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.
As of November 18, 2021, 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 Promotes LEAP Participation
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.
As of February 2023, Sterne Kessler has participated in 19 LEAP proceedings, inclusive of ex parte appeals.
The firm's active LEAP participation reflects our overall commitment to the career development of our associates. Sterne Kessler holds the top position for LEAP requests during the program’s first two years, from May 2020 to May 2022. As one anonymous 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: "They say to come to them for anything I need, and they regularly check up on me." As of February 2023, Sterne Kessler has participated in 19 LEAP proceedings, inclusive of ex parte appeals.
The firm’s LEAP participation is led by Directors Jason A. Fitzsimmons and Graham C. Phero with support from the Patent Office Litigation Practice leaders Eldora L. Ellison, Ph.D., Michael D. Specht, and Robert Greene Sterne. An extensive group of additional directors comprise the firm’s 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