Science Background + Law Leads JD '17 to IP and Patent Practice

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After graduating from Miami Law in 2017, Dexter Whitley is now practices as an associate at Fish & Richardson in Atlanta, a top patent and intellectual property firm. Prior to obtaining his J.D., Whitley received a Ph.D. and a Master’s degree in Microbiology and taught molecular biology, immunology, physiology, and virology at his alma mater, Tougaloo College in Mississippi. He was a post-doctoral scholar at Washington University at the St. Louis School of Medicine engineering recombinant adenovirus vectors for cancer genes and vectors to restore salivary gland function in cancer patients after radiation therapy and a visiting professor at Brown University teaching bio-medical molecular virology.

Dexter Whitley, J.D. '17

Can you explain your path from man of science to man of law?

I loved being a scientist and researcher and continue to deeply love science today, but I felt that the skills I learned while training to be a research could be better used elsewhere. Critical thinking, analytics, and applying rules to facts are just as useful in the study and practice of law as they are in science. I wanted to apply those skills in a different field and felt that Law would be the best fit. I also knew that attorneys with a technical background in the “hard” sciences were in demand in the Law field.  

What made you chose to come to Miami Law and how did it prepare you for your current practice?

Miami Law offered a variety of programs that appealed to me when I was deciding between Law schools. Although I ended up not participating in one, I was intrigued by the variety of clinics offered by Miami Law.  The Litigation Skills Program has helped greatly during my transition from law student to lawyer. The great Miami weather also didn’t hurt during the decision-making process.   

Did you have some favorite professors and courses at Miami Law?

I had the pleasure of taking courses with many great professors during my three years at Miami Law. 

Professor Tamara Lave is not only one of my favorite professors, she’s one of my favorite people. Her passion for criminal justice is obvious in how she prepares and teaches her Criminal Procedure and Criminal Procedure: Adjudication courses.

Dean Osamudia James is the person to talk to on campus if you’re interested in social justice

Professor Sawicki is a master of IP law, generally, and Patent law specifically. I apply the topics that he taught in his Patent Law course on an almost daily basis in my current career as a Patent Litigator. 

Professor Levi taught two courses that I greatly enjoyed: Copyright Law and Business Associations. 

Professor Ravicher is the go to authority on the intersection of business, technology and law on the Law School campus. 

Professor Copeland is the best professor to have honest, spin-free conversation about anything going on at the law school or society.

What advice would you give to someone like you considering law as a second career?

Law school provides a great opportunity to be intellectually curious.  It also provides an opportunity to apply the skills that you already have in a new way.  I recommend that you take this time to learn as much as you can about the law and to make as many mistakes as you can when no one is paying for it and no one’s liberty is at stake.  You’ll be surprised how applicable to your actual practice the concepts and skills that you learn in law school will be.  Also, take advantage of the CDO office. They have great staff and were very helpful during my job search.  Go to job fairs!