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Jim Bollinger 1986

Jim Bollinger '86

When Jim Bollinger studied engineering as an undergraduate at Tufts University, his professors talked about the importance of “thinking like an engineer.” When, a few years later, he was studying law at Pace, his professors emphasized the need to “think like a lawyer.”

Today, Bollinger, a partner in the litigation practice at Morgan Lewis, says he thinks like both an engineer and a lawyer in his work handling patent and trademark cases. “The funny thing is,” he says, “thinking like a lawyer isn’t much different than thinking like an engineer. It’s a way of thinking outside the box and creatively attacking an issue by using problem-solving strategies.”

Bollinger brings those strategies to bear as a trial attorney, representing such clients as Merrill Lynch, The Gillette Company, Lehman Brothers, MIT, and Yale University. He often draws on his chemical engineering background in cases representing clients in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, polymer and organic chemistry. “I’ve always been interested in science and biotechnology,” he says.

Bollinger worked full time while attending Pace Law School at night—a schedule that left little free time, but made for the forging of strong friendships. “Among Pace night students there was a lot of camaraderie,” he recalls. “We were all going through a kind of collective suffering: holding down day jobs, maintaining our relationships at home, and going to law school. We all knew we were in a competitive environment, but it never translated into anything negative. We were dependent on each other and we pulled together.”

While grueling, especially since his job working for the chemical engineering division of an oil company required travel, Bollinger says many times his work, family, and student lives intersected. “I’d been through several real estate deals, I was involved in a patent lawsuit at work, and those were things I’d be studying in my law classes at night. Even in my first year at Pace, I was studying things that I could relate to what I was doing at work. It really helped me integrate what I was learning in school. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Though he’s handled hundreds of cases since, Bollinger says he never approaches a new case in quite the same way. “Every case is different and you can’t do a cookie-cutter approach to any one,” he says. “It’s nice to have experience and use what worked in your last case to bear on the present one, but you still always need to come up with a creative way to address a new problem.”

That sounds an awful lot like thinking like an engineer. And a lawyer.