Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, January 19, 2007


Page 1


Local Firm’s Intellectual Property Group Moves to Venable


By TINA BAY, Staff Writer


Los Angeles lawyer JoAnna M. Esty has led Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstrief’s former intellectual property group in its move to the local office of Venable.

Esty, who was the head of Liner’s intellectual property department and recently chaired the State Bar’s Intellectual Property Section Executive Committee, joined Venable as a partner along with Stefan J. Kirchanski.

Other group members include now-Venable associates Jenna F. Leavitt and Jennifer V. Whiting and of counsel J. Alison Grabell.  Their move became effective Wednesday.

Esty told the MetNews she and her colleagues transitioned to Venable because of its national presence and “robust” intellectual property practice.

“It was such a good opportunity we couldn’t pass it up,” the 52-year-old lawyer commented, explaining that Liner’s smaller, two-office practice did not provide much support to the five lawyers who comprised the entire intellectual property department.

“We recently had been looking for a firm that could support and grow our work nationally, and provide additional access to related practice groups, including business transactions, regulatory, the life sciences, and other areas,” Esty said.

Liner’s Managing Partner Stuart Liner said he wished the group the best, and remarked their new firm is “a good match for them.”

Timothy J. Gorry, partner in charge of Venable’s Los Angeles office, remarked that the five new attorneys, with their respective backgrounds, “bring tremendous value-added skills in pursuing new intellectual property work from a variety of business sectors.”

Esty said she was personally drawn to the Baltimore-based firm because it allows her to revisit her “roots” in Maryland, where she went to law school and practiced for eight years before moving to California.  She came to know of Venable, she noted, because many of her top-tier peers at the University of Maryland School of Law joined the firm.

“Having the opportunity to practice with people that I knew in a community that I’m familiar with was very enticing to me,” the attorney said.

Esty was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1982 after earning her law degree, and became a member of the California State Bar in 1990. 

Prior to law school, she worked for five years as an engineer, first with the Bethlehem Steel Company and then with Lever Brothers and with a company involved in the design and manufacture of pollution control systems for large utilities.

In addition to a degree in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech, Esty also holds an M.B.A from Pepperdine University, and is finishing up her coursework for a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Applying her technical and business backgrounds, Esty represents clients in the telecommunications, computer science, Internet, biotechnology, medical products and environmental industries.  She regularly litigates patent infringement disputes and complex civil intellectual property matters, and counsels technology-focused business on how to maximize their ability to use their technology. 

Before joining Liner, Esty worked in private practice and then joined the management team of Disney’s Imagineering, Research and Development Division, which innovated various systems such virtual reality, robotics and computer graphics.

The lawyer is currently the co-editor of New Matter, published by the State Bar’s Intellectual Property Section.  She has also written articles, taught and spoke about intellectual property issues.

Kirchanski, who focuses on patent and trademark prosecution, told the MetNews he was attracted to Venable specifically because it provides him with the often “unusual and specialized” support his work requires. 

“Venable has a really large patent group in D.C. so I’m able to piggy back on those guys,” he said.  “For my area, that’s an incredible plus.”

He also noted his new firm gives him gives him access to a large number of technology clients, which is “extremely useful.”

The lawyer, 57, holds a doctorate in botany and has previously been a research fellow at Harvard University and an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin.  His experience before entering law practice includes work as a research scientist  for Ortho Diagnostic Systems.

Kirchanski earned his law degree from Loyola Law School, and his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley.  He joined the State Bar in 1992.

Grabell’s practice includes trademark and copyright prosecution as well as intellectual property litigation.  Admitted to the State Bar in 1997, the 58-year-old lawyer graduated from Southwestern University School of Law and holds a master’s in international public policy from Johns Hopkins University, in addition to her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College. 

Prior to practicing law, Grabell served in the U.S. Foreign Service as cultural attaché in Paris and Vienna, press attaché in Geneva and Belgrade, and executive assistant to the director of the Voice of America in Washington, D.C.  She also served as a government affairs-protocol officer for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee

Her current professional involvement includes membership on the executive committee of the State Bar’s intellectual property section, and in the Beverly Hills Bar Association.  In 2004, she was a member of the association’s first delegation to Havana, Cuba that visited the country part of a professional exchange authorized by the U.S. Department of State.

Leavitt, 33, received her law degree from the University of Arizona College of Law and was admitted to the State Bar in 2001.  A regional chair for the Intellectual Technology Law Association, her non-law experience in the technology industry includes computer programming, and software and hardware design, implementation and support.

Whiting graduated from UCLA and the University of Houston Law Center before her 1999 admission to the State Bar.  In addition to intellectual property matters, the 35-year-old attorney has done work in corporate and entertainment law.


Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company