Challenging the Norm

Christian Damon, ’14, transformed his hard-science background into a calculated, dynamic legal career.

With his chemistry background, intellectual property (IP) and patent law immediately intrigued Christian Damon, ’14, who was keen to combine his interest in the sciences with law. Damon comes from a family of lawyers and once thought that being a scientist and a lawyer were mutually exclusive; he has discovered unique practice areas that offer him the chance to be both.

You go from something that is black and white to something that exists only in the gray.

You go from something that is black and white to something that exists only in the gray.

He admitted that he underestimated the challenge of recalibrating the way you learn when entering a completely new field. “In the sciences, there are ‘yes/no’ answers. There are a ton of wrong answers and one right answer. In the law, you have to retrain your brain to think about the degrees of wrongness and the degrees of rightness. There is no such thing as one answer,” he said. “You go from something that is black and white to something that exists only in the gray.”

Damon found support and encouragement at MSU College of Law from Professors Jennifer and Jeff Carter-Johnson, who were also both scientists before pursuing legal careers. “They understood the unique challenges faced by people coming from a hard science background,” he said. “I definitely leaned pretty heavily on them and they were helpful towards me.”

At Jones Day in Chicago, Damon was a member of the firm’s IP litigation group, where he first began practicing Hatch-Waxman litigation. The practice involves disputes between generic and brand pharmaceutical companies, which bridged the gap between Damon’s fields — chemistry and law. He was at Jones Day for three years before moving to an in-house role at Allstate working with the insurer's car sharing and telematics analytics subsidiaries, a move that he characterized as uncommon.

“The position was pretty interesting because it shifted me from one track to a different track,” Damon said. “It was really good timing that that happened, and it was a really unique opportunity to transition away from just being an IP attorney to general corporate law.”

He describes his new position as “completely different” from anything he’s done so far in his career. “I’m not doing litigation. I’m negotiating agreements and partnerships,” he said, adding that he is oftentimes the only attorney working with a particular subsidiary and interacts almost exclusively with a subsidiary’s business team.

While he understands that his career trajectory may be considered non-traditional for the legal profession, he values the opportunities that continue to arise for him, particularly in the vast Chicago market.