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Lokvani Talks To Nirva Kapasi

Ranjani Saigal

Nirva Kapasi is a member of the Nixon Peabody LLP Technology and Intellectual Property group. Ms. Kapasi’s practice focuses on biotechnology transactions in addition to assisting emerging and established life sciences businesses in developing, procuring, and marketing technology, information, products, and services. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Kapasi was the corporate communications manager at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, managing internal and external corporate communications for the discovery research departments.

Ms. Kapasi earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Boston University and a J.D., cum laude, from New England School of Law. She is a member of the Massachusetts and South Asian bar associations and is admitted to practice in Massachusetts. In addition, Ms. Kapasi is a registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Congratulations on your new position at Nixon Peabody.   What made you make a career change from Engineering to law?

My mother was a lawyer in India and my father is a chemical engineer.  My parents definitely had an impact on what I decided to pursue. I wanted to be able to discuss various topics with both of my parents and truly leverage off their own talents. So, rather than picking one or the other, I did both! My years at BU provided me with excellent technical training, which in turn allowed me to foster my analytical skills. The curriculum enabled me to attack problem sets using a multi-disciplinary approach. However, and as much as I enjoyed engineering, I always felt a pressing need to expand my knowledge base with more of the non-technical disciplines in order to obtain a better socio-economic connection with the world. 

When I graduated from the biomedical engineering program at BU, my mother suggested looking into law programs. As I was contemplating joining Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in the fall, I decided to apply to a part-time law program at New England School of Law.  Since I am one of only a few law students who possessed a technical background, I initially decided to pursue a career in patent law. After completing my legal studies, I found patent work to be a bit dry and decided to pursue a position at the law firm of Nixon Peabody LLP in its corporate life sciences group. Making the transition to Nixon Peabody has been extremely rewarding.

Could you describe your work at Nixon Peabody?

My work is focused on representing biotechnology companies in all aspects of their businesses, from private equity financing and corporate governance to technology licensing, strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions, and initial public offerings.  My background in Biotechnology is very useful in understanding the intricacies and needs of the companies that we represent. Not only is the work interesting, but the team at Nixon Peabody is composed of talented, bright and dedicated attorneys who not only provide excellent mentorship but also have the vision and work ethic to reach our goal of being the leader in counseling the life sciences industry. Michael Barron, our team leader, recently gave me the opportunity to help organize a panel for Financing Strategies for Life Sciences Companies at the NYBA Annual Meeting. Michael, and the firm truly believe in empowering attorneys to realize their maximum potential and I am very grateful for that.

How does Globalization impact IP in Biotechnology?  Does it have an impact on your work?

Intellectual Property laws vary from country to country. There is a significant movement to streamline the protection and application of IP. For instance, India joined the WTO in 1995 and must be compliant with TRIPS by January 2005. The compliance with international standards and regulations will provide for a more favorable and consistent business environment. As we are in the midst of massive globalization, it is not only important to understand the laws of emerging countries but also to compare those applications of the law to those of the United States. In the United States we have extensive IP laws that are not only critical to research and development but vital to inventors who seek protection of their innovations. As companies in other countries mature, the importance and value of IP protection is becoming more realized.

Your first job out of law school was a pro bono case you worked on behalf of the South Asian Bar Association. Could you tell us a little about that experience?

The set of facts are extremely sad and unsettling, but yes, I was contacted by the South Asian Bar Association to work on a care and protection case in a probono capacity. As you may have read in recent India New England articles, an Indian mother of a 2-year old child attempted to kill herself and her daughter after allegedly witnessing the sexual abuse of her child by her husband. Fortunately both she and the child were saved due to the timely intervention from the police. The care and protection of the child became the concern of many. I worked on behalf of the maternal relatives in India who were willing to raise the child in India.

Unfortunately despite our best efforts, the courts here did not entertain the placement in India since they felt they did not have the mechanisms in place to pursue such an option. As a result, the child’s paternal uncle has been granted temporary custody. The case was a learning experience for me and, as my career advances, I am hoping to contribute more and more of my time to helping those who need advice in legal matters.

What specific things do you think the community should to do to address some of the needs?

Every community has an obligation to foster awareness. State-appointed attorneys, in my opinion, have the best of intentions but are often under resourced. Therefore, as a community, we should fill this gap by providing insight into some of the cultural intricacies that are often overlooked. It is the responsibility of our community to advocate outreach programs and to take action for not only South Asians but all immigrants in need. By providing awareness and increasing dialogue, we’ll inevitably build a strong partnership that will benefit all involved parties. It is important for individuals interested in probono/non-profit/social work to communicate their interests and skill-set. Only then can we create a useful and reliable list of resources when facing cultural considerations in a legal atmosphere. I believe it is important to do well in one’s career, but also important to strive towards good citizenship which requires the ability and dedication to help those in need.

You are a native New Englander. Was it difficult growing up as an Indian American when there were a lesser number of Indian American peers?

I truly enjoyed growing up in New England. Although my sisters and I were practically the only minorities in our school system, we felt that it was not difficult as long as we strived to embrace both aspects of our South Asian and American cultures. In some ways, the question is asked with the wrong approach. Rather than viewing it as a burden, it is oftentimes an asset personally and professionally, whether it’s a multicultural outlook on life filled with community values or a strong network willing to help you succeed. We have a huge intellectual community to tap into. For instance, I am always amazed by the number of South Asian women in the life sciences field. I plan to focus on a career pathway which will in return be successful enough to be helpful to others.  It’s important to be proud of your heritage but even more important to harness skills and GIVE BACK!

Any advice for people taking up law as a career?

Always maintain a positive outlook on life and your goals. I know it sounds cliché, but a positive outlook with a focus on “giving back” to one’s community (academic, familial, social, cultural), defines accomplishment.  Thwart negativity and embrace positivism. Believe it or not, people want to see you succeed. If you join a firm or a corporation, make sure to explore the employer’s existing commitment to the community but also be proactive to increase the employer’s dedication, whether in hours or sponsorship, to community outreach. Nixon Peabody’s support and encouragement for my interest in probono work is very important to me and a significant factor to my job-satisfaction. Being a lawyer can truly open doors and cultivate many interests. Personally, although my career is at an early stage, it has already allowed me to practice in the life science industry, use my technical and analytical skills and also participate in probono matters. The options are endless.

Thank you for your time

Thank you

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