[nb: McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft was acquired by Boeing] At MDA, I was hired as one of many law clerks to help with the T-45 (jet trainer) litigation (US Navy contract). I was offered a chance to split my hours and assist the lawyers in their Intellectual Property department while one was on medical leave. I wrote a [draft version of a] patent specification for a method of forming turbine blades (jet engines) from titanium within superplastic pressure/temperature regimes. “Embarrassed the boss” (T-45 litigation project) via discerning importance of evidence she’d felt trivial; lead trial counsel (Bryan, Cave) had agreed with my assessment.
What I wrote about MDA in my memoirs (current manuscript):
[packed; in Chapter E]
McDonnell Douglas IP eye patch fill-in, 4 month slave in Lit / IP.
[plaintext; in Chapter F]
So commencing in January of 1994 I began working for several months at the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, the well-known St. Louis-based civilian and military aircraft manufacturer, in its Litigation and Intellectual Property Departments, a few years prior to its takeover by (merger with) Boeing.
As a lowly litigation clerk I was soon immersed in a rather large warehouse full of file cabinets, flight reports, etc. and set to work reading and categorizing them for entry into the litigation support database, and also transcribing depositions in HR cases, mostly age or sex discrimination suits which almost always settled out of court. The main litigation we worked on involved what was called the T-45 jet trainer, a Navy contract where the primary issue seemed to be the traditional, proverbial cost overruns. The Nav’ Brass were squawking that the bird just cost too damn much after all the “problems” had been fixed, while the Avionic War Elves responded that the specs just kept changing and changing and changing, and that costs more money.
The McDonnell attorneys were in charge of the litigation, along with some outside counsel, but the documents warehouse show was being run by a chubby young paralegal named Marsha something-or-other. The other law clerks ranged from fresh out of high school to seasoned junior prosecutors, and many of the clerks were simply housewives doing part-time work on the side. One of the head lawyers noticed my résumé and she asked me if I might like to work in the Intellectual Property Department one or two days a week, it seemed that one of the IP attorneys was going to be out for a bit due to some eye surgery and so I went to see young Tim Coarse who immediately put me to work on things like prior art searches on LEXIS. I also wrote a draft Patent Specification for a method of casting titanium jet-engine blades with ceramics.
After a few weeks of shuffling back and forth between nagging Marsha and her hen-like henchwomen in the litigation warehouse, and the gents in the IP Department with their prior art discussions and LEXIS searches, I decided I greatly preferred the latter. But Attorney Thompson was on his way back from the repair shop, his eye on the mend, it seemed, and Tim said it would kind of be up to him as to what my status would be upon his return.
Attorney Thompson looked like Wilt the Stilt with a pirate’s eye patch covering his left ocular. He was tall, very tall, and Black. I immediately greeted him too effusively and started blubbering about how much I had been enjoying my stay in the IP Department, and that from the way I understood things it’d be up to him to say whether or not I got to stay on, so hey, here I am and . . .
“– Uh, yeah . . .” he calmed me down a little, “uh, just let me see if I can get through the morning here, first, okay?” (as he raised his coffee cup up off the table a smidgen, wearily glancing its way).
“We’ll talk later on this afternoon about it.”
Well, Mr. Thompson told me later I could continue to hang out for the six bucks an hour or whatever it was I was making in the litigation warehouse, but that I shouldn’t expect that it would lead to anything much beyond in the way of attorney positions and so forth, and in fact it didn’t.
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page last updated: 03-21-2021