Bloomberg Law
July 27, 2023, 9:00 AM

They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Tim Chen Saulsbury of Morrison & Foerster

Lisa Helem
Lisa Helem
Executive Editor
MP McQueen

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.

A recent highlight is our complete defense verdict for Aptiv in a patent suit brought by its competitor, Microchip. One especially fun moment was my cross-examination of Microchip’s inventor. He was likeable and had painted his invention as a breakthrough.

On cross, I pushed him to identify what specifically distinguished Microchip’s claims from what was conventional; after a good three-minute pause, he was unable to identify anything. It took the wind out of Microchip’s sails and was later described as a “climactic moment” and potentially “a big reason why the jury would later reject Microchip’s case.”

More recently, I served as lead counsel for Zoom in a six-patent case seeking $100M+ in damages annually, amounting to over $1.5B. After winning successive dismissal motions, we moved to dismiss the entire case with prejudice. The Court issued a tentative indicating that it was inclined to grant the motion. The case promptly resolved.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?

I spent my first year as an attorney clerking for Judge O’Malley of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. I learned many lessons during my time with her. But the most important lesson was that extreme rigor—and remaining dissatisfied until you’ve bottomed out on the correct result (one that is logically sound all the way through)—is both critically important to one’s success as a litigator and extremely rewarding.

As a clerk, that meant driving from Virginia into the office on a weekend to work on what would result in Judge O’Malley’s first opinion as a full member of the court: a 19-page dissent from a denial of rehearing en banc in Abraxis BioScience v. Navinta (Fed. Cir. 2011), which commentators described as a “tour-de-force.

How do you define success in your practice?

Two ways: First, it’s winning for the client. Winning is fun. But, more fundamentally, we’re in the service business. Our job is to determine the optimal outcome for the client, and then determine how to leverage everything at our disposal to achieve that outcome at the lowest total cost.

We succeed when we make our clients (in-house litigation counsel, DGC, GC) look good to their clients (the C-suite, the Board). Often in IP defense, that winning outcome is complete victory, whether it’s via a walkaway or a win at trial.

Second, I believe success is defined by building teams in which people genuinely are having fun. We spend a high proportion of our limited time on this planet working—so it’s fundamentally important that we love what we do.

One of the things I’ve learned is that, while perfecting one’s craft is incredibly rewarding, even more rewarding than that is seeing more junior colleagues thrive, have ownership over their cases, and grow to have practices of their own. I have by far the most fun when I’m able to create opportunities for my more junior colleagues—and see them crush a trial examination, deposition, or dispositive oral argument.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?

I’m most proud of helping build an organization in which more junior attorneys—especially women and people of color—have opportunities to thrive against far more senior, traditional-looking attorneys.

It was extremely rewarding to see my colleague Joyce Li (a fourth year at the time) go up against an attorney decades her senior in a trial witness exam—and totally rock it, winning over the jury.

Recently, I observed my colleague Sara Doudar (a second year) crush her first deposition (of an engineer in a competitor case), and I couldn’t help but be proud of her accomplishment. Daralyn Durie (and others) created similar opportunities when I was a more junior attorney, and she has helped me appreciate just how rewarding it is to be able to watch others grow and build practices of their own.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?

I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful mentors in the law, but the most impactful has been Daralyn Durie. She’s taught me countless lessons, but here are the three I’ve valued most. First, there’s no shortcut for preparation. At the highest levels, the perfect cross, closing, or argument results from extreme rigor and dedication to preparation.

While Daralyn is natively one of the very best trial lawyers in the business, that doesn’t stop her from also being among the most prepared—and that’s why she consistently wins, even on difficult facts against the best competition. Second, law is a craft.

Like ceramics or knifemaking, trial lawyers can refine their craft for a lifetime—there’s great pleasure in honing one’s craft, and seeing your friends and colleagues do the same. Third, one of the most enjoyable things about this job is seeing younger lawyers grow. Daralyn provided those opportunities for me, and I’ve taken great pleasure in creating opportunities for the next generation—and watching them excel.

Tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist.

“Nate” by NF. I just recently happened upon NF, but he’s topped my Pandora this summer. He has excellent delivery and lyrics, but what really stands out is how vulnerable he’s willing to be. He had a challenging childhood—capped by his mom’s overdose death—which led to a series of mental health struggles that he addresses candidly in his music.

He raps about getting help, and about how his success in music has led to additional challenges, including an obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis. When so many—especially young people—are struggling with mental health challenges, I think it’s really valuable to have folks like NF speak transparently about their own struggles, rather than hiding it behind a persona.

Also, “The Business” by Tiesto. My young kids are obsessed with this song, I think because it’s one of those intoxicating dance hits that makes you want to move. It’s getting a whole lot of airtime this summer.

Tim Chen Saulsbury amuses his son with a fish.
Credit: Tim Chen Saulsbury and Jonathan Hurtarte/Bloomberg Law

Tim Chen Saulsbury is deputy co-chair of Morrison & Foerster’s Global Intellectual Property Litigation group and the cross-disciplinary Intellectual Property group. He joined Morrison & Foerster in January 2023, when the firm combined with trial boutique Durie Tangri, where Saulsbury had served on the firm’s management committee and started initiatives to recruit and retain more diverse and first-generation attorneys.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: MP McQueen at; Lisa Helem at

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