Jim Baker ’03 had been an engineer and inventor at 3M Company for almost a decade, and then for several years at 3M spin-off Imation Corporation. He assisted in drafting many of the patent applications covering his 3M and Imation inventions, and eventually became a registered patent agent. He was at the height of his career.
Even so, Baker’s lifelong belief in the power of education and how it can transform a life and a career, compelled him to enroll at William Mitchell College of Law in 1999. He worked as vice president of research at Samsung Information Systems of America during the day, and attended law school at night.
For Baker, the experience was like no other.
“They were some of the best years of my life so far,” Baker says of his time at Mitchell. “I remember being able to go to class every night and thinking of it as a mini mental vacation. For me, law school was almost a recreational activity, both intellectually challenging and mentally relaxing. It was a high point of my educational “career” to go to law school at William Mitchell.”
His wife, Lana Perkins, agrees. She jokes that Baker looked like a kid in the candy story every time he headed off to class.
Baker, who has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and is named as an inventor on 76 issued U.S. patents, was so impressed with his experience at Mitchell he wanted to give something back to the school. First, he volunteered his time. Ever since graduating from law school, he’s coached Mitchell’s IP moot court teams. He also developed and co-teaches Mitchell’s IP appellate practice course.
Baker and Perkins then decided to give back to Mitchell financially, after discussing their retirement goals, their daughter’s best interests, and their legacies. Through their yearly financial gifts and an estate gift, Baker and Perkins established the Baker Intellectual Property Law Scholarship in honor of Baker’s mother and father, which is awarded to a top student who attends William Mitchell part time, is interested in intellectual property law, and, preferably, has honorably served in the U.S. military. Baker is senior intellectual property council at 3M Company, which matches his annual donations with a donation to Mitchell’s Annual Fund. Baker and Perkins have structured their estate plan so that the bulk of Baker’s retirement plan will eventually permanently endow the scholarship.
“Everybody wants to leave some kind of legacy,” Baker says. “For me the legacy I want to leave is the student legacy, law students whose lives I have touched in a positive way.” At the end of my career, whenever that happens, I want to be able to look back and see hundreds of young attorneys that I’ve helped to become better attorneys through my teaching, or my coaching, or through the Baker IP Law Scholarship.”
Attending William Mitchell transformed Baker’s career and life. Now through his scholarship and volunteer work at Mitchell, he’s helping others experience that same transformation.