Frank Nuzzi has discovered one thing throughout his life and career—the secret of contentment. “Happiness matters,” he says. “You have to be happy about where you are in your life. If you’re not, don’t settle until you are. Keep striving for more. It’s worth it.”
It’s a lesson Nuzzi has learned over and over again. Repairing gadgets made him happy early in life. Nuzzi was born in Queens, New York, and raised with eight older siblings in a crowded house. As early as age ten, he was on the hunt for broken clocks and other devices in need of repair.
It wasn’t unusual for Nuzzi’s brothers and sisters to find him with parts spread all over the kitchen table. At first, they thought it was cute child’s play. Then, they were concerned. But eventually, they learned not to worry. Nuzzi quickly grew skilled at putting everything back together and restoring items to their proper working order.
What started as a hobby turned into a passion, and that passion for tinkering with mechanical things took Nuzzi to Lehigh University, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering. After a few years working as an engineer, he continued on to New York University School of Law to combine his technical background with legal skills and pursue a career in patents and intellectual property.
In the early part of his career, Nuzzi was climbing the ranks inside big city firms first in Chicago then Manhattan. While he was flourishing as an IP attorney and litigator, the long nights and weekend hours were starting to take a toll at home where Nuzzi had a wife and small child. Still, he decided to pay his dues.
Before long, Nuzzi was a mid-level associate and understood the career path and its expectations. “Working in a firm is like building widgets,” he says. “You’re billing by the hour, you need to increase your rate and your number of hours, and there’s a correlation between those two factors and what you make and your perceived value.”
Nuzzi noticed another correlation as he observed in both himself and others that the more time he dedicated at work, the worse his personal relationships seemed. When his toddler started referring to an action figure as “daddy,” Nuzzi knew it was time to make a change. He traded the big firm lifestyle for satisfaction at home.
That decision led Nuzzi to Siemens more than twenty years ago. Since Nuzzi had experience as a patent litigator, he moved into the IP department where he handled patent prosecution (the process of applying for a patent) and patent litigation. It soon became clear that he was a rare talent as someone who could handle both roles simultaneously. Leaders subsequently centralized the IP litigation under Nuzzi’s guidance, which allowed Nuzzi to still work with his amazing colleagues who were focusing on patenting inventions while allowing him to broaden his in-house litigation skills beyond patent law.
While litigation activity increased, Nuzzi and others faced a turning point. The company built up its litigation group with a specialized team of litigators. Nuzzi opted to move from the IP department to the litigation department and never looked back. “If you get really good at one thing it can define your career,” he says. “I wanted to become so knowledgeable that my business colleagues would see how I added undeniable value and rely on me to help them move projects forward.” And that’s exactly what he’s done.
Now, as principal counsel, Nuzzi can leverage the full scope of his background, experience, and interests to make a difference at the large and international manufacturing company. As he’s moved through the organization, an ongoing desire for happiness has led him to stay on the litigation side and craft his career in a very purposeful way.
“You can make a lot of money prosecuting patents and hitting singles all day long and I respect my fantastic colleagues in those roles,” he says. “But I prefer the high profile of litigation including areas outside of patent law.”
That’s what the challenge of complex litigation affords Nuzzi. He puts himself in the crosshairs and gets deeply involved while managing outside counsel on multimillion-dollar proceedings. At times, and with the full support of his client that understands the potential risks and benefits, he’ll take well-calculated risks to turn down a compromise and litigate a case out of principle. He’ll do this with the full support of both the client and excellent outside counsel.
As technology, innovation, and competition increase, IP matters are more important than ever before. Nuzzi coordinated over five years of patent litigation, which resulted in a damages and interest award exceeding $51 million for his company concerning a patent covering crystals used in medical imaging equipment. “The five-year litigation shows the importance of teamwork and perseverance, while demonstrating the value of Siemens’ intellectual property,” Nuzzi says. The litigation was before three courts—a trial court, an appellate court, and the US Supreme Court—and Siemens won at each stage, with the support of many including the excellent work of Kirkland & Ellis.
“Frank and I have worked together on a wide variety of Siemens disputes over twenty-plus years, from pre-suit negotiations to arbitrations to jury trials to appeals, and one constant has been his exceptional level of engagement on all aspects of the case and across all levels of the team,” says Gregg LoCascio, partner and member of the executive committee at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. “He works to build camaraderie and a true partnership between Siemens and its outside law firms.”
Nuzzi is right where he wants to be. He certainly has the skills, the knowledge, and the seniority to shift positions and apply for patents all day long. Instead, he stands on the frontlines. Why? “It’s more exciting. It’s unpredictable. It’s fun. And the scope of work is more diverse,” he explains. Others may not understand, but for Nuzzi, it’s simple—the work makes him happy.