Stacey Foltz Stark enjoys sharing her passion for intellectual property (IP) with any audience. Whether breaking down the relevance of IP concepts to inform business decisions at WeWork, where Stark serves as global head of IP, or chatting about a cool new trademark case with a fellow practitioner, she is right at home. She’s drawn to the constantly evolving nature of the practice.
“My love of IP came very early in my career,” Stark reflects. “I took an internet law course, and because the law at the time was developing so quickly, there was no casebook available. We read printouts of the seminal cases that were being decided at the time. You couldn’t help but feel like it was immediate and necessary. That’s never stopped for me.”
Stark’s early law experience included working with legends in the IP space at Winston & Strawn where the attorney spent almost seven years prior to moving in-house. She was able to jump into the deep end early with strong mentors backing her every step of the way. That willingness to immerse herself in IP is precisely what has made Stark as impactful in private practice as it has in-house at WeWork.
Seizing New Opportunities
Knowing she wanted to specialize early on, Stark was able to seek out and say yes to opportunities in her area of interest. Her first matter at Winston & Strawn was a trademark case before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and federal court that had been pending for nearly a decade. Her timing was perfect; the federal case was gearing up for trial.
“It was such a phenomenal experience that really validated the choices I’d made about building out my IP expertise,” Stark remembers. “I relished the shift from studying these legal principles to seeing their real-world application. I’ve loved this specialty ever since.”
Stark recalls other formative experiences, like jumping on a plane to Hong Kong with two days’ notice to attend her first International Trademark Association conference because a partner was unable to attend. At that conference, she connected with fellow IP practitioners who she has remained close with to this very day. All because she was willing to drop everything and go.
“I was fortunate to come up in an environment where I had the autonomy to take risks, develop strategies, lead matters, and create efficiencies, and my critical thinking was valued by more senior attorneys, which helped give me the confidence to tackle challenging issues,” she says.
One of Stark’s final acts in private practice was thrilling, but also intimidating. She went to Texas to argue a discovery motion before a judge whose reputation was well-established for what she calls “putting junior associates through the wringer.”
“I was flying solo against two more senior attorneys,” Stark remembers of the David and Goliath moment. “But I held my own. I won the majority of the requests in our motion, even after some needling by the judge. It was one of those moments where you go outside your comfort zone and see what you’re made of. I learned so much about myself from that single experience.”
Broadway Show Starter Pack
IP is Stacey Foltz Stark’s passion, but it’s not her only one. The IP head is also an avid Broadway fan who is willing to offer up some recommendations for musical novices.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
“This production currently has Josh Groban in the lead. He wasn’t at all what I had in mind, but he blew it out of the water. The chemistry of the cast is amazing.”
“Of course, you’ve heard of it, but you need to see it. It exists in its own entire category. It was so groundbreaking at the time and will surely be a mainstay on Broadway for many years.”
Dear Evan Hansen
“This sadly recently left Broadway, but it’s an incredible show. The use of multimedia onstage felt so fresh. It’s one of my all-time favorites.”
All of these examples show that Stark isn’t afraid of a challenge. That mentality has come in handy since joining WeWork. Two weeks after she started, CEO Adam Neumann stepped down. The litany of legal issues that accompanied the company’s transition presented a wealth of learning opportunities.
“Over the last four years, I feel like I’ve faced so many interesting issues that it would have otherwise taken me decades to collect at other organizations,” Stark says. “Given the media’s interest in the company, I’ve learned how to navigate issues under a microscope.”
Stark remembers a moment where WeWork’s trademark filings were of interest to the press. Typically, the general public scours trademark applications only to get the scoop on a celebrity’s new baby name. Operating in this environment has fostered a more holistic style of counseling that takes into account a variety of legal and non-legal considerations.
Driving Diversity and Future In-House Success
In addition to her core responsibilities, Stark has also contributed to the company’s chambers-recognized initiatives to support the advancement of underrepresented attorneys and lawyers of the future. She is part of a group working to diversify WeWork’s law firm engagement. The team formalized a process to measure and set individualized goals for its top firm partners to work towards.
“It’s a unique opportunity for us as clients to set the tone and help advocate for more diversity through our law firm partners,” she explains. “We’ve collected data, set metrics, and implemented our policy to measure our progress year over year.”
Stark is also in the third year of overseeing WeWork’s summer associate program. Her team hosts a handful of current and prospective law students through the SEO (Seizing Every Opportunity) Law program and law firm partners, giving the students an opportunity to tackle meaningful work in-house and gain exposure across a multitude of practice areas.
“I’ve been blown away by the talent,” Stark says. “In addition to the work, we also provide a lot of programming. It’s a great opportunity to see all of the flavors of the in-house experience so early in one’s career. These valuable in-house insights help young lawyers succeed as junior firm associates as they have a better understanding of clients’ goals and needs.” As an attorney who found and connected with strong mentors early in her own career, Stark wants to take the opportunity to pay it forward.
She may even find the next-generation IP fanatic with whom she can share that cool new trademark case.