Michigan Law grad heads one of Chicago's top IP firms

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By Kurt Anthony Krug

Legal News

Two months into his new position as president of Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, one of the Midwest's premier intellectual law firms based in Chicago, James Sobieraj has learned there is no such thing as a typical day.

"Half my time is split between practicing law and the other half is split presiding over the firm--studying strategic directives of the firm, working with the board of directors and shareholders to keep everybody on target with our strategic goals," said Sobieraj, 55, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. "We have a very good group of professional managers who aren't lawyers--he COO, the CFO, the chief of human resources--and they do a good job of taking care of the administrative functions of the firms, but there are times when I need to be involved in some of those decisions."

A native of Detroit, Sobieraj graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan in 1979 with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering.

Upon graduation, Sobieraj went directly to U-M Law School, turning down what he called "some very nice offers" to work as an engineer in industry.

"I thought long and hard about it, working for a couple of years then going to law school because law school was always my long-range plan. But what it came down to: If my long-range goal was to go to law school, why wait? I decided to go directly there, get my law degree, and move on," he said.

Sobieraj has been at Brinks Hofer for 30 years--his entire professional career. The law firm is the largest IP law firm in the Midwest and one of the biggest IP law firms in the nation. He has been lead counsel in many lawsuits involving patent infringement, patent rights ownership, license disputes, misappropriation of trade secrets, trade dress infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, fraud, anti-trust, and breach of contract.

Asked what inspired him to become a lawyer, Sobieraj has it's something that always interested him.

"From what I've heard about law, I always liked the competitive part of being a lawyer, particularly being a litigator," he said. "I grew up watching Perry Mason. I was always attracted to the courtroom setting. It's hard to describe. Why do you fall in love with someone? There are a lot of reasons; there are intangibles as well... I liked the greater sense of professional independence a lot of lawyers seem to have."

So far, the greatest challenge of his job has been time management.

"There's so much I'd like to do, but only so many hours in the day," he said. "I'm doing my best to take care of clients and take care of the firm. Both demands are important, and I need to make sure I set the right priorities."

Despite the demands of his jobs, Sobieraj feels very blessed.

"I'm really content doing what I'm doing," he said. "I've had offers to do other things, but I found my place. This is the right place to stay for the indefinite future."

Sobieraj lives in Hinsdale, Ill. with his wife of almost 27 years, Jacki, who is a Troy native. They have two daughters: Julia, 21, a junior at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.; and Olivia, 18, a senior at Hinsdale Central High School.

Upon the end of his presidency in 2016, Sobieraj plans to keep practicing law at Brinks Hofer.

Published: Thu, Mar 22, 2012

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