In the fall of 2017, Iowa Law alumnus Lata Setty, the Chief Intellectual Property Officer at UnitedLex, and her son, Deven Ramachandran, established the Dr. Satya & Prema Leela Setty Scholarship Fund. The fund honors Ms. Setty’s parents—Deven’s grandparents—and continues the family’s commitment to education by supporting students interested in intellectual property (“IP”) law. Cara Donels, a second-year law student, was the recipient of the scholarship for the 2017–18 academic year. The scholarship helps students by providing financial support for school expenses.
“When I met Leta and her family, they talked about how they wanted to teach their son about the importance of promoting education,” said Ms. Donels. “She explained that her father was a doctor, and that her mother had taught her and her siblings that education was the most important thing.”
Ms. Donels, who studied biology as an undergraduate student, always knew she was interested in a career in intellectual property. After her first year at the Iowa College of Law, she spent the summer working at Rockwell Collins, a world leader in developing aviation technology.
“It was so interesting to work with people on the cutting edge of tech doing the latest and greatest thing,” said Ms. Donels. “It was just great to be exposed to those kinds of people, to be surrounded by people with PhDs and aerospace engineering degrees.”
“I think it’s important to learn how to talk to people who have high-level technical skills,” she continued. “They’ll explain their work to you at a high level, but even if you’re well versed in the subject you still need to get them to explain it at a more general level so you can be sure you’re planning for all the potential economic implications, etc. that you need to anticipate from the legal side.”
When it came to her legal work at Rockwell Collins, Ms. Donels spent much of her time in the company’s advanced technology center, where she focused on a variety of contract issues.
“I primarily did nondisclosure agreements with the research institutes, and I also went into the federal acquisition agreements that [Rockwell Collins] has to adhere to,” Ms. Donels said.
She also had the opportunity to do “crown jewel” projects, which entail identifying the company’s best intellectual property assets and strategizing how best to protect them.
For her 2L summer, Ms. Donels will be continuing her pursuit of IP law as a summer associate at the law firm of Fredrickson and Byron. In addition to building on her foundation of IP law experience, Ms. Donels hopes this summer’s experience will allow her to explore other areas of law that are closely related to IP.
“[The firm indicated that] I will be able to do more transactional IP work, as well as get broader business law experience—so that’s something I am looking forward to,” she said.
Ms. Donels noted the significance of being well-versed in multiple areas of law, even if you are aiming to focus your career in a specialized area of IP, like patent law.
“I’ve taken a lot of patent-related courses at Iowa, but I’ll be taking more of the general IP courses next year as well,” she explained. “It’s important not only to take IP, but business and administrative law as well—especially since you will need admin law for issues concerning the United States Patent and Trademark Office.”