2023 Forty Under 40: Derek Lavender

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(IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Partner | Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP

Derek Lavender helps clients protect their intellectual property. He focuses on patent law, working with clients to draft patent applications and rendering legal opinions on issues such as patentability and infringement. Intrigued by engineering and design for much of his life, he enjoys talking with inventors and learning about their technology. “It is very rewarding being able to help an inventor develop a strategy to protect their hard work and make sure they are properly credited,” Lavender said.

Getting here: A childhood curiosity in how things work and having a father who was an attorney sparked an interest in patent law. He pursued an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and gained work experience testing and evaluating vehicles for Harley Davidson Motor Co. Law school led to a job as a legal clerk for Taft in the intellectual property department. “Patent law was the perfect fusion of engineering and law,” Lavender said. “I loved the work and haven’t looked back since.”

First job: He detasseled corn.

Influential moment: A severe vehicle accident in 2016 injured his spinal cord and paralyzed him, leaving uncertain how or whether he could return to the job he loved. But the support from friends, family, co-workers and the legal community ultimately helped him return to working full time. “I was incredibly encouraged to know I could continue down my original career path despite my new limitations,” he said.

Mentors: Fellow Taft attorneys Steve Rost and Ryan White

Givebacks: Lavender works as an adjunct faculty supervisor for the intellectual property clinic at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Besides helping law students, he also helps local entrepreneurs who otherwise might not be able to afford such legal services.

Advice: “Surround yourself with people you respect and want to be like. … Whether you like it or not, the traits of the people you spend time with will likely rub off on you, so it is important to make sure you surround yourself with people that make you a better person.”•

Check out more Forty Under 40 honorees.

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