In Convocation remarks to Elon Law’s Class of 2022, Kimberly Bullock Gatling, one of North Carolina’s most prominent intellectual property attorneys, encouraged students to “try a little bit of everything” as they begin their legal education in an era of unprecedented global challenges.
There was a time when Kimberly Bullock Gatling dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps and working for NASA as an aerospace engineer. That changed by her junior year of college.
One day, rather than sleeping in or hanging out near the N.C. A&T State University bookstore, Gatling attended a graduate school fair where a recruiter from the University of Maryland first tried to persuade her to pursue a doctorate in physics. During their chat, the recruiter mentioned how his own daughter, with a background in chemical engineering, worked as a patent attorney.
Bullock was intrigued. Later that evening, she contacted the recruiter’s daughter, who spent an hour talking about law school and the profession. Just like that, Gatling told Elon Law’s Class of 2022 on Thursday morning, her journey to the practice of intellectual property was in motion.
“It is easy to miss an opportunity by locking yourself prematurely into one career path, even within the field of law,” Gatling shared with the largest incoming class in Elon Law history, which gathered virtually via WebEx for the law school’s annual Convocation for new students. “It’s like flying down the highway with your eyes fixed on the horizon. You can miss a lot of exits.
“Pay attention to those exit signs. They can lead to unexpectedly wonderful destinations. But to arrive you have to do more than just turn off the highway. You have to fully embrace the destination.”
By embracing her destination, Gatling is today one of North Carolina’s most prominent intellectual property attorneys for a prestigious national law firm, and she serves as a community leader in Greensboro through leadership roles on some of the region’s largest nonprofits.
Gatling assists clients at Fox Rothschild LLP with the management and protection of sensitive business and personal information, providing comprehensive global advice from a legal and business perspective. She prosecutes federal, state and international trademark applications and manages global trademark portfolios as a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Trademarks.
She also prosecutes computer software, business method, mechanical, and design patent applications before the United States Patent and Trademark Office and routinely assists clients with protection of copyrights.
In her role as chief diversity & inclusion officer at Fox Rothschild LLP, Gatling develops and implements programs and policies that support the firm’s goals of increasing and promoting a diverse workforce and inclusive environment at all levels throughout the firm.
She serves on the boards of the United Way of Greater Greensboro and the Cone Health Foundation, and she is a supporter of her alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University, where she serves on the Board of Trustees. The native of Hampton, Virginia, earned her Juris Doctor from George Washington University Law School.
By not limiting yourself and keeping an open mind to new opportunities, Gatling said, it’s easier to “try a little bit of everything.”
“Many of you have entered law school in the hopes of contributing to the rising fight for racial and social justice,” she said. “That is a noble cause that is very close to my heart. If that is your path, I encourage you to pursue it. But we can’t all be civil rights lawyers, or Legal Aid attorneys. Some of you may be cut out to be commercial litigators, healthcare attorneys, real estate attorneys or corporate attorneys.”
Those who are have an even greater professional and moral obligation, Gatling said. Lawyers possess important skills and abilities that are in demand by groups that are fighting to make the world a better and more just place.
“Lend your skills, time and resources to those efforts,” she said. “Be a volunteer mentor. Take on pro bono cases for a group that fights for criminal justice reform. Provide free closing assistance to low-income, first-time home buyers.”
Gatling’s remarks reinforced messages from Elon University and Elon Law leaders in the August 6, 2020, ceremony. With welcomes from Elon University Provost Aswani Volety, Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman, University Chaplain Jan Fuller, and Student Bar Association President Kia Barrett L’20, the program was the first of its kind for the law school.
Convocation had been held in recent years in Whitley Auditorium on Elon University’s main campus. Due to best practices implemented across the university to mitigate the possible impact of COVID-19, Elon Law shifted its strategy to offer the 164 new law students a virtual experience where each member was introduced by name and undergraduate institution in a slideshow read by Senior Associate Dean Alan Woodlief. Woodlief and Associate Director of Admissions Jordan Jones also shared biographical, academic, and demographic details of the law school’s 15th entering class.
Speakers gathered in Room 206 to deliver their remarks from an Elon Law podium with the Elon University as a backdrop.
Barrett, the sole speaker who delivered her remarks remotely, tasked the Class of 2022 with leveraging opportunities and seeking ways to identify ways that the legal system falls short for groups of people in society. There are opportunities to challenge yourself, she said, to unlearn and relearn. To go beyond what you’ve learned in the classroom. Tp better understand the systems at play around you.
“I demand that you take care of yourself so that you can be all that you and the world need you to be,” she said. “While it is important to hold yourself accountable, it is equally important to show yourself grace. You are your biggest advocate, so speak up with you see something. And act so that the facts are always in your favor.”
In his own Convocation messages, Bierman cited former President Barack Obama’s eulogy for Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon from Georgia whose final words to the world were to cause “good trouble” by voting and taking part in the democratic process. Real courage comes from the willingness to overcome complacency, to overcome fear and prejudices and hatreds, in ongoing work at creating a better America and a better world.
“Though we may not share the same physical space … what a great day for Elon Law,” Bierman said. “What a great day for you. Your introduction to the legal profession comes at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. A pandemic that is impacting all aspects of life as we knew it until now… a potentially profound shift in the way we as a people work and learn… a renewed push for racial justice that coincides with the passing of a torch from one generation of civil rights leaders to another.
“Despite this online setting that keeps us physically apart, you are entering in a formal way a lifelong commitment to being part of the solution to all that ails us – and all that promises to advance us to be a better nation.”