An accomplished litigator, Jessie Beeber has handled high-profile intellectual property and complex commercial disputes throughout her career. Recently named a co-chair of Venable New York’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group, Jessie looks back over her time at Venable, how her career has evolved, and what her philosophy is as a practice group leader.
Q: You’ve been a partner at Venable for nearly 10 years; can you talk a bit about your work during that time?
A: When I joined Venable in 2014, the idea was that with the nationwide platform and resources the firm offered, I could continue developing my existing practice in intellectual property (IP) litigation—which had been a focus at my previous firm—while also expanding my commercial litigation practice. And that’s exactly what happened—the commercial litigation cases I’ve been handling have grown much bigger and more complex, thanks in no small part to the firm’s reputation and national profile. I’ve also continued to grow the part of my practice in copyright, trademark, and entertainment litigation. So, my work is still split between IP and commercial litigation, but the value and complexity of the matters, and the profile of the clients I work for, have grown.
Q: The combination of IP and commercial litigation is quite wide-ranging. Do you have a preference for the types of cases you take on?
A: I look at myself as a litigator, first and foremost, and I like to say that I am largely subject matter neutral. Of course, people might think that entertainment, copyright, and trademark litigation is more interesting than commercial litigation, because you’re representing a celebrity, or your work may involve a major movie, book, or play. But the work I do in commercial litigation is equally interesting. What I like most about it is that it allows me to learn new things all the time. The key to being a successful litigator is being willing to dive in and do the work to understand your client’s business and the problems it is facing. That process has taken me on some fascinating journeys.
Q: Can you give an example of what that process has taught you?
A: I was retained by a Brazilian power plant whose fleet of U.S.-manufactured generator sets exploded when they were put into full operation. I really wanted to understand what had gone wrong with them, so I flew down to Brazil with our mechanical expert. On arrival, I knew only the basics of how a diesel engine worked, and what might make it malfunction. But after several days of sitting on the floor of a garage while our expert took one of these engines apart, piece by piece, and showed me what had gone wrong, I felt like I had a whole new understanding of the case. And it was fascinating to watch! I learned so much more than I would have by merely reading his report. That is what’s exciting to me about being a litigator. Each new case gives you an opportunity to learn or do something that you haven’t experienced before.
Q: What is one of the principles that guides you in your new role as a co-chair of the New York litigation practice?
A: A really key aspect of our Commercial Litigation Group in New York is our emphasis on developing and training our up-and-coming attorneys. We believe that junior lawyers learn best by getting real responsibility. That includes court appearances, depositions, and drafting pleadings and briefs that are submitted to courts. There’s a real difference between doing the research for a brief, maybe even writing it, and being the one to argue it. When you’re the one standing in front of the judge, answering her questions, you begin to appreciate even more the time and effort you put into crafting your argument.
Q: Have you been involved in other leadership roles at the firm?
A: I’ve been the chair of the Partnership Selection Committee and a member of the Summer Associate Hiring Committee for a number of years. The key areas that I emphasize when working with these committees are diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the development and career advancement of our attorneys. To me, these issues go hand in hand. To achieve a balanced partnership, we have to invest in the selection of our most junior associates, and the mentorship and sponsorship of all of them along the way. Both of these roles have given me the opportunity to impact the development of our lawyers at two key points in their careers: when they come to us as rising 2Ls seeking summer associate positions, and again at the point where they are being considered for promotion to partner. Through these roles, I’ve also gotten to learn more about the incredible lawyers and practices we have across the firm. In my new role as a co-chair of our group, I think my most important jobs are to help all of our lawyers develop and grow their businesses, and, for our more junior professionals, to help them get to the next level in their career.
Q: Your elevation to this new role coincided with a major office move in New York. Do you feel the new space at 151 W 42nd will impact how the litigation group evolves?
A: Yes, absolutely. The shift in energy and engagement is palpable. I’ve been catching up with so many colleagues since the move, some in other groups that I haven’t connected with for years. This is due partly to the pandemic, but is also happening because the New York office was formerly in two different buildings, and our group was spread out on two different floors. Now we’re all under one roof, with plenty of thoughtful communal spaces, especially the pantries (with snacks!), the café, and the terrace. Having so many places in which to run into each other facilitates organic discussions and collaboration, which then naturally leads to cross-selling and other business development opportunities. One of the firm’s core strengths is its commitment to cross-selling, across offices and practice groups. In fact, on my desk right now is a commercial dispute I am handling for a biotech company that is an existing client of two of my patent litigation colleagues. With my colleagues’ understanding of the science and tech, and my litigation strategy, our pitch for the matter really stood out, and we were retained. I’m glad that all of us are together again and able to benefit from our connections.
To learn more about Venable New York’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group, please reach out to Jessie Beeber with any questions.