Angela J. Grayson
Principal & Founder
Precipice IP PLLC
Education: B.S., chemistry, Delta State University in Mississippi; M.S., physical chemistry, University of Mississippi; J.D., law, University of Mississippi School of Law
Professional background: Before starting Precipice IP in 2015, Grayson was in-house IP counsel for several Fortune 500 companies, including Pfizer Inc., Eli Lilly and Co., E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (DuPont) and Wal-Mart Stores. She also worked in the examining corps for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
What brought you to Northwest Arkansas? The same thing that brings just about everyone here — Walmart. I started at Walmart leading the patent operations team. As Associate General Counsel, Intellectual Property and Patent Operations Team Lead, I was hired to build out the Home Office patent program. I joined Walmart to help build the team, help define the patent strategy and help manage the team’s KPIs.
What are the attributes of a good leader? There are many leadership attributes, but personally, I focus on what I consider the most important attribute, which is recognizing that leadership is really about elevating others to achieve.
Describe life as an IP attorney. It’s definitely the coolest. My clients do not expect me to walk around in a suit and heels because they don’t. My clients are software engineers, chemists, product designers and serial entrepreneurs. As a former scientist, I can definitely identify with my client base. I get to hang around people who are brilliant trying to create something special everyday, and being around that creative energy makes me feel like I have chosen the right thing to do as a profession.
Best advice you’ve ever received? Something my grandfather told me when I was in college. He said to me, “You should always do what you love. And sometimes that means finding what you love about what you do.” I still live by that advice today. I think it makes me young at heart.
What was your biggest career break? That came when I got a job at the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a patent examiner pretty much right out of law school. As a patent examiner, I had an opportunity to see the patent system from the inside-out so to speak. It gave me tremendous respect for the office, and the people who work hard everyday on our behalf issuing valuable IP rights. I am still very proud to have had that job, and I consider the boss who hired me a cherished friend to this day.
We hear all the time that Northwest Arkansas is a great place to live. What’s one area that needs improvement? Better access to early stage startup funding. Quite a few avenues for capital exist for small businesses once a product is on the market — for example commercial banks, angel investors, etc., but getting to the prototype or proof of concept stage can be a real struggle for early stage companies. I would love to see NWA become a leader in a public/private grant initiative to help undercapitalized innovation-intensive startups acquire the capital they need to start off on the right foot.
To unwind, I like to … garden, garden, garden! I love to work with plants outdoors until I’m utterly exhausted.
What’s the last book you read? This is a tough one for me because I read books all the time, whether science, business or fiction. If I could rephrase the question, one of my favorite titles is “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing. It’s a book about Ernest Shackleton’s exploration of Antarctica and his incredible leadership and perseverance.
Who’s the person(s) you admire most? The person I most admire is someone who is no longer with me. My grandmother. She passed away when I was a first-year law student. She was probably the most elegant blend of strength and kindness of any person I have ever known.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? When I can actually help obtain intellectual property rights for my clients or help a client with an intellectual property strategy right for their business. I feel like, “Yeah! Who’s next?”
I wish I knew how to … play guitar. I love music; especially given I’m from the hometown of Muddy Waters. I have a guitar that my husband bought for me about five years ago, and I’ve been trying to find the time to dedicate to learning how to play. I’ve been trying off and on for years. I wish I were better, but sometimes it’s more about the journey!