R. Lee Fraley
Lee Fraley says his drive is simple. It’s about “solving problems and creating solutions, especially when none appear to exist.”
He’s used that drive to great effect in his career. These days, he’s a partner at Snell and Wilmer, LLP, in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s one of the largest law firms in the western United States, and he spends his days practicing high-stakes international property law. But his story didn’t start with law school – it started in engineering labs in the mountains of West Virginia.
At first, the young man from Delbarton, West Virginia wanted to be an electrical engineer. Lee enrolled in the program at Tech and worked his way through the department’s rigorous classes, labs and design projects. He wrapped up his degree in 1988 and landed a control engineer position for U.S. Steel the next year.
The engineer’s life was great. Lee was able to work alongside other engineers and production workers on improvement projects to help boost manufacturing efficiency and productions levels. He then moved into sales, where he played a role in the development of million-dollar projects at various facilities.
All the while, he grew more and more fascinated with how the industry worked. How business product and research ideas form. How they’re developed. And how they’re protected.
Lee earned his MBA from Duquesne University in 1991. Two years later, he enrolled in law school. While working in sales for Bailey Engineers by day and as a law student by night, he earned his J.D. and started a whole new career.
That transition isn’t uncommon, from engineer to attorney. There’s a certain kind of analytical mind required for both, and Lee found that he could use his skills from both industries at once.
Since his move into law, Lee has spent 22 years with Snell and Wilmer. He has orchestrated defenses on behalf of large companies to acquire license rights to use a particular brand name or to secure patents that allow them to grow. He’s negotiated complex technology licenses in and out of research and development companies. Lee says he’s found his passion in this work and that he hopes to stay involved in the field for many years to come. He has more work to do and is excited about the future, where “fast-moving, ever-evolving technologies lead to new legal niches for IP attorneys in particular.”
“Much like the ever-changing tech industry, there will be some disruption in the legal industry, with artificial intelligence, data analytics and continued automation impacting not just companies, but also law firms,” he says.
His place in the industry also allows him to see how new technologies are developing. It excites him to “see the world continue to be improved in many ways.”
Lee has received numerous awards in his profession, but he’s especially proud of the wins he’s been able to obtain for his clients. “I receive great personal satisfaction in helping resolve the business objectives and problems of others,” he says.
Lee lives in Phoenix with Jeanie, his wife of more than 20 years. The couple has three children who are all preparing to embark on college careers of their own.