Kevin A. O’Connor
Kevin A. O’Connor
Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP
Intellectual property
40 Under Class – 2016

Companies that develop and sell pharmaceuticals have their choice of, and typically rely on, the most prominent, skilled and senior attorneys to protect their medicines and innovations. Their patents, after all, can mean the difference between success and failure for a pharmaceutical company.

That’s why the success enjoyed by Kevin O’Connor is so impressive.

O’Connor has quickly grown a thriving career representing the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. He manages global patent portfolios for clients in the life-sciences field, portfolios that include small-molecule drugs, therapeutic antibodies and ground-breaking stem-cell technology.

He has also represented clients in licensing and acquisition efforts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Kevin has earned his clients’ trust,” said John Abramic with the Chicago law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, “and demonstrated that he not only has the legal skills to navigate the highly complex world of pharmaceutical patent protection but also the business and communication skills to effectively advise his clients on the practical implications of their legal strategies.”

O’Connor’s practice is bolstered by his Ph.D. in neuroscience, which helps him to better understand the many unique issues his clients face.

“It is a rare occurrence that I include outside counsel in internal discussions with the scientific teams at the company,” said Bradley E. Davis in-house counsel at a major pharmaceutical company, “but Kevin’s sophistication in the chemical arts and his creativity in leveraging his deep understanding of patent law made him a respected and invaluable asset to the scientific team.”

Herbert Hart, who oversaw O’Connor’s work at the start of his legal career with the Chicago law firm McAndrews Held & Malloy, saw the value of his education. “His scientific training put him on the same scientific level as our clients, giving him knowledge and technical expertise that they recognized and valued.”

Christopher Alder, former Chief IP Counsel at Osiris Therapeutics, said that O’Connor was repeatedly proven to be a valuable partner in the company’s efforts to protect their patents. He points to one instance in particular.

O’Connor and his team handled a crucial opposition at the European Patent Office for Alder’s company. At the last minute, Alder was bumped from his flight to Munich, meaning that he would have to miss the hearing.

“Kevin was well-prepared,” Alder said, “but probably not for my absence.”

To make matters worse, the case, as Alder calls it, was a terrible one, with Alder’s company being attacked by its former general counsel who had written the exact patents he was questioning.

O’Connor and his team, though, made such convincing arguments, that Alder’s company won the case on all counts.

“In a complex case, in a foreign country, Kevin came through,” Alder said.

Such results don’t surprise Daniel S. Stringfield, also of Steptoe, who witnessed firsthand the commitment that has fueled O’Connor’s impressive career.

“Kevin stunned everyone when, though he was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer in 2011, he continued to counsel his clients throughout his nine months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment,” Stringfield said. “Kevin even advised a client on a potential transaction involving an improvement for one of the chemotherapy drugs he was taking.”

Paul W. McAndrews was similarly impressed with O’Connor’s unwavering dedication while at McAndrews.

“During my several years of practice with Kevin, I found Kevin to be an excellent attorney and an even better man,” he said. “In our profession full of zealous advocates working in an adversarial system, it is refreshing to find young, talented, attorneys who can give 100% to their clients and law firm without compromising their humanity.”