Mike Hilgers, Partner
Hogan Lovells LLP:
“It’s a real pleasure to work with Lindsay. She is the consummate professional: smart and pragmatic. Lindsay understands what matters. She masters difficult technologies and complex legal issues but always keep the big picture in mind.”
–Christopher Cox, Partner
White & Case LLP:
“Lindsay’s astute understanding of business practices, drivers, and goals allows Lindsay to add tremendous value in working with outside counsel by bringing to bear both her exceptional legal skills and her practical business sense.”