A Breed Apart
The job title on Jennifer McCallum's business card proclaims "Attorney at Law - Biotechnology." Yet, to the casual observer, McCallum falls far afield of the typical courtroom counselor. With an undergraduate degree in biology from Colorado State University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Colorado at Boulder, McCallum is a breed apart when it comes to her button-down counterparts. "I guess you could say I'm half scientist and half attorney," she explained recently from her office in the Denver Tech Center.
A northern-California native, McCallum grew up watching her father work on the cutting-edge of the telecommunications industry, and from those early days she has wanted to make a difference with her work. "I wanted to be a part of something fresh, something new," she said. Today, the work the 32-year-old Erie resident dedicates herself to is as close to cutting edge as it comes. With clients including biotechnology start-ups and pharmaceutical conglomerates, McCallum represents firms that specialize in everything from sperm sorting in cattle, sheep and horses to pharmaceutical companies creating cancer treatments. With such a diverse field of specialization, McCallum's expertise is in high demand - demand that often has her traveling at a moment's notice to work with her clients around the globe. Practicing intellectual property law, McCallum is charged with establishing copyrights, trademarks, and patents for her clients that include several universities, genetic technology firms, biotechnology firms and pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Monsanto. When McCallum talks about her work, she often refers to her clients as friends and contends she covets her role as an advocate for those friends. "I'm fascinated by science and business lawn and because of that I'm not ruled by my billable hours," she explained. "Every single day in what I do is different and unique. "One hour, I need to be a scientist, a cell person," she added. "The next, I need to be able to talk about gender control. I need to be able to think in extremely schizophrenic ways."
McCallum's work is par for the course at Blakely, Sokoloff, Taylor & Zafman, her national firm that counts patent work as 70 percent of its caseload. One of the clients McCallum works closely with is the Fort Collins-based XY, Inc. The biotechnology firm is the only company in the world licensed to sort sperm and artificially inseminate animals in an effort to predetermine the sex of offspring. Work at XY, Inc., has made international headlines during its four years of existence as the first firm to control gender and artificially inseminate animals in an effort to predetermine the sex of offspring. Work at XY, Inc., has made international headlines during its four years of existence as the first firm to control gender and artificially inseminate ewes to produce healthy lambs in Australia. According to Chris Maxwell, an associate professor at the University of Sydney's Centre for Advanced Technologies in Animal Genetics and Reproduction, the benefits of this work for sheep breeders is far reaching. "Stud breeders who want high-quality rams for superior wool production want only to produce rams from the best females," he said. "Sperm sorting really affords breeders more flexibility."
The company also is credited with the birth of the first sex-selected foal. On May 5, XY, Inc., announced the birth of "Star Man" - a dark chestnut colt - at its Fort Collins farm and now the firm stands to revolutionize the equine-breeding field. The work in predetermining an offspring's sex could lead to vast advancements in both the equine and dairy industries. As an example, in the United Kingdom, where dairy farmers prefer female calves for their mil production, an average of 600,000 newly born male calves are slaughtered and incinerated each year. In the United States, beef cattle producers also prefer females. Through the work at XY, Inc., the company can help to ensure that every animal born is a wanted animal. "The work with gender control is amazing," McCallum said. "It is preventing the needless slaughter of animals in the dairy industry."
When not focused on work in animal husbandry, McCallum switches gears and advocates for her pharmaceutical clients, hoping to advance her mission of having a healthier human population. Lobbying such entities as the Food and Drug Administration on behalf of her clients also has garnered McCallum national recognition. "I take my work very seriously and I think that shows through with my clients and the people I contact on behalf of my clients," she said. "I feel the need to be political in what I do and that makes me more effective."
McCallum's effectiveness on behalf of her clients also has proven beneficial to Blakely, Sokoloff, Taylor & Zafman, according to Michael DeSanctis, managing partner of the firm's Denver office. "I think one of the things that sets her apart is that she is very good at client development," he said. "Bringing in new clients and retaining the people she has brought to the firm is definitely a strong point." Having recently focused on work in the genetics and biotechnology fields, DeSanctis cited McCallum's experience with her clients as helping to advance the firm's status with such companies. "Working with companies like this is pretty recent and new for us," he said. "Jennifer certainly is helping us to build in that practice area."
With her schedule spanning hours spent at her Fort Collins and Denver offices, coupled by her travel time, McCallum admits she doesn't see her Erie home or her husband, Greg, as often as she would like. A member of the Erie Planning and Zoning Commission, Greg has his own interests to watch over and Jennifer explains she is proud of his contributions to the community. "Greg is very good to me," she said. "He takes care of everything at home and balances his schedule, while doing the laundry and watching over our dogs. He's very good to me and puts up with my crazy life."
Reprinted with permission. Colorado Hometown Newspapers 2005.