Wild Geese: Jennifer Stanley, partner at Fenwick & West LLP, San Francisco
Silicon Valley lawyer helps companies protect their IP, or get permission to use IP from others
Jennifer Stanley: “I represent video game development companies and social media companies, and I’ve had the opportunity to do some work on a movie.”
“The job prospects in Ireland were great: we didn’t move for economic reasons at all, we moved because we wanted adventure.”
With Silicon Valley tech companies flocking to Ireland for its taxes and talent, many young Irish people like Stanley and her software engineer boyfriend, both bitten by the tech bug, went the other way.
“I was interested in intellectual property law and, back then, the convergence between intellectual property, technology and media was just starting,” says the Dubliner. “Moving to the San Francisco Bay area was just very appealing.”
Having taken the California Bar Association exam, job offers flowed. “Coming over here as a foreign lawyer was just no impediment at all,” says Stanley. She accepted a role with specialist Silicon Valley-based tech law firm Fenwick & West. It’s the company that incorporated Apple. Stanley and her now husband had arrived just as dot.com fervour hit its peak.
“We absolutely experienced those heady days,” she recalls. “My husband was working in start-ups back then and all of the things you read like the boardroom chairs being bean bags, with people sitting around in their shorts, was all absolutely true,” says Stanley. “It was so exciting to be there then. We worked really, really hard, but it was great.”
With hundreds of new internet companies founded every week, their stock prices puffed by adding an “e-” or “.com”, it seemed the only way was up. But by 2001, the bubble was deflating apace. Burning through venture capital, some having never made a profit, many dot.coms turned dot-bombs over night.
“It came on fairly suddenly, I suppose, because we went from being insanely busy when we got here to being in a recession within a space of two years.”
Stanley and her husband however remained insulated.
“We absolutely noticed it around the external parts of our lives, but for both of us career-wise, it didn’t have an impact. Thank goodness. I always had a day’s work to do and we were employed the whole time.”
Stanley has remained with Fenwick & West. Since its inception in 1972, the firm has grown with the tech industry around it. Stanley is now a partner in the firm’s technology transaction and intellectual property group and chairs the company’s copyright group.
“My practice focuses on the crossover between media and technology companies,” she says. “I represent video game development companies and social media companies, and I’ve had the opportunity to do some work on a movie.”