Monthly Feature: Get to Know... Jessica L. Copeland
August 1, 2021
Since she was in second grade and wrote the all-too-familiar essay on “what do you want to be when you grow up?,” Jessica Copeland knew she wanted to be a lawyer. Fast-forward to high school, where her favorite after-school activity was Mock Trial. You would think when she went to college she would major in history or political science and head straight to law school. Well, not quite.
See, along the way, Jessica developed a passion for math and science. So, when it came time to consider selecting majors in college, Jessica veered off this path, instead deciding to major in mathematics and chemistry and pursue a pre-med curriculum (because being a doctor just made sense). So, every morning, she boarded her westbound 6:03 a.m. train out of Wantagh, New York, to New York University.
“I loved every minute of my commute, despite how strange that might have seemed to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) lifers all around me,” Jessica says of her years shuttling between home and Lower Manhattan. “I loved watching the sprawling suburbia of Nassau County dissolve into the concrete canyons of the city. I enjoyed walking from Penn Station to West 4th Street and soaking up the energy of the city.”
But there was one hitch in her plan. Impatience.
Jessica realized that if she focused solely on a mathematics degree and returned to her pursuit of law school, she would be able to start her career at age 23. To do so would require summer classes and overloading most semesters, but the result seemed worth it to her. After crunching the numbers, the decision was easy.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from NYU in just three years, then attended St. John’s University School of Law. Law school afforded Jessica the opportunity to explore several areas of the law, but the ones that piqued her interest most were those involving intellectual property (IP) and civil procedure. This led her to pursue a summer internship during her second summer in law school with Morgan & Finnegan LLP, a well-regarded boutique IP law firm located in midtown Manhattan. Because the firm was entirely focused on intellectual property, she was able to focus on the various nuances of practicing IP law, from patent prosecution to litigation and transactional work. She quickly found herself drawn toward the fast-paced intensity of patent litigation.
That summer, Jessica also met her future partner and husband, who had started the previous fall as a first-year associate with the firm, after growing up in rural Wyoming County, New York. They quickly found common ground after realizing they had both decided to graduate college a year early.
Fast-forward five years. The couple was working insane hours for two different New York City law firms and expecting their first child.
“We were like ships passing in the night,” Jessica says. “It was the right time to make a change.”
When her husband was offered an in-house position in Buffalo, they made their move with their 1-month-old son in tow.
The harsh Buffalo winters weren’t the toughest adjustment for the Brooklyn-born Jessica. It was the llamas.
“We moved into our house in March and, one of the first mornings, I remember looking in the backyard and seeing animals that were not dogs and not horses,” Jessica says. “That was the moment I learned my neighbors have llamas.”
After several months at home with the baby (and llamas), Jessica began to contemplate a return to work – and also wondered if there’d be enough patent litigation work in Buffalo to fill her professional plate.
“After I resigned from my first law firm in New York, it was a professionally and emotionally challenging time for me,” she says. “I took the time off to learn what I wanted to do – and figure out what returning to work as a mom would look like.”
She was on the cusp of enrolling in chemistry courses at the University of Buffalo, in preparation for the patent bar exam, when Hodgson Russ offered her a job as a commercial litigator. She stayed for the next nine years, expanding the scope of her litigation experience from purely patent litigation to a broad array of complex commercial disputes and, during that time, developed an interest in the emerging field of cybersecurity and data privacy law.
“It was a return to familiar territory – working on cutting edge technology, just like patent work,” Jessica said. “So, I started on my own to learn aspects of cybersecurity and data privacy law and pair that knowledge with my understanding of computer hardware and software and the legal parameters of protecting individuals’ data.”
She joined Bond’s cybersecurity and data privacy and IP practices in Fall 2019 and recently was named chair of the cybersecurity and data privacy practice.
Reflecting on why she came to Bond, Jessica relayed that she was fortunate to have known Jeremy Oczek in the Buffalo office from their work in 2012 on the Western District of New York local patent rules and appreciated learning of his successes at Bond.
“When I came to meet Jim Rooney (managing member of Bond’s Buffalo office) and Jeremy for an initial interview, it was a very easy, refreshing and synergistic conversation, and we were definitely on the same page in terms of growing the cybersecurity work and Bond’s Buffalo office,” Jessica says. “It was really a perfect opportunity for me to make a career move.”
“I proudly refer to myself as a nerd,” she says. “I was president of math club in my high school. I enjoy all jokes related to pi. And my children seem to be carrying on those interests in math and science. They appreciate when Mom (who serves on the Buffalo Museum of Science’s board of managers) takes them to the museum and digs into one of the various permanent or traveling exhibits there.”
When she’s not working at Bond, Jessica is involved in several community nonprofit organizations, coaches her kids’ sports teams, works out fanatically (she’s an avid runner and spinner), teaches data science and analytics as an adjunct professor at Buffalo State College and spends precious time with her family.
Going from math major to commercial litigator to cybersecurity and IP lawyer “definitely was not the traditional path,” Jessica says. “But it worked out well for me. I truly enjoy what I do and I wouldn’t change a step.”