Many attorneys have to spend a little time toiling in the industry before becoming a general counsel but John Schierholz became one right out of law school — which he began attending at age 38.
“It just seemed like an opportune time, a useful time to go and learn a lot of things along the way I could put to use in daily activities,” said the native St. Louisan, now 67. “I was getting old enough that I had to do it then or it wasn’t going to happen.”
Schierholz’s employer at the time, a chemical company, was engaged in a legal fight related to a leveraged buyout and decided they needed a top legal officer, so they paid to help Schierholz attend school at night to become the organization’s first.
“Absent my having gone to school and becoming an attorney, they wouldn’t have added a general counsel,” he recalled. “It worked out well to have the expertise in house.”
Since those days, the Saint Louis University graduate has moved on to his current job at Duke Manufacturing where he’s spent the past 16 years.
He finds the issues in the legal world to be intellectually stimulating.
“As with a lot of jobs, there are things which are repetitive and which you deal with over and over,” said Schierholz, “but there are a lot of things that are new and different all the time, new and different for me anyway.”
He said Duke’s values really make it a pleasure to work there.
“The company wants to do the right thing,” he noted. “That’s kind of endemic to its character, staff and leadership. That makes the job a whole lot more enjoyable. We’re trying to figure out how to best position the company to excel and do well while at the same time doing it in an ethical way. That really appeals to me.”
Schierholz’s nominator said that his role involves overseeing more than 70 patents as well as another 30 pending applications. There was also recent litigation.
“With a typical budget for a single-patent case being in excess of $1 million and Duke facing alleged infringement of three patents by the competitor’s representation in one of the country’s top IP firms, John navigated the storm and developed intricate plans to prevail,” they wrote. “John guided the company through the challenging time of the preliminary injunction that barred Duke from selling an important new line of products, counseled on the merits of the case and fought hard to invalidate the competitor’s patents that formed the basis of the injunction.”