Leslie M. Spencer, Esq.
Partner, Intellectual Property Group
Co-Chair, Diversity Committee
Ropes & Gray LLC
New York, N.Y.
Attorney Leslie M. Spencer’s experience and eminence in tech venues, where few females participate, fuel the Ropes & Gray Intellectual Property Group partner’s drive to inspire women lawyers to enter spaces least inclusive of them. “Great lawyering requires being part teacher and part advocate,” she says. A distinguished IP lawyer and “change agent,” Spencer also is her firm’s diversity committee co-chair. A 2015 Vault career information survey ranks her Ropes & Gray diversity group No. 1 among U.S. law firms for overall diversity.
Spencer has practiced IP law for the past 15 years of a career in which she began as an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLC. She focuses on patent litigation and counseling for financial services and tech companies that include American Express, Discover Financial, Motorola Mobility LLC, Noble Energy Inc., ADP LLC and Southwestern Energy Co. Her prowess earned her Super Lawyers’ “New York Metro Super Lawyer” title from 2013 to 2015, and inclusion among New York Times Magazine’s “Top Women Attorneys in the New York Metro Area” in 2014.
A New York University School of Law graduate, Spencer holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Among her career’s most powerful influencers, she cites her mother and hard-working women in positions of authority. “My mother became my most significant career influencer when she chose a career in the burgeoning field of computer programming during the 1970s,” says Spencer. Her high school math teacher, Sister Mary Francis DeSales, nurtured her love of math and science. “She encouraged me to apply to MIT,” recalls Spencer, who attended MIT when only a fraction of the school’s student body was female.
Prior to entering law school, she took a job where a senior female executive quickly promoted her to technology director, admonishing her to “never stop raising the bar” for herself. Heeding those words, the self-professed “tech geek” was one of only seven top women patent experts among 50 men who spoke at the 2014 World Congress 11th Annual Patents for Financial Services: Understanding Recent Rules & Regulations Summit. Spencer recently shared her passion for female activism, social justice and influencing change at this year’s New York University Women of Color Collective (WoCC) Annual Alumnae Reception, where she was designated the Woman of Distinction Awardee. Convinced that her love of technology fated her “change agent” destiny, in her remarks she encouraged women law students to consider careers at “institutions that are less obviously accepting of women.” “There are opportunities for everyone to be agents of social change. I practice patent litigation, and most of the time I show up in a case, that’s change,” she told the student and alumnae WoCC audience.
She tells future lawyers, “As important as it is to know the law, it is perhaps more important to understand your client’s business, strategies and pain points.”