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Norman F. Oblon

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//October 13, 2009

Norman F. Oblon

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//October 13, 2009

Norman F. Oblon

Has built one of the largest IP law firms in the country, while mentoring young IP lawyers

Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt
1940 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 413-3000

[email protected]

BS, Drexel University
JD, George Washington University

Who was your most important mentor and how did that mentor impact your career?

Shozo Saotome, former director of Mitsubishi Chemical of Tokyo, Japan, taught me how to work with Japanese companies at a time (1969) when Japan was still considered to be a minor developing country. His friendship and support enabled me to develop my business in Japan.

What do you consider your biggest personal accomplishment and why?

I applied what I learned in developing my Japanese clientele to the European market and found surprisingly that European companies had the same difficulties in working with the U.S. as did the Japanese. This knowledge enabled me to develop a European clientele almost equal in size to the Japanese clientele.

What is the best bit of advice you ever received?

Mr. Saotome advised me to invest in people – not in things. Find the smartest, most ambitious people available and invest heavily in their development.

How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and your personal life?

First, recognize that law is a humanistic endeavor. Therefore, the best lawyers are also the most well-rounded people. The lawyer who only works and does not engage in all that life offers may not be the most effective lawyer. Once this concept is accepted, it becomes quite easy to find an appropriate balance between one’s professional and personal lives.

If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what field would you have entered?

I would have established a chemical manufacturing company. Other life events interfered with my plan to start such a company. Subsequently, I did start a technology marketing company. The law firm was intended to be a side business to support the marketing company. As it turned out, the law firm became successful much faster than the marketing company, so the marketing firm gradually disappeared.

What is your favorite book or movie and why?

Preparing For The 21st Century, by Paul Kennedy. It helped me orient my thinking and provided direction for the development of my firm back in the 1990s. The thesis of the book also gave me orientation that helped me to properly advise my clients.

What are two facts about you that most people, including your closest friends, may not know?

I’m proud of my son David, a 2008 Leader in the Law. David has been successful in building his own law firm, Albo & Oblon, here in Virginia. My daughter Caren has established one of the largest pediatric medical practices in Montgomery County, Md., and has been listed as a Top Doctor in Washingtonian Magazine. My wife Susan was a long-time principal in the Fairfax school system, and at one point, the leader of one of the largest elementary schools in the county, White Oaks Elementary School. I always said that Susan was the real force behind the establishment of the firm. I hope that each of my grandchildren, Nathan, Jessica, Andrew, and Matthew, will be future leaders.

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