Sterne Kessler is a proud leader in developing the next generation of legal talent to practice at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

In April 2020, the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) launched the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) to provide opportunities for training and development of the next generation of attorneys and patent agents. The program provides up to 15 minutes of extra argument time during an oral hearing for the LEAP practitioner. This extra time is for the arguing party and can be allocated at counsel’s discretion, so long as the LEAP practitioner has a substantive role in the argument. Should the LEAP practitioner need assistance during their argument, a more senior practitioner is permitted to assist and/or correct the record as needed.

Qualifying LEAP practitioners must have three or fewer substantive oral arguments in any federal tribunal, including the PTAB. Read more about LEAP, including testimonials from Sterne Kessler sponsors and participants, on the USPTO’s website here.

Sterne Kessler LEAP Participation

Sterne Kessler held the top position for LEAP requests during the program’s first two years, and our participation has continued since. At Sterne Kessler, LEAP has strong support from firm leadership, advising directors, eligible practitioners, and clients. Though less experienced at oral argument, junior practitioners are steeped in the details of cases and are well-equipped to handle aspects of matters at a hearing. We engage with our clients, who collaborate in the program, to help provide the opportunity to contribute to the development of the practitioners who will be representing them in years to come.

Our active LEAP participation reflects our overall commitment to the career development of our associates. As one associate commented in the 2022 Chambers Associate guide, Sterne Kessler has “a really strong professional development program” with directors who are “really invested in your development.” Another associate noted that directors “say to come to them for anything I need, and they regularly check up on me.”

Sterne Kessler’s LEAP participation is led by Director Graham C. Phero and Director and PTAB Trials Practice leader Jason A. Fitzsimmons, with support from fellow PTAB Trials Practice leaders Eldora L. Ellison, Ph.D.R. Wilson “Trey” Powers III, Ph.D., and Richard Bemben. An extensive group of additional directors and counsel comprise our LEAP advisors roster and other critical support roles for this important professional development program.

What Our LEAP Practitioners and Advisors Have To Say

  • The mock argument practicum helped me feel confident and prepared going into my first PTAB hearing. I particularly appreciated the opportunity to hear from PTAB judges in a small group setting. The general thoughts the judges shared about what they find most persuasive during oral arguments helped me tailor the arguments for my first hearing, and the individualized feedback they provided gave me specific points to focus on as I prepared for the hearing.” – Associate and moot LEAP participant Rebekah Holtz
  • We appreciate how supportive our clients are of the LEAP program. They recognize it’s an important investment in the talent here at Sterne Kessler that will continue advocating on their behalf for years to come.” – Director and LEAP advisor Jason A. Fitzsimmons


Graham C. Phero Director

There’s a lot of appreciation for the variety of backgrounds people bring, which affects how people interact – I have friends at all levels of the firm.

Associate comments Chambers Associate

Lots of the patents we handle are filed in China and Europe, so we’ll develop the US strategy then work with foreign associates to make sure it’s aligned across the globe. I like getting to see different views of the law!

Associate comments Chambers Associate

Directors often show concern for me as a person. I’ve had offers from other firms which pay more, but I just don’t want to leave Sterne Kessler.

Associate comments Chambers Associate