Monday Profile: Jon Shackelford

Jon Shackelford began his legal career in 1986 clerking for an intellectual property law firm in Oakland County while attending Wayne State University Law School. Continuously since then, he has devoted himself to the practice of IP law. He remained in private practice until 1997 when he took a position to head the IP department for global automotive supplier Federal-Mogul Corporation. 

In 2004, Shackelford returned to private practice. He and business partner Brad Smith established Endurance Law Group PLC in 2012 as a boutique IP practice in Jackson.

Shackelford has taught as an adjunct professor at MSU College of Law, giving students a practical, hands-on introduction to writing patent applications.

He has volunteered with the Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest, a statewide business plan competition, as a way to network with the entrepreneurial community. GLEQ led him to volunteer work with TechTown at Wayne State, then to Tech Works at Kettering, to U-M's Center for Entrepreneurship, and eventually to the Jackson Inventors Network.

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Residence:  Chelsea

What is your most treasured material possession? I’d have to say my Bible is the thing I treasure the most, with a good sharp pocketknife running second.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school? Law school is a good investment for anyone, even if unsure that a career in the legal profession is right for you. Law school provides a valuable education in the legal system as well as a method of problem solving that relies on spotting issues and the rigorous application of rules to the facts.

Favorite local hangouts: Anywhere tools are sold.  Or lumber. Or draft beer.

What would surprise people about your job? As a patent attorney, I am as much “engineer” as I am “lawyer.”  So it may surprise many to know that I want to know – really understand – how their invention works.  Clients often lend us their prototype inventions, and we sometimes take them apart (and try to put them back together) to get a better understanding.

What do you wish someone would invent? I would like an “undo” button that works in real life.  Assuming that will never be possible, I would settle for a solution to raking leaves in the fall – perhaps a machine that transforms leaves into little bales that can be stacked around the house for extra insulation or used in landscaping.

Why did you become a lawyer? As a senior in Engineering School, way back in 1986, I was invited to interview with a boutique IP firm in Oakland County – they were looking for candidates for their intern training program. During that interview, I learned that patent lawyers work with creative people, use their engineering skills, get paid to learn how things work, and (the coup de grace) rarely if ever have to solve difficult math problems. I was hooked. Once in the business, I discovered I really enjoyed helping business people use IP in smart, effective ways to achieve their business goals. I also enjoyed the creative expression that comes with IP work – writing good patent applications requires a tremendous amount of creative effort. We patent lawyers always try to imagine all the ways a competitor might try to circumvent our client’s patent, and write the patent application to give the broadest possible protection.  And … I really enjoy the wonderful, long-lasting personal relationships that I am able to build with most of my clients.

What is your happiest childhood memory? My happiest childhood memories are of building things.  I liked to make stuff – forts and boats and go-carts and ancient weaponry (bows, catapults, etc.).
What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been? National Air & Space Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

What’s your proudest moment as a lawyer?
Getting a really strong patent for a client, when the client knows that I added a lot of value in the effort.

What do you do to relax? My barn is filled with woodworking tools. I am most relaxed when I am building something in my workshop.

If you were starting all over again and couldn’t go into law, what career path would you choose?
I would try to earn a living building furniture.

What’s one thing you would like to learn to do? Fly an ultra-light airplane (that I build myself).

What’s the best advice you ever received?
#1 It is unwise to pay too much – but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money. That is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and, if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better. — Author unknown (Possibly John Ruskin)
#2 There is no limit to what a person can accomplish if he doesn't care who gets the credit for it. – Author unknown (possibly Charles Edward Montague)

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?  So far, my greatest achievement is probably starting Endurance Law Group with Brad Smith. 

Where would you like to be when you’re 90?
Building something in my workshop.