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I recently had an opportunity to talk with Kimberly Bullock Gatling, a board certified specialist in trademark law. Kim began her education as an electrical engineering major at North Carolina A&T State University, and continued on to George Washington University Law School where she earned her law degree. Following law school, Kim worked for Rhodes and Mason for 18 months before joining the firm of Smith Moore Leatherwood in 2001. In 2008, Kim became the first African American to make partner in the nearly 100-year history of Smith Moore Leatherwood’s Greensboro office. Smith Moore Leatherwood combined with Fox Rothschild in November 2018. She currently serves as a partner at Fox Rothschild where she manages a portfolio of patents and trademarks. Kim took on an additional role in June 2020 when she became Fox Rothchild’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer. In this role, she works to develop and implement programs and policies that support the firm’s goals of increasing and promoting a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment at all levels.

Kim contributes to her community through her long-standing volunteer commitments. She chairs the board of the United Way of Greater Greensboro and works to ensure that each program and initiative makes a positive impact on the community. She is also vice-chair of the Cone Health Foundation, which invests in the development and support of activities, programs, and organizations that measurably improve the health of people in the greater Greensboro area. Additionally, Kim is on the Board of Trustees for North Carolina A&T State University and has held leadership positions with Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society, Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and The Links, Incorporated, among other organizations.

Q: Tell us about yourself?

I am a native of Hampton, Virginia, and came to North Carolina to attend my beloved alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. I went on to George Washington University Law School, where I earned my law degree, and immediately returned to Greensboro to start my legal career over 20 years ago. My practice consists of managing global patent and trademark portfolios, intellectual property litigation, and drafting and negotiating technology licenses. My husband and I are the proud parents of three sons, and I am actively involved in the community, including with the United Way of Greater Greensboro, the Cone Health Foundation, and the North Carolina AT&T Board of Trustees.

Q: What led you to become a lawyer?

Growing up, I always wanted to be like my father, who was an aerospace engineer at NASA. So I went to college and majored in engineering like he did. In my junior year, while I was attending a graduate school fair, a perfect stranger asked me a question that changed my trajectory—“Have you ever thought about being a patent attorney, which combines engineering and law?” I had never heard of patent law. He gave me the phone number of his daughter, a practicing patent attorney, and she told me about her work in the field. I decided that same day to build on my degree in engineering and go into law.

Q: Why did you pursue becoming a board certified specialist in trademark law?

I promised myself that I would never take another test after the bar exam and the US Patent registration exam. Nonetheless, when the opportunity arose to become a specialist, I couldn’t resist, despite knowing it would require another exam. I viewed it as an opportunity to distinguish myself from other attorneys who dabble in trademark work, and to establish credibility with clients.

Q: How has certification been helpful to your career?

I certainly believe the certification has helped my business development efforts. For example, I believe that clients are intrigued when they Google attorneys and discover that there are certified specialists in a field such as intellectual property law, and I am among that group. It is also a great talking point when discussing my experience and level of skill.

Q: What would you say to encourage other lawyers to pursue certification?

I would advise other attorneys not to be discouraged by the exam requirement. If an attorney meets the other requirements for specialization, which include dedicating a significant portion of their practice to that area of law, they already have the knowledge and skills needed to pass the exam and earn the certification.

Q: What aspect of the daily job of being a lawyer interests you the most?

I love getting to know my clients’ businesses and understanding their business strategies. It helps me to be a better counselor because I’m able to assess the issue that needs to be resolved or the intellectual property that needs to be protected, in context. That allows me to present custom legal options that advance the client’s unique interests.

Q: Tell us about your work as Fox Rothschild's chief diversity and inclusion officer?

In this critical role I am charged with strategic oversight of the firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, working closely with the firm’s Executive Committee, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, affinity groups, and our marketing, recruiting, professional development, and human resources departments. My task is to ensure that all of our programs and policies support a fully inclusive workplace and contribute to creating a firm culture in which it is understood that celebrating our differences enables us to better serve our clients, provides opportunities for new business, and strengthens the richness of our firm.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever given/received?

My advice, particularly to young attorneys, is to take risks while you can. There will be a time in your life when there will be external factors that limit your ability to do so.

Q: What is your immediate next goal in life?

My next professional goal is to launch my firm’s comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. We are already hard at work on developing it. I look forward to not only launching it, but also helping to drive implementation. My next personal goal is to carve out more time for myself for exercise, rest, and fun. 

For more information on board certification for lawyers, visit us online at The application period for 2021 will open in March.