Amber Leavitt didn’t always have her mind set on becoming a lawyer. In fact, up until her junior year of college, Leavitt believed she’d be a physician.
She was just a year away from graduating and heading to medical school when she started the Care Extender Program at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. The program was designed for volunteers interested in pursuing careers in the medical field to work with healthcare teams.
“I got exposure to several different areas of medicine, and every single doctor I spoke with discouraged me from going to medical school,” Leavitt says. “It scared me. I was already nervous about going to school for that much longer knowing that I wanted to start a family.”
Inspired by her father, Leavitt set her sights on becoming a patent attorney. “I’d heard law school was miserable, and I thought I can at least do it in an environment where I can run on the beach or enjoy the sunshine—not the most traditional considerations in picking a school,” she says.
With that in mind, Leavitt applied to law school at Pepperdine University. Situated in the hills of Malibu, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, she got through law school, and even met her husband in the process. The two of them shared a love for the outdoors, and after graduation, looked for jobs together in areas where they could do the things they enjoyed.
Eventually landing themselves in Salt Lake City, Leavitt and her husband settled into the mountainous climate, surrounded by national parks. There, she worked in an IP firm for almost four years, until she had her first daughter.
“I had recently returned from maternity leave, my daughter was about six months old at the time, I was getting three hours of sleep a day, and living a very grueling schedule,” she remembers. “I was sitting in my office pumping, in tears, thinking, ‘What am I doing? This is not sustainable.’ And my phone literally rang.”
The call was from an attorney on the IP team at eBay. They wanted her to be a part of the expansion of eBay’s legal function in Salt Lake City. “It was like the heavens opened up,” she says. Not only was the timing right, but because eBay had a local office, Leavitt and her family were able to stay in the city they loved.
As Leavitt climbed her way up eBay’s ladder over the past twelve years, she is most proud of the teams she’s built. “Especially in the IP space, and even more so when you get into patents, finding an interesting variety of candidates is one of the biggest challenges,” she says. “The misperception is that you need to be a mathematician or an engineer, but I think some of the more sophisticated IP attorneys I’ve worked with are very creative individuals.”
For Leavitt, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goes beyond gender and ethnicity to consider aspects like life experience and socioeconomic backgrounds. “As we’ve interviewed and hired people, I’ve always prioritized having a melting pot of people, because it will always bring you to a better endpoint than if you have a group of people who think exactly the way you do,” she explains.
Leavitt hasn’t only committed herself and her team to these DEI standards, but ensures that eBay’s vendors share the same perspective. In a partnership with their main outside counsel, Holland & Hart LLP, they started a pilot program to recruit law students who didn’t fit traditional requirements. “We hired a great intern that first year, who’s still at Holland & Hart,” she says. “It was such a positive experience—we knew that was the pipeline of students we should be building.” Since then, the program has only grown.
Another initiative that Leavitt spearheaded was a partnership with FIG. 1 Patents. Founders Mark Niemann and Patrick Walsh collaborated with her to develop creative programs for improving diversity in patent law, which can be challenging especially for boutique IP firms that lack the resources of larger firms. “Amber has ensured that the recipients of our Diversity in Technology & IP Law Scholarship and Internship have been able to complete in-house portions of their summer internships with eBay, despite the challenges of the pandemic,” they say.
Today, Leavitt leads with an emphasis on empathy. “I think sometimes people mistake empathy for weakness, especially in a corporate environment,” she says. “But you have to have it. If you’re expecting the best out of people, they need to be whole.” For her, this all starts with looking inward.
“You have to take an honest look at yourself,” Leavitt advises. “Unless you are in a place where you’re able to stay mentally and emotionally healthy, you’re not going to be able to lead your team.”
FIG. 1 Patents is proud to work with industry and thought leaders Amber Leavitt and eBay.
FIG. 1 was founded in 2021 and is a boutique IP law firm with the goal to put patents first. The firm invests in people, tech, and infrastructure needed to prepare and prosecute high quality patents for clients.
After only its first year, FIG. 1 was ranked by Patent Bots in the top 10 for patent quality among firms with at least 250 issued patents.
And FIG. 1 aspires to grow. In addition to continually seeking new clients and rock-star practitioners, FIG. 1’s growth efforts include developing new patent practitioners from the ground up. With eBay and Gonzaga Law, FIG. 1 provides the Diversity in Technology & IP Law Scholarship and Internship. Each year, the award offers one incoming student scholarship aid from Gonzaga and a summer internship between the student’s 1L and 2L years, training with both FIG. 1 and eBay. The award also includes a $10,000 stipend from FIG. 1.
FIG. 1’s patent attorneys have extensive experience in patent drafting and prosecution as well as technical backgrounds in electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, and biomedical engineering.