From the Bio Lab to the Boardroom

J. R. Simplot’s Vid Mohan-Ram leverages his scientific expertise to break down communication barriers

Victoria Horn

Vid Mohan-Ram began his legal career in the genetics lab more than two decades ago. Even then, he often straddled legal and technical issues: in the UK, after the passage of the Dangerous Dogs Act, he studied the DNA and muscle tissue of dog breeds, foreshadowing future career synthesis between biology and law.

“I’ve found myself having to develop skills to bring people together, whether its internal cross-functional teams or opposing sides of a dispute or negotiation,” Mohan-Ram says. “I like the challenge of communicating ideas across a spectrum of listeners and audiences—for example, explaining the same legal and IP issue to C-suite executives, group presidents, and PhD scientists.”

As he took up science writing and placed in several contests, his research and articles were published in London’s Daily Telegraph and additional applications of DNA fingerprinting. He covered how UC Davis scientists used it to detect wine fraud: crooks were intentionally mislabeling vine stock and exporting it to command fraudulently high prices.

His gifts for writing led to a job at Science magazine, where he offered grant writing and fundraising advice to professionals in the field. Mohan-Ram was interviewing partners at Foley & Lardner about IP issues, and the conversation soon turned into a job offer. He became a patent agent and completed his JD during his time there.

One of Mohan-Ram’s clients was the J. R. Simplot Company, which he pitched on an in-house position, where he could oversee and manage the entire intellectual property framework. The pitch delivered. He now serves as the company’s chief IP counsel.

The J. R. Simplot Company, founded in 1929, grew from a one-man farming operation into a food and agribusiness empire. Being vertically integrated, it commands each aspect of developing, manufacturing, and distributing its products.

“I can have the detailed scientific discussions with a researcher about what they want to do, and give specific feedback on the genetics,” he explains. “Then I can also go back to the group director or group president, and advise them on how to proceed, and I can bring the message to the corporate and insurance people on the overall risk profile for that project.”

Vid Mohan-Ram J.R. Simplot
Vid Mohan-Ram, J.R. Simplot Photos: Victoria Horn

Mohan-Ram says he enjoys doing all that work—though he notes he’s “much, much busier than I was at the law firm.”

The journey to develop, produce, and protect new products catches all of Mohan-Ram’s specialties in support of a promising, visionary endeavor. “We’re always looking for niche products and specialty products, and it’s very exciting to be able to sit down and be inquisitive: flesh out an idea, see what the brand and marketing materials look like, and how it supports the long-term vision,” he says. “In the technology and food spaces, it’s fulfilling for me to watch them design and create new types of food.”

If there’s a downside to this breadth and depth of expertise, it’s that Mohan-Ram fields a vast quantity of issues. Stress management becomes a crucial tenet of the position. He centers himself as a musician, a journey he started in primary school and continued at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music.

“I started by learning the bluegrass banjo,” he says. “However, trying to relax after work by finger-plucking the banjo isn’t the most convenient or melodious thing to do. So, I self-taught myself the guitar instead. Luckily we have a whole room downstairs for all of my instruments.”

Mohan-Ram also finds the time to draw and paint—both watercolors and acrylics. His online gallery, Gloucester House Art, is named after his cat, who is also featured as the subject of several pieces.

“Creating artwork gives me an alternative means to express myself, which can lend itself to communicating ideas and direction visually,” he says. “I typically sketch out legal relationships and legal issues for clients and the staff I work with to break down otherwise difficult and complex issues.

“It’s one of the things we go through—turning things on their head to try and figure out how to work with other people,” he adds. “Once you’ve got that down, you’re able to truly understand their points of view, and craft responses that create meaningful dialogue.”

Parsons Behle & Latimer congratulates Vid Mohan-Ram on this well-deserved recognition. Vid is an accomplished scientist and a fine lawyer with remarkable leadership abilities. We are honored to work with Vid in support of the J.R. Simplot Company’s longstanding commitment to innovation. Thank you, Vid, for being a tremendous legal partner!