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Gregory M. York

  • Michigan Law, 2008, JD, cum laude
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1998, PhD, Biology
  • Dartmouth College, 1992, BA, Biology, magna cum laude

Gregory York was well into his car​eer as a scientist when he decided to enter law school. As a senior scientist at USB Corporation in Cleveland, York developed products for molecular biology research, which required that he learn about patents. The more York delved into patent law, the more he was intellectually stimulated by it, so much so that he was compelled to make a career change. It's a decision he remains happy with today.

Gregory York, '08"Patent law develops very quickly, the same way that scientific fields do, and it's a field in which I can learn for many years to come," said York, a partner at the law firm Pearne & Gordon LLP in Cleveland. "It's an interesting and enjoyable challenge to work with the inventors that are our clients, and to figure out what might be patentable by looking at their inventions from a scientific perspective and then as a patent lawyer."

An interesting difference between science and law, he noted, is that "in science, one tends to become really focused on a narrow topic and becomes an expert on it. In patent law, you're spending a lot less time on any one topic, and each of the topics you're dealing with has already been determined to be important to inventors at universities or companies. You end up having a more diverse range of topics you're dealing with, which, for anybody who is interested in continuing to learn broadly, may be more stimulating than focusing on one thing and becoming an expert at it."

Worthwhile Advice

Though York, a Connecticut native, could have attended Case Western Reserve University School of Law with reduced tuition—his wife was a tenure-track professor there at the time he was considering law school—a conversation with a Michigan Law graduate convinced him that the Law School would be a better fit because of its intellectual rigor.

"I'm lucky that I got some extra advice before I went ahead and made a decision," York said. "If I hadn't done that extra asking around, I don't think other schools would have been such a good fit for me."

York was "elated" when he learned Michigan was offering him a Darrow Scholarship. "Personally it was nice, because I was an older student and had been working as a professional in a different field. It was affirmation of the plan I was developing, and made law school much more practical for my wife and me than it would have been otherwise."

Flexibility in Law School

The scholarship made it possible for York to pursue activities and academic interests beyond the classroom. He served as a contributing and associate editor for the Michigan Law Review, and conducted research for Jim Krier, the Earl Warren DeLano Professor of Law, on the evolution of cooperation. In addition, York spent his 2L and 3L years serving as a senior judge for the Legal Practice Program, which resulted in his twice receiving the Jack C. Radcliffe Jr. Award for excellence in mentoring.

"I put a lot of effort into mentoring the legal practice students," York said. "It was something that I enjoyed tremendously, and I was learning at the same time that I was teaching and mentoring. I'm sure I would have felt as though I needed to spend more time working rather than helping students if I hadn't received the Darrow Scholarship. I benefited enormously from having the flexibility to participate in the program."

A Great Mix of People

York also benefited from the supportive community he found within the Law Quad. His peers, he noted, were bright and talented. The professors were approachable and took an interest in students, no matter what type of law they wanted to practice. "It was great to be in a mix of people that were all very interesting and accomplished, particularly in ways that I'm not," York said. "Michigan Law provided a great foundation for me to get started as a patent lawyer. I'm happy that I attended the Law School and enjoyed my experience tremendously."​​​

Story written by Lori Atherton.