Is Alyssa Sandrowitz the first attorney who made it where they are today with drive and determination? No. However, what inspires her to thrive in her career goes beyond recognition.
“I think my attitude of resilience has served me well in this profession, especially as a woman in IP,” Sandrowitz says. “During my days a patent litigator and at other times in my career, I was the only one in the room that who looked like me. I could have chosen a different path. However, I knew what my goals were, and I was going to keep working at them and create the opportunities to achieve my goals.”
Just consider how Sandrowitz approaches her role as director and lead intellectual property counsel at Gates Corporation. Since joining the Denver-based manufacturer in 2020, she has transformed its traditional IP operations into a modern juggernaut for the twenty-first century. While leading a global team, she has spearheaded a revision of the IP legal processes and the cloud-based digital transformation of IP and brought in data analytic tools for improvement of strategic decision-making. Plus, she empowers her staff to establish tactics that ensure they align with other departments.
“I have a team of four under me, and we really set the strategy and tone for the IP portfolio along with the business units and leading innovators to ensure alignment with the overall growth initiatives of the company,” she explains.
Sandrowitz reimagined how Gates files patent applications by bringing a holistic approach to harvesting inventions and the filing strategy. Thanks to a digital transformation that she facilitated, her team can access data on platforms that ensure they make better decisions. “I can look at my numbers and benchmark our performance, our various technology units, the industry sector, and compare with our competitors,” Sandrowitz says. “Through this, we are creating a high-value IP portfolio.”
Before Sandrowitz joined Gates, she spent fourteen years in private practice at law firms in Washington, DC, and Denver, including Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, Polsinelli, and Lewis Brisbois. She partnered with manufacturing and tech clients to protect their proprietary innovations and branding through development of IP portfolios and enforcement of patents and trademarks.
Instead of just focusing on patent portfolio development, Sandrowitz also developed an expertise in IP litigation. And because she welcomed opportunities to bolster her dynamic outlook on IP, the companies she serves are better off.
“I think that was a wonderful move, because doing that, it developed another skill set for me. The foundation that I got at Sterne Kessler in patent prep and prosecution was wonderful. It gave me an understanding of the process and why certain decisions are made—I could see the pitfalls,” she reflects. “Whether it was in a patent litigation matter or drafting a new patent application to make a better patent application, it was a really great experience to see both sides of the coin.”
What secret sauce did Sandrowitz rely on to serve up successes for clients across multiple IP functions? The answer: she is an academic. Even if she is far removed from her days as an engineering student at Rutgers University and Princeton University, she is a lifelong learner at her core. After all, that’s why she entertained her transition to law in the first place.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s outside of my expertise,” Sandrowitz says. “I’m going to say yes to a project and learn to question things and rethink assumptions. It’s the desire to learn that’s motivated me. Hopefully I’m a good listener when I ask questions and fully listen to the answers.”
She also prioritizes making herself a resource for the next generation of lawyers. Sandrowitz sat on the Rocky Mountain IP Inn of Court’s Mentoring Committee and coordinated its programs for years. “I had great mentors in my career and trusted advisors who have guided me,” Sandrowitz says. “Because I’ve had it, I want to give that back.”
Attorneys who wear the leadership hat at work can take a page out of Sandrowitz’s playbook for mentoring young talent on one’s team.
“I’ll ask them what they want to work on or what skills would they like to develop,” Sandrowitz says of her interactions with younger employees. “Then we try to write down some goals. We have a goalsetting meeting earlier in the calendar year [to determine] a project or two outside of their normal responsibilities that they have an interest in and a passion for. That’s another way of mentoring and helping develop a guide for the next generation in making sure they’re empowered and seeing the career progression that they want.”