U of M grad builds career in field with few people of color


There seems to be a common belief that the legal profession was virtually immune from economic concerns. However, according to the U.S. Labor Department, the number of unemployed lawyers last year jumped 66 percent, reaching 20,000, the highest in 10 years. Reportedly over 3,000 lawyers have been laid off during the first three months this year.

“The economy has slowed down, and it has affected all industries,” says Alana Glass, who became a practicing lawyer in 2007 after graduating from Cooley Law School in Detroit. “Companies who normally have outside legal counsel, now have to slow that down.”

Glass, a 2001 University of Minnesota graduate, works as a patent analyst for an Ohio-based medical firm. “I review patent applications for validity, write an opinion [and] do some research to find out if anyone else invented or designed it,” she explains, adding that she has seen a decrease in patent applications.
“We have [fewer] applications coming to us to review.”

Living in Detroit, where the economic crisis hit long before it spread nationwide, Glass says she has been lucky. “I have been very fortunate to have an amazing family and amazing parents, where I don’t necessarily have to worry every day. I am in a great situation where I can essentially ride it out [until] it gets better, and things will pick up.”

After graduating from U of M, Glass worked as a research assistant for a year before enrolling in law school. “It was pretty interesting, but I knew working in that field was only going to go so far with my bachelor degree [in animal science],” she points out. Glass also enrolled in the school’s intellectual properties masters’ program.

Glass’ law career began but not without encountering the usual obstacles.
First of all, “They [employers] want people with experience, but how do you get experience if nobody…gives you an opportunity,” she explains. Secondly, “When applying for positions, people look at the Harvards, U-Ms [University of Michigan], Yales and the Princetons right away,” continues Glass.

“Yes, I am just as qualified as a Harvard or Yale law graduate,” she says proudly of being a Cooley grad.

Thirdly, being a Black woman “is a double whammy.” Glass points out, “I personally try not to look at it like that because I don’t necessarily want to use the fact that I am a female and a Black female as a crutch or a reason why someone else got a position that I didn’t get. But I do see it as an opportunity.

“I am an intellectual properties attorney. Intellectual properties [are] a practice area that covers copyrights, trademarks and patents.” When asked, Glass said that she usually doesn’t run into many Blacks or other persons of color doing similar work. “I personally know one other Black female in this area. I know that we are out there, but I think we are few and far between.”

She is not a patent lawyer, however. “To be a patent attorney, you have to have passed the patent bar exam, which is administered at the United States Patent Trademark Office,” says Glass.

Finally, Glass aspires to become a sports team owner. “There is only one Black female owner [Washington Mystics and Capitols co-owner Sheila Johnson] that I know of, and that is an opportunity for me to make a difference in an area when I do achieve that goal. All I need to do is get the capital,” she concludes.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

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