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Heels of Justice

Feb 15, 2019

Welcome to Heels of Justice, these are the stories of women lawyers who are trailblazers in their field, and paved the way for the rest of us.

Today, the Heels of Justice interview Sasha G. Rao, Chair of Maynard Cooper & Gale’s Intellectual Property Practice, in San Francisco. Click here for Sasha’s full bio.


Key Takeaways

[:45] Sarita welcome Sasha G. Rao to the Heels of Justice, and asks her to describe what her role entails, day to day.

[2:04] Sasha delves into her background and history, from Bangalore to Lynchburg, Virginia for her college years.

[5:56] What took Sasha to law school after so seriously considering engineering and science? And how was the experience?

[7:40] Sarita asks Sasha if there is a difference between working in a southern firm as opposed to a Silicon Valley firm, in the IP field.

[9:25] “Write your own ticket” Maynard Cooper’s intriguing opportunity. And the difference that opportunity has provided.

[12:15] Sarita asks if Sasha can give a bit of a history and framework in regards to the state of the law surrounding drone technology or “flying taxis”.

[18:25] The three categories that need to be reflected upon to make air taxis a reality.

[24:01] Are there laws that already apply or is this still all in the works? Can the autonomous car laws be used in the air taxi framework?

[27:36] So how far away are we to autonomous flying taxis? Much sooner than we all think…

[28:30] On a different note, Sarita asks what Sasha’s experience in law was, from the perspective of a South-Asian woman.

[33:16] What does Sasha think about law firms building and retaining diversity in their workforce?

[33:59] Does Sasha agree with the idea that the odds are lower for a lawyer of diverse background to be retained by a client than that of say, a caucasian male attorney?

[35:57] How does Sasha advocate for herself?

[39:14] Sarita asks Sasha G. Rao if she has a personal mantra and thanks her for participating on the Heels of Justice podcast, and she signs off until next time.

That’s it for this episode of Heels of Justice, if you like the stories we’re telling, please visit our website. You can join our mailing list, learn more about our guests and see what we have planned for the future.

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Disclaimer: The opinions you have heard are ours or our guest’s alone. They’re not the opinions of our employers, or our clients, or our bosses, and not our husbands, kids or pets or anyone else’s.


Mentioned in this episode (chronological order)

Maynard Cooper & Gale


Indian Institute of Science

Hindustan Aeronautics Laboratory

Indian Space Research Organization

Randolph-Macon College

NYU School of Law

Dean Emeritus John Sexton – NYU School of Law

(Fish & Neaves) now Ropes & Grey

UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Recreational Quadcopter

Amazon drones

Self-piloted Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing Aircraft (Air Taxis)

Urban Air Mobility

Part 107 FAA: Certificated Remote Pilots including Commercial Operators (drones under 55 pounds)

Ropes & Grey LLP

Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996)

  1. Edward Bailey


More about the Heels of Justice, Sarita Venkat and Katherine Minarik

Heels of Justice on the Web

Heels of Justice on Twitter

Heels of Justice on Instagram

Heels of Justice on Facebook


Sarita Venkat on LinkedIn

Katherine Minarik on LinkedIn

Katherine Minarik on Twitter

Katherine Minarik at cleverbridge


Sasha G. Rao’s personal stories (edited)

“You know when you grew up in India, especially in Bangalore, it’s  kind of expected that you’d be good at science and math, and studied a lot of science and math in high school. So when I came to Randolph-Macon, I naturally gravitated towards science and math, and my physics professor used to be amazed that I could do mathematics in my head. He would ask me integration problems and I would know the answer within seconds of his question.”


“I have always been interested in aircraft, and I wanted to be a pilot as a kid but I could not because I had poor eyesight. So later on, I had always wanted to represent an aviation company and when the opportunity presented itself after I joined Maynard, I jumped on it! I started to look around for helpful information and I found there wasn’t much out there, so I started thinking about what one might need in order to make air taxis a reality... So imagine a world where instead of calling a car on your rideshare app, and going from your house to my house: Imagine a world where you could use a similar app to call an air taxi to land at a nearby vertiport and you could hop in it and it will fly to someplace near my house and you could just walk over!”


“After I made partner at Fish & Neaves, we merged into Ropes & Grey, and I thought it was very important that I had business of my own. I thought that I could easily get that business, and for about a five year period I was simply unable to generate my own business and I was relying heavily on institutional clients. Well the firm was perfectly happy with me just working on institutional clients, so there was no pressure from Ropes & Grey to do anything different, but I personally thought that it was very important. So I spent a lot of time talking to new companies to see what they were looking for in a lawyer or a law firm. Well it led me to getting very good at rejection. So I can’t overstate it but: you have to be totally super humble because you’re gonna get a lot of rejection and I must’ve been rejected thousands of times.”


“So I was working at Fish & Neaves, I was a first year associate in a mega competitor lawsuit with at least a billion dollars at stake for the companies, and I was the tenth lawyer on the case – meaning the lowest, most junior person on the team. The supreme court had just ruled on Markman v. Westview Instruments in 1996. And I remember saying to my teammates “Hey, this decision came out, I think we need to request the court to tell us what it intends to do with the claims in this case”. So basically, when it came time to argue the Markman hearing, we had a team meeting and the lead counsel on the case – who was the managing partner at Fish & Neaves at the time, Ed Bailey – said “Who should argue this?”, he just threw it out to the whole team, and I raised my hand and I said I think I should argue it. He asked me why I thought that, and I told him; because I had written the brief, and I knew the position well, and I knew it inside out. He was persuaded and he let me do it!”


More about Sasha G. Rao

Sasha G. Rao at Maynard Cooper & Gale LLP

Sasha G. Rao on LinkedIn