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Alumni Spotlight – Joseph Kish

Joseph Kish
Joseph Kish (JD '88) is a shareholder with Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney. Throughout his career as a litigator, Kish has represented business clients in commercial, technology, intellectual property, and employment matters. We talked to Joseph Kish about his career and his time at DePaul Law.

Q. Why did you choose to attend DePaul Law?
I grew up in Michigan and always loved Chicago. At the time I applied to law school, I was living in Boston having worked there for a couple of years after college (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) as a financial consultant for banks.

When I decided to go to law school I debated between staying in Boston or going Chicago or the West Coast. I've always been a fan of California. In fact, the first 13 years I practiced were in California.

However, I liked DePaul because I knew I wanted to go into litigation and trial work. DePaul was built for that at the time. A lot of good judges and trial attorneys went there. So, for a number of reasons we decided to settle into Chicago.

Q. What were some of your notable experiences at DePaul Law (classes, teachers, extracurriculars, etc.)?
It was a long three years, but they went by in a blur. Some of my favorite professors were Jeff Shaman, Terry Kiely (who taught a very good, practical-oriented class in products liability), and John Decker (criminal law). I took a lot of business-oriented courses too, but IP wasn't on my radar. Many of my classes were anything related to litigation, although ironically, I never took trial advocacy but now I teach it. I knew I wanted to litigate, to be in the court room. Beyond that, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to keep my options and my mind open.

Q. What have you been currently focusing on in your career?
My focus tends to be based on the client's needs. For example, five years ago, most of my entire caseload was in trade secrets. Now I still do a lot of trade secrets but not nearly that amount. Now it's a lot of trade dress (legal term of art that generally refers to characteristics of the visual appearance of a product or its packaging), copyright and trademark infringement. I've done patents in the past too. It ebbs and flows based on what the client's needs are at any given time.

A big part of trade secrets is employee mobility, so in addition to trade secrets, it would involve confidentiality clauses, non-competes, non-disclosure agreements, and other types of restrictive covenant litigation. Although some of these cases concern competing companies stealing from one another, it's primarily employee-driven.

The interesting thing about trade secrets is that it is very fact driven. The law is very straight forward - even before there was the Defend Trade Secrets Act. Virtually every state has a trade secrets statute that's based in large part on the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

Another reason these cases are so fascinating is that they deal with people stealing things; people's motivations to do bad things I find very interesting. In these types of cases, everyone wants to get a head start. They want to go to the new company and hit the ground running and don't want to honor their prior restrictive covenants so they will just take stuff that's not theirs or take stuff that's arguably may or may not be theirs. That's where it gets tricky. A lot of times companies don't document who owns what. That's why you deal with this on the back end during litigation, when it's not entirely sure who owns the thing that you're fighting over.

You read about cybersecurity issues and all of the computer devices and tech devices that are supposed to keep this from happening, but really, it's the human element that drives this. In one case, the guy didn't take anything off the computer. He printed stuff out and walked out on the last day with 600 pages under his arm. He did it over a period of time where it was very hard to detect. You're never going to lock it down completely.

Q. What are some other legal trends you've noticed?
I see employee mobility cases on the rise.

I think there's a real heightened awareness about sexual misconduct as a result of #MeToo and the prevelance of sexual harassment in the news, so that entire area of employment law should see a rise soon.

In intellectual property, cybersecurity is growing in popularity, but I see that as 'old wine in a new bottle'. What I've found is that I've had the skills to do those kinds of cases for years and it's just a matter of applying it them a slightly different context.

I think what's lost on a lot of people is the human element. What people should not do in law school is become technocrats. It's the persons behind the crimes that always drive everything, and that's true for virtually every area of law that I've ever touched.

I was briefly a prosecutor – loaned out from my first firm to get trial experience. Obviously human motivation is key there and at the top of everyone's attention. But in my career, that has always been the crucial behind the scenes factor. The human element, what people are thinking, and the motivation of things.

My advice for anyone in law school is to develop the habit of asking the 'why?' Get the 'why' behind everything that you're doing, because that will help you get to the finish line in the best way for your client. If you try jury cases, the jury always wants to know the 'why?' Always wonder if the jury is getting the 'why?' question answered. Judges too. If you can get your arms around that, you're going to be way ahead.

Q. What are some of your other accomplishments?
I have been married for 35 years. Despite the rigors of this practice, you can achieve some notion of balance (and I hate to say balance), but you can do more than just the law. You can be one of those people who do nothing but the law at the expense of life, on the other hand you don't have to be. Law is part of my life and it's a big part of my life, but it's not my entire life.

Q. Can you describe the DePaul Alumni network?
The thing I liked about DePaul was that it seemed very approachable and very friendly. That's continued to this day. And for the most part it was that way during school. It really is an approachable educational experience.