As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Jennifer Wu ’04 volunteered at a rape crisis center, helping counsel women on their trauma and their rights after an assault. Now a sought-after patent litigator who co-founded a new intellectual property litigation firm in November, Wu still makes it a priority to help those who have experienced traumatic events. In the past three years, she has provided pro bono legal aid to more than a dozen victims of anti-Asian hate crimes in New York City and their families. Among other matters, Wu helps her clients navigate dealings with the district attorney’s office, safeguard funds that have been raised to support them, and—when the victim is deceased—understand their rights under probate law.
Wu says that, as president of the Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association at NYU Law, she came to understand that contributing your skills to the benefit of your community is a crucial part of the pursuit of justice. She has received NYU Law’s Vanderbilt Medal for Service and the President’s Service Award for Leadership from NYU. She sits on the board of the Law Alumni of Color Association.
Wu began her legal career at Weil, Gotshal & Manges and then clerked for Judge Alan Lourie at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In 2011, she joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, becoming partner in 2015. In November 2022, Wu and three other patent and technology lawyers formed a new boutique IP firm, Groombridge, Wu, Baughman & Stone.
In this Q&A, Wu discusses her interest in patent law, her new firm, and what has been most meaningful about representing clients targeted by anti-Asian violence.
How did you decide to specialize in patent litigation? What do you like about that work?
I love science. I find it super interesting, and I like working with smart people. At NYU Law, [Pauline Newman Professor of Law Emerita Rochelle] Dreyfuss was such an inspiration. I think what made her great was that she taught us that there isn’t always a right and wrong answer, but to debate it. We have a strong patent system in America that has led us to be able to develop life-saving technologies in the pandemic, which is a remarkable thing. On the flip side, you see a lot of discussion by politicians about getting rid of patents.
[Dreyfuss’s] clinic called Colloquium of Innovation Policy taught me to ask the questions: how do we make a better world in the sense that science is going to move forward, we’re going to be able to save more lives, but how do we encourage the kinds of innovation that we need to basically build a better world for ourselves?
You launched a new firm, Groombridge, Wu, Baughman & Stone, in November. What has that process been like? What are you looking forward to?
As a child of immigrants, the idea of being a partner at a large firm like Paul, Weiss was already something I never dreamed of. But I also never dreamed of being a founding partner of my own firm. Being a name partner carries a significance that I don’t even think I realized until it happened—nothing to me demonstrates real equity more than having your name on the shingle.
We’re a three-women and three-men partnership, with over 20 attorneys total, and we have more women than men at our firm. We are also 50 percent women equity partners. I’ve never been at a firm where there’s 50 percent women equity partners.
Fundamentally, I think that it is true that in a big firm when you become a partner, you have this sense of stability. But when you’re in a small law firm, you really do feel this sense of ownership that is very freeing, of saying, “I can carve my own path.”
You have provided legal aid to victims of the recent anti-Asian hate crimes and their families. Can you tell me about your involvement with those cases?
When the pandemic started, there started being a lot of anti-Asian violence cases. And I was already involved in the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), and I and Karen King, who was a counsel [at Paul, Weiss] at the time, we authored a report that was about the rising tide of anti-Asian violence in New York City, and that got a ton of press.
Yao Pan Ma was a gentleman in Harlem who was collecting cans and got beaten. When that incident happened, his GoFundMe raised more than $500,000 in a few days. I got a call from my friend who’s an elected official [asking me to help], and after that case, I started working with more victims who had been the targets of anti-Asian violence. When there’s a case that involves anti-Asian violence, we get called directly.
At my new firm, I’ll continue all my social justice work. The twelve or so clients I’m currently working with pro bono are coming with me and we are planning to represent them as co-counsel with Paul, Weiss, which has been nothing but supportive both of these clients and the founding of our new firm.
What has taking on these pro bono cases meant to you?
I’m providing a kind of one-stop shop to these victims, helping them with not just a criminal case, but probate laws and property laws and whatever else they may need. I also work with the district attorneys, or assistant district attorneys, to communicate or build trust in the legal system. Many of the victims don’t want to talk to the DA. They’re afraid they’re going to get deported. So we’re there to make sure people trust the system, that it’s not like they feel ignored and misunderstood, [which is] primarily how a lot of immigrants feel about the legal justice system, that there’s no justice in the justice system.
My parents are immigrants [from Taiwan], and so seeing someone like me, who’s a native Mandarin Chinese speaker, be able to come in and explain the law to families and victims, that’s pretty meaningful, especially because I’m a woman, as most of the people who are being attacked are women.
I think what makes a good lawyer is knowing what it means to feel different and seeing things from someone else’s perspective, and being able to build community among many different people. And it’s the reason that NYU is better than almost every other school on that, is because NYU emphasizes the idea that we’re all connected.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Posted December 14, 2022.