Passion for patents: Paralegal is chair-elect of State Bar section


Harness Dickey paralegal Melissa Arab, incoming Chair of the SBM Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section, is pictured with her primary assigned attorney, Jason A. Heist.

– Photo courtesy of Harness Dickey

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

The legal field has always fascinated Melissa Arab, a patent law paralegal with Harness Dickey in Troy.

She completed the Associate of Applied Science Legal Assistant program at Macomb Community College, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and a place on the Dean’s List, while working 20-30 hours per week at Dodge Truck, participating in an 18-month law office internship, and a three-month externship under Macomb County Probate Court Director of Legal Services Robert Szalka, and taking care of her family. Initially interested in business law and contracts, her internship was with Shelby Township business law attorney David Forest.

“While I didn’t end up working in business law or contracts, I’ve kept in touch with Dave for the last seven years—he’s been a great mentor and friend,” she says.

Arab’s particular passion is intellectual property law. After obtaining her A.A.S, she worked as a trademark paralegal, responsible for global brand protection through
anti-counterfeiting and trademark enforcement for the firm’s luxury automotive client. She also managed the same client’s foreign counsel costs and cost savings program through meticulous invoice review and assertive fee/discount negotiation.

“It was my first foray into intellectual property, but I was thoroughly hooked.  I loved both the work and the client,” she says. “Unfortunately, if you’re comfortable, you aren’t growing, and if you want to be more, you have to learn more and do more, always. After four years, I decided to explore other areas of intellectual property.”

At Harness Dickey, Arab moved on to patents, and found patent prosecution even more enjoyable than trademark enforcement and global brand protection.

“I love seeing someone else’s vision of the future in every patent I work with,” she says. “In addition to the fascinating technology, patents are like a puzzle. One of my favorite tasks is to proof long or convoluted applications or office action responses and amend the claims and the specification to correct any antecedent, ambiguous, grammatical, or typographical errors, for attorney review. I have this innate need for structure and order. Proofing patents soothes that ‘itch.’”

Arab is currently assigned to support senior partner Jason Heist in the Troy office, and to remotely support Stephanie Dowdy in the Texas office, as well as provide overflow support to senior partner Bryant Wade and his team. She provides global patent prosecution support, including (but not limited to) prepping formal documents; office action response shells; preliminary amendments; client and foreign associate correspondence; filing applications and documents through the PTO’s EFS system; paying fees through the PTO online; proofing finalized applications and responses prior to filing; and reviewing/amending claims for antecedent or grammatical errors, and including the use of Claimmaster.

“I basically search for ways to save my attorneys’ time and help them recapture their billable hours. If it’s something I can take on to free them up for more complex tasks, I will tackle it—under their supervision and review, of course.”

She also is a notary, obtaining her commission to provide added value for the firm’s attorneys.

Arab is the incoming chair for the State Bar of Michigan’s Paralegal/Legal Assistant Section, taking over as chair at the Section’s Annual Business Meeting on October 11.

“The Section has been a wonderful experience. I wish I’d become aware of it much sooner in my career,” she says. “I was initially invited to a networking social event—the women I met were so friendly and warm, and come from many different fields of law. We each have vastly different experiences in our careers and fields of law—however, at the same time, we all have similar struggles in our careers and work environments. The documents we prepare and the attorneys we support may be very different, but the similarities in our supportive roles bond us together. We ‘get’ each other in a way our friends and families can’t.”

Her primary goal as new chair is to reinvigorate the membership by helping the council plan events members can’t stop talking about.

“For instance, we had an amazing Day of Education in May and received very enthusiastic feedback,” she says. “In October, we’ll begin working on our 2020 Day of Education. We hope to make it even more spectacular and enjoyable than 2019. “We’ve had group bike rides in Lansing; and recently held a group ‘Mutt March’ where we met up on the Macomb Orchard Trail with our dogs for a pleasant trail walk and to help raise donations for local animal rescues. We also have an ‘Uncorked’ wine tasting and socialization event in the works.”

A member of the SBM Intellectual Property Section, Arab enjoys attending seminars and events to stay current on changes in IP law.

“I also enjoy seeing so many of the same smiling faces at each of the seminars,” she says.

After another member of the SBM-PS council “lured” her to a couple of social mixers for the Oakland County Bar Association, she joined the OCBA; and became a sustaining member this year, upon renewing her membership. She joined the paralegal association NALA when she registered to sit for the Paralegal Certification exam, becoming a Certified Paralegal this past June.

“NALA provides valuable on-demand continuing education via webinars, seminars, and CLE opportunities,” she explains. “As a certified paralegal, I’m required to obtain 50 CLE credits to renew my certification every five years—NALA and the bar associations help me fulfill that requirement. Continuing education is my primary focus, but so many of the events are just plain enjoyable. The networking has also been helpful. The legal assistants and paralegals I’ve met have been incredibly supportive of each other. I’ve also been able to help others who needed answers, which is just a great feeling.”

Before college, Arab served in the Michigan Army National Guard in Taylor, as driver and bodyguard for the Lieutenant Colonel in the H.H.D. 210th Military Police Battalion. She completed basic training and advanced individual training at the same fort where her grandfather attended basic training prior to World War II.

“I was the assigned 60 gunner for our platoon during field week, and had to carry the M-60, tripod, and belt ammunition everywhere we went—the combination was a full third of my body weight,” she says.

The Shelby Township resident, who with her husband will celebrate their 25th anniversary September 29 with their three children, trains and breeds Champion Siberian Husky show dogs and shows them in AKC, UKC, Canada and FCI (Europe).

In her leisure time, Arab enjoys dog shows, flower gardening, walking on the trail, photography, nature, and travel—something this native of Byron, southwest of Flint, grew accustomed to as a child.

“I moved 21 times before I was 21 years old, living in places like northern and southern California, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, and Alabama,” she says. “I’ve lived in many beautiful places. I miss all of them, all the time. It’s strange to always feel homesick regardless of where you are. It’s like I left a piece of myself in each of the places I have lived, and those pieces still ache and tug at me.

“The positive aspect is that it made me incredibly adaptable. I learned early on that you have to grow and thrive wherever you are planted, and always be ready for the next adventure. Change is certain.”