Breaking IP Barriers: Law 360 Q&A With Harrity’s Elaine Spector

In a refreshing Q&A with Law360, Elaine Spector, a partner at Harrity & Harrity LLP, shares her journey in patent law, shedding light on the challenges and triumphs of being a woman in a male-dominated field. Spector, who specializes in electromechanical technologies, has been instrumental in shaping leave policies at multiple firms, including Harrity, to better support parents in the legal profession.

Spector shares that she’s just as proud to be a mother of three children as she is to be an attorney, going so far as to list “Wife and Mom” as a two-decade-long career on LinkedIn.

“She says she wants to normalize the fact that parents can speak openly about their families and the effort they take, without coming off as lacking dedication to their legal work — something that has not always been possible.”

Spector’s interest in patent law began at a family party when she expressed her dual passion for engineering and law. This led her to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, where she was one of only a few women in her class. Despite facing gender biases, Spector excelled and passed the patent bar exam in her second year of law school at the University of Baltimore.

Spector recounts her early career experiences, including an uncomfortable lunch at an elite country club where she was the only woman. Despite such challenges, she remained determined and focused on her career. Her tenacity paid off as she moved through various prestigious firms, eventually joining Harrity & Harrity in 2017.

A significant part of Spector’s story revolves around her efforts to balance a demanding career with motherhood. She and a colleague successfully advocated for a 12-week maternity leave policy at their firm, a significant improvement over the existing two-week leave. However, Spector still faced obstacles, such as a denied request for additional unpaid leave after her second child, leading her to seek more flexible opportunities elsewhere.

At Harrity & Harrity, Spector has continued to champion for parental leave policies, ensuring that all parents, including support staff, receive the leave they need. The firm now offers 12-16 weeks of paid leave for birthing parents and four weeks of bonding leave for non-birthing parents.

Spector’s journey is a testament to the importance of inclusivity and support for parents in the legal profession. Her story highlights the need for firms to adapt and provide flexible working conditions to retain talented professionals, especially women who are often forced to choose between career and family.

Spector’s efforts have not only impacted her own career but have also paved the way for future generations of attorneys. By normalizing discussions about family and advocating for better leave policies, she has contributed significantly to making the IP law field more inclusive.

Elaine Spector’s story is part of an ongoing series by Law360, highlighting the experiences of attorneys who are breaking barriers in the IP law field. Read her full interview here.