Kristine M. Boylan is one of two children of U.S. Mag. Judge Arthur J. Boylan (D. Minn.) practicing litigation in the Twin Cities (the other being Arthur, Jr.).
Kristine embodies the evolution of Minnesota litigators’ practice with her origins from early childhood in a small-town Minnesota legal practice to her current position, a partner with a complex business litigation and world-wide IP practice at high-powered Minneapolis-based intellectual property law firm of Merchant & Gould (founding in the Twin Cities in 1900).
Do you think that being “the judge’s daughter” has given you an advantage in your practice?
I’m not sure. I know that it has historically forced me to work harder to prove my own merit. Being raised by a father who was first a lawyer, then a judge, has definitely given me a good intuitive and instinctive sense of the law and litigation – in all substantive areas. The breadth of perspective from being “the judge’s daughter” has made me a better lawyer.
When you were in high school, did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
No, but I landed my first law job at the age of 8 years old. I was the one-afternoon-a-week law librarian, courier and janitor at my dad’s small town law firm in Willmar, Minnesota (Kandiyohi County seat, 120 miles West of the Twin Cities). My job was to come in one day a week after school to do anything and everything the office manager and secretaries asked me to do.
To get that job, I had to pass an interview with a very crusty senior partner of the firm – who has since passed away. His interview was very tough. I thought, this is a lot of pressure!
What else were you interested in other than the law?
I was interested in advertising and marketing. And also public policy, law and policy, social policy. I ultimately went to law school because I thought I could use a law degree in a lot of different ways to serve the people in our country.
Tell us about your career path in the law.
As a college student, I worked at a good variety of law jobs and internships. I interned with the Third Judicial District Public Defender in Winona, for example. I worked at Legal Aid in Willmar one summer. I worked another summer in the County Attorneys’ office helping with juvenile justice.
I went to William Mitchell College of Law because I made the decision early on that I wanted to practice in Minnesota and wanted to start with solid Minnesota legal education. I also had the great opportunity to Intern at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) right before I graduated. This experience was perfect for my interest in law and policy.
My first full-time, paid, job was in law school at Jardine Logan & O’Brien in 1995. I helped the lawyers do anything and everything to get their cases ready for trial. It was excellent experience in civil litigation.
I also worked as a research assistant with Professor Niels Schaumann on copyright issues. There, I found the policy questions in patent, trademark, and copyright law to be fascinating. That was the turning point that took me out of Minnesota to the internship at the USPTO. I loved living in Washington, D.C. and I loved learning the nuts and bolts of a federal government agency. I was a legal policy intern for the Office of the Assistant Commissioner for Trademarks, helping with training materials for new examiners as well as research and policy statements.
Do you take any side on the on-going controversy in the patent world about the patenting of software?
Nope – we could talk for days about that. There is a lot of discourse and debate on both sides of the issue.
What is your practice now?
I am very busy these days with complex business litigation involving intellectual property rights and also client-counseling with regard to intellectual property rights — obtaining them, enforcing them, licensing them, managing them. I have matters pending in several different states and in several areas of the world … everywhere, really. I was recently appointed to the International Trademark Association’s Panel of Neutrals. On a pro bono basis, I mediate locally in the harassment court in Hennepin County. I serve small business interests at WomenVenture. And I am also on the conflict panel for the District of Minnesota Federal Public Defender. There is a lot of variety, which keeps things interesting!
Your advice to a lawyer starting right now?
Your integrity is everything. Don’t compromise it. It is a challenging market and very competitive now, for sure, but it’s always been tough. It was tough thirty years ago.
The practice of law is highly varied in different areas. For example, family lawyers probably have clients crying in their offices every day. But I bet you have never had a client cry in your office?
Never. But you might be surprised. My cases can be extremely emotional and extremely personal. Almost every litigated case involves a person or persons and a story – that is true in many business and IP cases too.
I get the sense there are very different cultures in different practice areas. For example, in the personal injury bar or criminal law bar (maybe employment?), there are communities and a different cultures of community and cooperation between opposing lawyers. What do you think?
I would agree. A key to collegiality might be the “localness” of the practice. When lawyers are in the same community or are in a small tight community, greater civility follows. I spent a handful of years litigating all over the State of Minnesota for the Minneapolis law firm of Meagher & Geer, and found great collegiality in most of those cases.
Regardless of the area – in every litigated case – I believe that a lawyer serves his or her client really well when there is collegiality with the opposing counsel. This is particularly true in the world of intellectual property litigation, where a lot of cases involve clients that have some ongoing business relationship (as collaborators or as competitors) with the opposing party. Good relations are important always.
[Previous Minnesota Litigator Profiles: Jim Behrenbrinker, civil rights/excessive force cases,Eric Cooperstein, “ethics maven“, Mike Flom, Gray Plant’s General Counsel, Phil Gainsley, veteran solo civil litigator, John Halpern, collections, Elliot Olsen, foodborne illness litigation, Dave Potter, railroad industry litigator, Katherine Mackinnon, ERISA plaintiff’s lawyer.]