3L Victoria Tomoko Carrington uses love of science to build a career in patent law

Oct 13, 2022 | Belonging & Access

During her time in undergraduate working towards a degree in biochemistry, it was medical school – not law school – that was on Victoria Tomoko Carrington’s radar for post-graduation plans.

But then she heard about the field of patent law, where she could use her scientific background to help advocate for the people at the forefront of innovations in the STEM fields.

“It’s so cool to get to work with inventors, the people coming up with things that no one else has ever heard of,” she said. “I think it’s incredibly important to have lawyers there, to advocate for inventors and scientists and physicians and engineers. I like to think of myself as a bridge. I want to be here to help translate what’s going on in the science world.”

After spending so much time in that scientific world, making the shift to the legal world was no easy feat. Carrington says she was “terrified” to take the legal writing class as a first-year law student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

“It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I really struggled with it. Coming from the science background, I didn’t do any major writing during my whole undergraduate degree.”

Carrington didn’t let that derail her. In fact, she leaned into the struggle and improved her writing skills, especially through being a Quinney Research Fellow with Professor Jorge Contreras.

As a research fellow, Carrington worked closely with Professor Contreras on a research project focused on the intellectual property landscape surrounding a new Assisted Reproductive Technology called in vitro gametogenesis (IVG). IVG is an experimental technique that allows scientists to create embryos in a lab by reprogramming skin or blood cells to become sperm and egg cells.

Carrington and Professor Contreras presented their cutting-edge research at the Intellectual Property Scholars Conference, held at Stanford University this past August.

“It was just amazing to get to go out and actually present research while still being a student,” she said. “The conference was filled with professors and renowned IP scholars, so getting to interact and network with people like that was amazing.”

Carrington is appreciative of the mentorship she received from Professor Contreras as well as professors Teneille Brown and Leslie Francis as part of the Law and Biomedical Sciences (LABS) Scholar program.

“Law school is really short, only three years,” she said. “So being able to work with faculty on such a close level and get something published and get my name out there is a great help to me and my future career.”

The research she did with Professor Contreras helped improve her legal writing skills even further, to the point where she is now currently a teacher’s assistant for the 1L Legal Methods class. Now she helps first-year law students tackle the challenges of legal writing she herself faced just a few short years ago.

As she finishes up her final year in law school, Carrington plans to leave a legacy behind at the S.J. Quinney College of Law by revitalizing the Asian and Pacific Islander student organization for law students.

“I was a 1L when the Atlanta Asian spa shootings happened, and law classes were completely remote because of COVID,” she said. “I had this feeling of such isolation. I wanted to have a community that understood and could support one another. And so when I found out that this organization used to exist at S.J. Quinney and doesn’t exist anymore, I immediately wanted to resurrect it. I don’t know how much I can do in just one year, but I’m trying to foster a sense of community for other students who come from the background of being Asian or Pacific Islander.”

After graduation this spring, Carrington will take a position with Maschoff Brennan, a local IP law firm where she has worked the past two summers.

“This is such a booming time to be in science and engineering in Utah,” she said. “I really enjoy the blending of the two worlds that patent law provides – working with the people who want to do the legal analysis and the writing and the advocating but also want to be on the ground inventing. It’s just so much fun.”