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Pilar Mata, - Executive Director, Tax Executives Institute

Alumni spotlight

Stacy Fredrich

Director, Intellectual Property at Rheem Manufacturing

Stacy is an engineering graduate but gravitated towards a career in law focusing on intellectual property at the suggestion of a university mentor. That was absolutely the right move, she says. After ten happy years at Eversheds Sutherland’s Atlanta office, four of which as a partner in our IP group, she joined Rheem Manufacturing in late 2021.

Can you tell us about your life before joining Eversheds Sutherland?

I grew up in Central Florida, my dad was an engineer and my mom was a nurse. They both worked incredibly hard, and I think that’s probably where I get my work ethic from. After high school, I decided to study chemical engineering at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

There’s an interesting story behind your decision to study at Notre Dame?

Yes, when choosing which college to apply to, it was between Notre Dame and some others. It got down to the wire and I simply couldn’t decide. For inspiration, I went to a local mall to look at the different shirts for the different universities to see which I liked best.

But they all looked pretty identical. Then I stopped by a sports store and explained my dilemma to the salesperson. He pulled up the leg of his jeans revealing a tattoo of a leprechaun, which is Notre Dame’s mascot. It was the closest thing to ‘fate’ I had experienced and I said to him, “Thank you, you’ve made my decision for me!”

As an engineering graduate, how did you end up going into the law?

I really enjoyed the course work, but after a summer internship in a lab I realized that career path wasn’t for me. I asked a mentor at the college whether I could put my degree to any other use, and he suggested patent law. I have no lawyers in my family so I did some research and applied to law school, always with IP and patent law specifically in mind.

You joined Eversheds Sutherland as an IP attorney in 2011, becoming partner in 2018. Can you tell us about that period in your career?

I prepared and prosecuted patent applications for clients in a variety of industries and prepared patentability, validity, infringement, and product clearance opinions. I also handled agreements relating to IP.

Was there a particular project or case that sticks out in your mind?

There are a number of complex agreements and difficult patent applications that come to mind, but what I’m most proud of from my time at the firm are probably the relationships with clients I developed, and how we worked together.

It was very satisfying to work with clients who liked your working style, who gave good feedback and who really appreciated your advice – for example, by providing insight that could easily be shown to their board.

Being made partner is a huge career milestone. How would you describe your path to partnership?

One of the great things about Eversheds Sutherland is that it’s merit-based: people were appreciated and rewarded for the work they put in. I tried to keep my head down, always worked hard (thank you mom and dad), and that was recognized. There was a really good group of like-minded people in the Atlanta office. We developed business together and helped nurture the next generation for the firm.

How did the opportunity with Rheem come about?

It was very serendipitous. I was happy at the firm and had no intention of leaving. Then I was contacted by a recruiter who told me about the opening at Rheem which piqued my curiosity.

Rheem is a huge company and is the only manufacturer in the world that produces heating, cooling, water heating, pool/spa heating and commercial refrigeration products. One product or another is in about half the homes in the US. After my interview, I checked what our water system was in our house, and it was Rheem – I took that as a good sign.

How’s the new job going?

What I’ve been saying to people is, “You can take the girl out of the firm, but you can’t take the firm out of the girl.” By which I mean, I continue to use the skills gained at Eversheds Sutherland in my new role.

It’s early days so everything is still new – the people, the subject matters, the products, the business. Rheem had a robust IP program before I joined but needed strategic guidance. They created this role anew, at director level, with allowance for another attorney team member in the future.

Now you’re in-house, what do you value from your external counsel?

Patent law is highly technical, and so I need highly skilled attorneys advising me. That’s a baseline requirement. Otherwise I value responsiveness, above all. I have to be able to trust that when I send something out, it’s getting attention which isn’t always a given at some law firms.

How useful is the Eversheds Sutherland Alumni Network for you?

Very, and this is a good illustration: within weeks of joining Rheem, I got an email from another alum, also an IP attorney. We had only overlapped briefly at the firm, and they were senior to me when they went in-house.

That person, after realizing I had also moved in-house, reached out and told me about an alumni lunch group for IP attorneys. There were six of us at the first lunch a while back. It’s hugely helpful to have these talented and down-to-earth peers to call upon.

What is something funny or interesting that people might not know about you?

Shelby the pet turtle

Stacy's pet turtle, Shelby

I have a pet turtle called Shelby. He was given to me around eight years ago at an event linked to my time at Eversheds Sutherland. He was miniature in size when I got him and now he’s at least as big as my hand!

If you would like to add Stacy Fredrich to your network, you can connect with her via LinkedIn .