Just how packed are Maria Maras’ days? As senior legal counsel for intellectual property at the Chicago office of professional services company Accenture, Maras manages intellectual property disputes and litigation related to Accenture’s global operations. This means that no two days are the same and every day features new challenges.
After all, Maras tackles issues ranging from trade secret and trademark disputes to copyright and patent issues. She is a trusted advisor to business leaders on IP matters and risks. She has developed and implemented global and targeted training and communications programs for more than 450,000 employees at Accenture across the globe.
As if that isn’t enough, Maras is also the force behind Accenture’s global patent recognition program and annual “Invention of the Year” competition.
Hope Katz, associate general counsel with Chicago’s Huron Consulting, has known Maras since 2014 when they both worked at Accenture. During much of this time, Maras and Katz served as co-leaders of the Chicago Legal Women’s Learning Circles at Accenture, an employee resource group with a focus on career growth and leadership for the female legal pros working at the company.
Maras is not only a top IP lawyer for Accenture – she is also a driver behind the company’s culture, inclusion and diversity efforts, Katz said.
“Maria is a skillful and adept intellectual property lawyer who has the utmost respect from her colleagues at Accenture,” Katz said. “In her role as a Learning Circle co-lead, she organized several events that were impactful in promoting career development and also helped bring our department together as a community.”
Maras has made an impact outside of Accenture, too. She serves on the board of the Chicago chapter of the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law and is co-chair of the Coalition’s In-House Committee. In 2018, Accenture Legal received the Coalition’s Benchmark Award after Maras and Katz submitted a nomination. This award is given to a law firm or corporate legal department that has demonstrated passion and commitment to women’s issues.
Maras’ legal skills and commitment to her industry have not gone unnoticed by her peers. Linda DeBruin, a retired attorney from Kirkland & Ellis’ Chicago office, worked with Maras during Maras’ time at that firm. She said that Maras routinely delivered exceptional results for the firm’s clients.
“Not only did Maria demonstrate outstanding legal skills, she also used her strong interpersonal skills to achieve success for our clients,” DeBruin said.
She pointed to a case in which Maras defended a smartphone manufacturer in a patent-infringement lawsuit. Before trial, the plaintiff dropped one of two patents from the litigation and the court invalidated more than half of the claims in the remaining patent. After a three-week jury trial, the court granted judgment as a matter of law of non-infringement of the patent claims that remained. Among her trial duties, Maras prepared the chief executive officer of the smartphone maker to testify as a key defense witness. After trial, the CEO praised Maras’ preparation, saying that Maras could prepare him for trial anytime.
In 2011, Maria was second chair on a team that received the “Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Service” from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for successfully representing a woman in a retaliation case under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her other pro bono victories include winning asylum for two applicants in federal immigration court.
“Maria has tremendous grace under pressure,” said Melody Drummond Hansen, an attorney in Menlo Park, Calif. “I have had the opportunity to witness Maria dealing with a difficult client or difficult issue on multiple occasions. She has an unparalleled ability to calm nerves and see the path forward. Even though she is at the top of her game, she always looks for ways she personally can improve and lead to better results.”