For as long as she can remember, Christen Dubois has had an innate desire to fight for what is right, to get to the bottom of any issue, and to achieve justice. It’s part of what made her deviate from her intended path to medicine and choose the law instead.
“Early on, I saw enough to suggest that I might spend most of my medical career fighting insurance companies, and it just didn’t seem right,” says Dubois, who’s now director and associate general counsel of litigation at Meta.
Her interest in both neuroscience and the intersection of science and technology, however, would ultimately help guide her journey, leading her to the most well-known social media platform in the world. And Dubois’s passion for fighting the good fight (no matter how long it takes) has proven a perfect match for a company that continues to expand into new and cutting-edge communication platforms and technologies.
To Build and Move On
After law school Dubois was hired at the law firm Cooley Godward Kronish, and during her time there she was seconded to Facebook to dive into trademark work. Had it been patent litigation, Dubois says, she never would have left—but there were no openings available at the time. She returned to her firm, then in 2011 accepted an IP counsel role at Facebook that has led to five subsequent promotions over the last decade. She has helped grow a company that was largely focused on its sole social media platform when she joined the team, but now owns other platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp, and virtual reality company Oculus VR.
“As the company grows, things obviously become more complex,” Dubois explains. “There was a time that I could ask a question aloud and get an answer from virtually every member of the Facebook legal team. I may not know everyone personally on the team anymore, but there is a tremendous ‘one team’ mentality that has remained.”
As the legal team grew, so did Dubois’s leadership responsibilities; most recently she’s headed up the company’s government antitrust litigation. It was an admittedly tough transition for Dubois, who built up her IP team over a number of years, but it’s a handoff that has been seamless because of her investment in her people.
“It was bittersweet, but I’m proud to say that one of my previous reports now leads the team,” she says. “If you’re doing this right, you run a team with a successor that’s available, capable, and well positioned to move ahead without you. It was tough to leave, but I left the team in very capable hands.”
Clean Sweeps and Hard Slogs
Dubois has an impressive résumé of both clean-sweep wins and victories that were hard-fought over multiple years.
In 2016 she won a memorable case against what some might call a “patent troll” in the Eastern District of Virginia. In Rembrandt Social Media v. Facebook, Facebook successfully defended itself from claims that its technology infringed on a patent filed by a Dutch computer programmer to create a web-based personal diary.
“It was really the cleanest trial win that you can get,” Dubois remembers. “We got a full defense verdict of no infringement and a finding that the patent was invalid. It was an amazingly fun case to be a part of.”
But along with the clean victories, there are plenty of hard slogs. When Tele-Publishing Inc. v. Facebook was finally settled in Facebook’s favor in 2017, eight years had passed since its filing. In fact, Dubois was still an associate at Cooley when the firm started working on the case.
“It was one of those cases where you’re fighting in the patent office, then you’re back to district court, then you’re waiting for a decision, and then the district court gives you three months to do all discovery,” she says. “It was ultimately a huge win, but it’s not the kind of case where you throw a party.”
Dubois says there were also many cases that were wins precisely because they didn’t make it to trial. While the excitement of battling in the courtroom may be memorable, most cases ultimately shouldn’t make it there.
“If you’re winning things outright before it goes to trial, that’s an efficiently run system,” Dubois explains. “If the merits of the case are such that it should be thrown out before you go to trial, that’s the system working really well.”
Leading with Life in Mind
Dubois remains committed to leadership and says that she’s fine with the fact that helping people with their career development could lead them to other opportunities.
“Selfishly, I would love to keep my team, but I don’t think that anybody really benefits from that in the long run,” she explains. “I genuinely care about my team, and I want the best for them. I think people know when their managers truly believe that, and it helps me show up for them in the best ways.”
Heading government antitrust litigation means Dubois is now working collaboratively across multiple departments, including Facebook’s competition team. “These people have such deep and impressive backgrounds in antitrust law, and they are essential to our efforts in litigation,” she says.
“Christen is a very smart, strategic lawyer who understands cutting-edge technologies,” notes Dale Cendali, intellectual property partner at Kirkland & Ellis. “She sees the big picture and is able to formulate a path to achieve the business’s goal. She is also an upbeat and friendly person to work with who keeps a steady hand, even on big-stakes matters.”
Dubois also keeps in mind that her team is made up of people with lives beyond work. “I think that’s really important to continue doing my best work,” she explains. “Life is big, and work is one part of it. People are dealing with all kinds of challenges in their own lives at different times, and I make sure that there’s room for that and that they don’t feel like they can’t ask for help.”
Dubois herself is always up for a challenge, as her extracurricular activities show. A professed lover of power tools, she’s racked up enough home renovation victories to land her a television show on HGTV. She’s also an avid runner who managed to work the Athens Marathon in 2019 after attending a court hearing in Germany. Whether in the courtroom, on the rail, or out back with the jackhammer her father bought her for her birthday, Dubois shows up with passion, ready to get to work.
“It’s a privilege and a pleasure working with Christen – she’s smart, focused and unflappable.”
–Mark Hansen, Partner
Kirkland & Ellis is an international law firm with approximately 2,900 attorneys in offices in eighteen cities across the world. Collaborations among Kirkland attorneys in various disciplines produce innovative legal solutions for our clients. We work together across offices and practice areas as integrated, multidisciplinary teams to provide the capabilities necessary to generate great results for our clients.
Our intellectual property practice protects the ideas, technology, products, and brands of our global clients in wide-ranging industries who engage us on complex IP litigation, transactions, and counseling matters. We help clients ranging from market leaders to dynamic start-ups protect their market position and maximize their intellectual property. With decades of experience, our IP litigation attorneys have achieved extraordinary results in patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret misappropriation, and advertising matters, and they excel in large-scale, bet-the-company cases.
Our practice is widely recognized as one of the best in the industry. Chambers & Partners has ranked us as a top-tier firm for intellectual property for fifteen consecutive years, and we were honored to be named Intellectual Property Litigation Law Firm of the Year by U.S. News & World Report in 2020.
We are grateful to our clients for their trust and partnership on their most challenging matters.