Law alumnus talks to students on patent law, offers career advice

NIU Law alum Russell Slifer talks to current students in Swen Parson Hall.
NIU Law alum Russell Slifer talks to current students in Swen Parson Hall.

Northern Illinois University College of Law alumnus Russell Slifer (’94) returned Feb. 24 to Swen Parson Hall for the first time in more than 20 years to address NIU Law students.

Slifer is the deputy under secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and deputy director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

He attended and addressed both first-year law student sections of Professor Yolanda King’s intellectual property law classes. He also held a noon presentation open to the entire NIU community in the Francis X. Riley Courtroom.

During the course of the day, he discussed his career as a patent attorney, his appointment to the USPTO and the inner-workings of his office. He offered historical perspective on patent law, key points in its development dating back to the Civil War and much of the progress being made in the office.

Slifer fielded many questions from students during and after his presentations. He offered several pieces of advice for current law students as they progress through law school including that “pedigree is often overvalued by young lawyers as they search for jobs.”

Russell Slifer
Russell Slifer

Citing his own experience, Slifer added, “I received an excellent education here at Northern Illinois University College of Law. You learn the same law here as students in any other law school; you just learn it in a more relaxed environment here.”

Reassuring students that they should always be open to new challenges, he said, “If you step out and take a risk, you can tackle any job that you want.”

Most recently, Slifer served as the director of the Rocky Mountain Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office in Denver, Colorado.

Before joining the USPTO, Slifer served as chief patent counsel for Micron Technology in Boise and was also a principal at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner in Minneapolis. Slifer also has held a number of leadership positions, including president of the Association of Corporate Patent Counsel and board member of the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

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