Our Lawyer Spotlight series highlights Illinois lawyers who are demonstrating the ideals of professionalism in their daily lives.
Sandra A. Frantzen is an intellectual property and technology attorney at McAndrews, Held & Malloy, Ltd. in Chicago. Her primary practice area is patent litigation and worldwide IP portfolio management in the medical device, pharmaceutical, chemical, and consumer products fields.
Sandra represents clients in federal courts across the country and practices before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, including conducting trials before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. She has also worked with colleagues abroad in foreign patent courts.
Sandra is a past President of the Arab American Bar Association of Illinois and currently serves as a Board member.
How has your practice evolved during the last few years?
The IP field has become increasingly global. My practice has always involved working with multiple lawyers throughout the country and the world on complex matters. When travel shut down with the COVID pandemic, the IP legal community (and really, most legal groups) realized that we could still be productive when working remotely.
Though patent practitioners were somewhat reluctant at first, remote networking and communication have truly revolutionized how we collaborate with team members and clients (many of whom live in different states and countries).
In my opinion, this has been a great benefit to the profession. We spend less time traveling but are able to interact much more regularly as in-person visits aren’t always required.
What’s one piece of technology you could not function without?
It’s so basic but I can’t live without my electronic calendar. My day has a lot of moving parts—not only in my professional life but in my personal life as well.
How do you manage your well-being?
Disconnecting from work for some portion of the day is critical. I love spending time with my amazing family and getting outdoors. We love hiking, kayaking, walking, etc.
I also really enjoy cooking (especially making my family’s delicious Lebanese specialties) and find it extremely relaxing. My kids have learned to make some of our favorites, which makes it even more special.
My challenge is finding time to do these things when work gets very busy.
How do you remain civil in tense situations?
Litigation can be intense. I find that staying focused on the merits of the client’s case is the best strategy when, for example, opposing counsel is getting wrapped up in an off-point dispute.
I also like to think I have a good sense of humor, which helps in diffusing tense situations.
How can attorneys advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession?
Attorneys should be consciously and conscientiously finding and creating opportunities for our colleagues, as well as actively advocating for systemic change in the institutions in which we work.
This means being a mentor and an ally and always asking what more can be done. Do we see representation in all aspects of our profession? If not, why?
The patent field in particular needs improvement. According to a recent ABA publication, there are more patent practitioners named “Michael” than racially diverse women practitioners (less than 2%).
Many groups, companies, and firms are trying to address these issues in various ways. My firm has a Diversity in Patent Law Fellowship, which is awarded each year to an excellent law student with a diverse background.
I am also a big supporter of the work being done by the many affinity bar associations and coalitions in the Chicago area.
As the past President and current Board member of the Arab American Bar Association of Illinois, our bar has had many events and opportunities to enhance inclusion, including networking events with other bar organizations, CLEs on diversity-related topics, and events that allow our members to interact with the judiciary. Over the past 20 years, we have seen an influx of more Arab American attorneys into our profession.
These efforts are only a start. More needs to be done.
What is an attorney’s role in furthering public confidence in the rule of law?
I immigrated to the United States as a child and was always very aware of the potential for opportunities in our country. While we still face many challenges as a country, we have a unique opportunity as attorneys to represent and embody the justice system for non-attorneys.
Ultimately, we are the ambassadors for our system and must honor that important role and stay committed to justice, fairness, and the rule of law.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself and voice your views and opinions! Being genuine and honest makes you a better listener, a better colleague, and a better advocate.
What do you think is the biggest challenge impacting lawyers today?
The profession and technology has evolved so that we are accessible and available 24/7 to our clients, courts, and coworkers. This can be very taxing on lawyers and their families.
I have seen highly skilled, brilliant attorneys leave the profession due to burnout. As attorneys, we want to be responsive to our colleagues, but we also need to balance this with our own lives and families.
What do you do for fun?
I love spending time with my family and friends—especially my kids now that they are in college and that time is so precious. We have the most interesting conversations, debates, and discussions.
I also love the outdoors and getting outside (preferably in warm weather) and doing something active!
There’s also nothing better than quiet time spent reading an interesting book (Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorites) or binge-watching something on TV.
Our Lawyer Spotlight recognizes attorneys throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews with attorneys here.