From the Lab to the Law

Lisa Tumarkin Haile ’82 has transitioned training as a cancer researcher into a legal career that combines expertise in life sciences and intellectual property protection.

(Photo courtesy of Lisa Tumarkin Haile ’82) (Photo courtesy of Lisa Tumarkin Haile ’82)

Lisa Tumarkin Haile ’82 admits she tends to get bored easily. At work, however, that’s never an issue.

Part scientist, part lawyer, Haile is one of the world’s most sought-after experts in the field of intellectual property protection. Helping a diverse set of clients protect and patent life-saving discoveries, she’s a high-tech hybrid constantly in demand.

As a partner at the international law firm of DLA Piper—and co-chair of its Global Life Sciences Sector—one minute Haile might be collaborating on advances in bacteria-related medicine. The next, she’s advising a stem cell technology company. Then it’s on to the latest developments in bladder cancer or getting regulatory approval for a new drug.

“Every hour I’m working on something different,” she says. “Because of my technical background, I understand both the science and legal aspects. I’ll always be a scientist at heart, but I’m a scientist who specializes in the law.”

Top Lawyer, Top Alumni

Recently named one of America’s top 75 female lawyers by the National Law Journal, Haile has represented five Nobel Prize winners, secured the first-ever U.S. patent for methods of making parthenogenetic stem cells, and earned recognition from Lawdragon magazine as “one of the top patent lawyers in the world.”

Now, she can add one more accolade to her stellar career: Rollins College’s 2015 Alumni Achievement Award, given annually to a handful of alumni who make a remarkable difference at Rollins, in their profession and in their community.

“Lisa is a remarkable talent,” says Christina Martini, a fellow partner at DLA Piper. “She consistently demonstrates terrific legal and business acumen and judgment in all that she does, and she is the quintessential trusted advisor that we all strive to be. She has a stellar reputation in the legal and scientific communities as both an exceptional lawyer and as a professional who is making a positive difference for others in the world.”

How She Got Her Start

Midway through her time at Woodward High School in Rockville, Maryland, Haile fell in love with biology, science, and medicine. The subject matter came easy to her, and it didn’t hurt that one of the people she admired most in life—her grandfather—was a doctor.

Haile enrolled at Rollins because, in addition to a renowned biology department, the school offered a water ski team. “I was never the star,” she says, “but I was content in that role.”

Where Haile did star was in the classroom. Under biology professors Persis “Perky” Coleman and David I. Richard, she laid the groundwork to earn her PhD in microbiology and immunology from Georgetown University School of Medicine.

During her post-doctoral studies as a cancer researcher at what is now Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, California, Haile was ready for a change of pace. Reading the L.A. Times, she learned about law firms hiring PhDs as technical advisors to patent agents.

“The idea intrigued me,” says Haile, who took the concept one step further by enrolling at California Western School of Law, putting her on a path to pursue even greater roles in the legal profession.

After earning her law degree, Haile joined Fish & Richardson P.C. in 1992 and went on to become a partner before she left seven years later for Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. In 2005, that firm merged with DLA and Piper Rudnick to become DLA Piper, where she has been ever since—and where she plans to stay.

Balancing Work and Play

DLA Piper boasts 3,500 attorneys, with 1,500 in the United States. As a partner, member of the firm’s executive committee, and co-chair of the Global Life Sciences Sector, Haile puts in the requisite long hours and can often be found on conference calls with people on the other side of the globe in the middle of the night.

Yet as a single mother—daughter Reyna is a sophomore at the University of Denver—Haile makes it a priority to balance work with family time and her passion for travel and thoroughbred horses. Hennythelovepenny, one of the fillies owned by her syndicate, even raced in last year’s Breeder’s Cup.

“At Rollins, I learned that there was a time I had to get serious about work and studying, and there was a time to have fun,” says Haile, who was a member of the Non Compis Mentis sorority.

“Coming out of high school, I was a bit of an introvert. But in college, I was able to make lifelong friendships and have a lot of fun,” she says. “Winning the Alumni Achievement Award makes me really proud, because the core of my science background was developed at Rollins.”