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SPOTLIGHT ON:(Back to Menu)

IP Practice a Natural Career Extension for Cicero Brabham ’11

Cicero H. Brabham Jr. was the kind of kid who, after playing with a toy for a while, took it apart to see how it worked. And Ms. Gully was the kind of teacher who, when Brabham’s fascination had moved on to electronics, recognized in her student a curiosity and talent that needed to be encouraged. “I would not be where I am today,” he says, “if it were not for the interest my high school teacher, Ms. Gully, took in me.” A member of the Class of 2011 at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, Brabham is eager to combine his new legal knowledge and skills with his two decades of IT and business experience to protect the intellectual property rights of programmers and other innovators like those who captured his youthful imagination.

Growing up in a housing project in Brooklyn, New York’s tough Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Brabham from his earliest years “wanted more than what my surroundings of gang violence, murder, and rising drug culture presented. This life consumed most of my friends into a cycle of incarceration.”

Cicero Brabham family   
Cicero Brabham and his wife, Bernadette, with three of their four children: (l-r) eight-year-old Briana, three-year-old Bethany, and seven-year-old Brandon, on a visit to Washington, DC. Missing from the photo is Bailey, seven-months old.   
His parents had not attended college, so higher education was not a goal to which he gave much thought. It wasn’t until his high school received an endowment of computers and created a computer science class that a clearer road out of Bed-Stuy appeared. “I was instantly attracted to the subject and spent many hours after school learning beyond my classroom lessons.”

Ms. Gully recognized Brabham’s aptitude for computer programming, persuaded him to take the SAT, and encouraged him to apply to her alma mater, Stony Brook University, from which he would receive a B.S. and M.S. in computer science. He first worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories, enjoying success at that incubator of technical innovation and getting an initial familiarity with the patent application process. Next, over the course of almost 15 years, he thrived facing the challenges of coordinating technology efforts for one of the world’s largest financial services firms.

And then he decided to jump off the information technology track and go to law school? “On the contrary,” Brabham emphasizes. “My deliberate plan has always been to bridge my technology background with law, thereby extending my career opportunities.”

Most of Brabham’s IT career was focused on the development of technologies. At AT&T Bell Laboratories, working as a research assistant to computer scientist and Unix pioneer David Korn, he was involved in the design of an enhanced version of the Korn shell, a command language that extended the use of the Unix operating system.

From Bell Labs, Brabham moved to Lehman Brothers, where he spent 14 years in increasingly responsible technology development/management positions in New York, London, Tokyo and India. As a member of the firm’s executive management team that founded the Mumbai office, Brabham was primarily charged with managing the software development operation. “However,” he recalls, “my time there was transformational. It opened my eyes to my potential beyond just creating computer systems.”

Because the India branch was so far removed from Lehman’s home base, the team had a lot of autonomy. This meant that Brabham’s involvement was required in matters that crossed subjects such as contracts, employment law, immigration, intellectual property, and antitrust. “One attorney in particular put the bug in my ear about how much IP law was expanding and that my skill set would be very valuable in the field.”

The encouragement could not have come at a better time. “With my assignment in Mumbai coming to an end, I was looking at my next step. Everything in the development field looked small to me compared to what I had accomplished in India. I spoke to my wife, who recognized that I wanted to do more than just develop IT for the rest of my career. Therefore, with her blessing, I flew to Singapore to take the LSAT and have never looked back.”

   

“When I saw firsthand the level of diversity at Rutgers–Newark, I was sold then and there. And after meeting so many distinguished alumni and seeing how proud they were of the school, I knew I had made the right choice.”


 
The decision to pursue his J.D. at Rutgers–Newark was not a difficult one. As much as Brabham loved his overseas postings, he was eager to return to New Jersey where he and his wife had planted roots in a community that they love. Brabham also wanted a law school that reflects “the diverse worldly outlook that I have come to appreciate in my travels. To be frank,” he adds, “there is not a lot of diversity in engineering. When I saw firsthand the level of diversity at Rutgers–Newark, I was sold then and there. And after meeting so many distinguished alumni and seeing how proud they were of the school, I knew I had made the right choice.”

Even more persuasive was what Brabham read about the Rutgers Community Law Clinic and the opportunity it provides for students to work on IP matters while still in law school. “This sealed the deal,” he states. “Happily, I work in the clinic today and have been involved in matters that have really fortified my IP classroom studies.”

Brabham serves as information technology editor of the Rutgers Law Review and is author of the Law Review note titled “Curiouser and Curiouser: Are Employers the Modern Day Alice in Wonderland? Closing the Ambiguity in Federal Privacy Law as Employers Cyber-Snoop Beyond the Workplace” (62 Rutgers L. Rev. 993, 2010). The publication of that note, with its dedication to his wife, Bernadette, and four children, is his proudest accomplishment as a law student. “We have so many talented students here at Rutgers–Newark,” he explains, “and our school has such a great reputation for producing great legal writers, that to have my words added to the New Jersey legal lexicon has been humbling. It has proven to me that I made the right choice by taking a chance on extending my career path. Now, someday my kids will be able to look up my article and see written proof of how much their daddy loves them. How cool is that!”

Asked how he has successfully juggled law school and a family (the youngest of his four children was born during his law student years), Brabham is quick to give most of the credit to his wife. “Luckily, I am blessed to have married not only the woman I love, but my best friend.” He makes sure that they have “a date night” without kids or talk of school at least once a month. And while it’s not always possible to see his family in the morning, “I try to make sure we are together for dinner. It’s important to me that at some point in the day we are all together.”

“As Lawyers, words are our weapons so we must be sure to use sharp ones.” Says Brabham: “Professor Thomas made that statement to my 1L Criminal Law class. Hearing it and attending his lectures stand to this day as the most impactful in-class experience I’ve had at Rutgers. He taught me everything I know about statutory construction, which is an important concept to know for IP law. In formulating a patent, words are everything and how they are used can have a powerful impact on your work product.”

In September Brabham will join Lerner David Littenberg Krumholz & Mentlik LLP as an associate. He will focus his practice on patent prosecutions, specializing in software technology patents. Brabham reports, “Since passing the Patent Bar, I have already had former colleagues from my IT days approach me about helping them with patenting their work. Some have started their own IT development business. It’s amazing to learn,” he adds, “that the skills I have learned in law school could become applicable so quickly.”