“The biggest insight I‘ve gained over the years is that if you want to step out of growing linearly and begin to grow exponentially, you must leave your comfort zone behind you,” says Kimberly (Kim) Schenk, Vice President at Charles River Associates.
As a Certified Public Accountant and an expert witness on damages in IP matters, having testified in 7 trials and given more than 20 depositions, Kim’s task is to explain to the judge and jury the value of the assets at issue in a case, be it a piece of technology, a trademark, or another type of IP. While Kim had a variety of interests growing up, math came most naturally to her. “I always found a sort of elegance in analyzing what is otherwise a jumble of numbers and finding an answer.” Kim pursued a degree in finance and economics, and her desire to apply her skills creatively led her to consulting. “I came across a boutique firm that was doing IP valuation, which immediately interested me,” Kim said. “In a way, this opportunity allowed me to combine . . . my math and valuation skills to determine the value of a given aspect of a product in the market.”
At a pivotal moment in her professional journey, Kim had to seriously consider whether she saw herself as a career expert witness. She is pleased that she decided to take on the challenge. “This job is incredibly complex,” said Kim. “Every case is different, in some way, from all others, be it technology, the particular brand, and so on. And so a lot of what I do is work to gain a deep understanding of what is in front of me, and I frequently speak to attorneys or my fellow damages experts to get their insights.” She is continually refining the best ways to convey a complex valuation analysis to a juror or to understand the economic value of a unique asset.
“My sincere hope is that the next generation of young women, whether they are young women who want to be expert witnesses or who are just entering a career in IP law, will find it helpful to see that others like them have been able to build successful careers in these areas,” Kim said. Her advice to young professionals is to learn to be strategic thinkers because it is one skill can help them in any situation. Starting small, like strategizing ahead of a phone call by considering who will be on the call and what one is trying to accomplish, is helpful in getting into the right frame of mind. And then, gradually, one can begin to apply the same type of strategic thinking to more complex tasks, like drafting patent claims and planning discovery, for example. “Be intentional,” Kim said. “Ask yourself ‘Where do I want to be?’, ‘What resources or other help do I need to be able to do that?” Kim considers this type of analytical thinking her strongest asset, because, regardless of the task, she is very well equipped to meet the challenge by deconstructing the issues into smaller pieces and reassembling them to form a more complete picture for others to understand.
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