On November 9, 2022, the USPTO’s Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) hosted “LEAP to Chambers,” a new LEAP initiative to provide LEAP-eligible practitioners with an inside perspective on practicing before PTAB. Participants visited the Alexandria, Virginia office for a Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB) judge-guided tour of PTAB’s facilities and learned oral and written advocacy tips from the PTAB judges.

Associates John D. Higgins and Rebekah Holtz offer their first-hand accounts of attending the program.

Associate John D. Higgins

I received a warm welcome from the PTAB judges, who expressed their excitement for my participation in the program. This friendly reception eliminated any nerves that I felt coming into the event.

Before participants split into small groups, PTAB Judge Kal Deshpande provided opening remarks to all the junior attorneys, encouraging us to participate in oral hearings through the LEAP program. His uplifting remarks assured me that the PTAB judges enjoyed seeing less-experienced practitioners play a role in these settings.

Once participants separated into small groups, PTAB Judge Linda Horner, my assigned host and an alum of Sterne Kessler, led my group behind the scenes of the PTAB chambers. Judge Horner took us behind the bench, showing us the judge’s perspective of the chamber and providing insight into how judges typically operate during oral hearings. Leading us to her office, Judge Horner answered our group’s questions with informative responses and provided us with instructive tips, such as limiting our number of slides for demonstratives and making sure to answer the judge’s questions directly during oral arguments.

To conclude the event, participants attended a panel discussion by a set of PTAB judges. Conversation topics for the panel included the judges’ takeaways from adjudicating cases and practice tips for oral advocacy and career development.

In sum, attending the “Leap to Chambers” program provided a unique perspective of how PTAB judges adjudicate cases, better preparing me for my next oral advocacy opportunity.

Associate Rebekah Holtz

The LEAP to Chambers program provided a unique opportunity to meet PTAB judges in small groups and to hear judges’ personal perspectives on AIA trials, including their tips for successful petitions, the ins-and-outs of oral hearings, and how the Board’s decision process unfolds. Participants had the chance to ask the judges questions on anything from recent Federal Circuit cases to the judges’ individual career paths. Being able to tour the PTAB facilities and have face-to face time with judges really helped elucidate the PTAB processes and made it easier to imagine what it would be like to go to the PTAB for a future in-person oral argument.

Click here to learn more about Sterne Kessler’s participation in the LEAP program.

© 2022 Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox PLLC