George Jordan: Turning a Passion for Technology into a Legal Career

Pratt Alumni Profile: George Jordan BSEE’93

By Bryan Gilmer

Plenty of fine attorneys were English majors as undergraduates. But say you’re the CEO of a tech company whose key innovations are protected by crucial patents, patents now being legally challenged. Sure, you could hire one of those former English scholars to defend them.

George JordanOr you maybe you’d rather hire George Jordan, whose preparation for University of Texas Law School was a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Duke (’93). Jordan is now senior counsel at Fulbright & Jaworski LLP in Houston specializing in patents, licensing, and intellectual property for technology companies.

“My practice is entirely litigation at this point,” Jordan says. “When I first started out as a patent lawyer, I was not only litigating patent disputes but also drafting patents, and I had to draft patents to protect computer-related inventions. I was able to use my experience at Pratt (School of Engineering) where I designed a computer. It very much came in handy.”

Many consumer electronics patents concern particularly innovative software – and Jordan learned programming in his engineering program, as well, allowing him to understand the subtleties of software.

“I learned how to program in Assembly and C language,” Jordan notes. “In the course of having to draft patents I’ve often had to use those programming languages, and because I had learned C in college, that was the foundation for me to learn C++ in the workplace. It was crucial for me to be able to sit down with a software engineer and for him to be able to explain the idea and how they implemented it in software.”

And then for Jordan to do something that’s a notorious requirement in engineering school: “to put pen to paper, and to create a flowchart of it.”

“One of the things that had drawn me to engineering was that I really enjoy problem solving and I had a passion for technology. I saw law school as a way to take it to a different plane – the skills there are still principle or rule-centric, very fact-oriented – one of the main differences being that when it comes to thinking as a lawyer, that there is also a moral or social aspect to it. I think it was a really good foundation at Pratt in terms of thinking analytically, practically and creatively about issues."

Jordan, who grew up in Atlanta, says he chose Duke over Rice University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emory, and Georgia Tech.

“I think to a large extent, I chose Duke because I wanted to attend a top-ranked engineering school and be highly competitive,” he says. “I had the opportunity to visit Duke and actually speak with some engineering students, who were really engaging and friendly. And one other thing that really stood out for Duke was the diversity that I saw there.”

At first, Jordan majored in both electrical engineering and computer science, but he decided that he preferred to take more non-engineering courses at a university that also excels in many other fields of study.

“I decided to just do electrical engineering and use those extra hours to take things like art history,” he says with a smile.

He served as parliamentarian for the National Society of Black Engineers and wrote for DukEngineer Magazine. But during his junior year, Jordan started considering law school rather than an engineering career.

“I had been doing summer internships in engineering positions with Northern Telecom, which was pretty neat because I got to see different aspects of engineering and to start viewing engineering in terms of the product cycle. I got to work with manufacturing engineers dealing with problems on the assembly line, engineers dealing with products in the field, and saw that even with the sales and marketing group you had to have engineers who could explain the technology. I wound up working in various departments. And throughout the company, there were engineers.

“One of the things that had drawn me to engineering was that I really enjoy problem solving and I had a passion for technology. I saw law school as a way to take it to a different plane – the skills there are still principle or rule-centric, very fact-oriented – one of the main differences being that when it comes to thinking as a lawyer, that there is also a moral or social aspect to it. I think it was a really good foundation at Pratt in terms of thinking analytically, practically and creatively about issues.”

Jordan made an early name for himself as a lawyer drafting patents for Compaq Computer, and these days, he represents both plaintiffs and defendants, though, “recently, I’ve been more on the defense side.”

Courtroom trials and depositions present a common scenario that flashes Jordan back to his days on West Campus, he says: “One thing I certainly didn’t anticipate is that in patent litigation, the experts, both the experts on your side and those on the other side, are engineering professors. And you’re trying to challenge their expertise. Pratt welcomed such open challenges, and I think it was good experience to have given all my interactions with professors now.”