By FutureLaw Desk

Jack Chen is a visually impaired lawyer working as the Patent Counsel at Google in New York. Not only he is a genius lawyer working for the smartest tech giant of our time, but he is also a triathlon runner and a mountaineer as well.

Jack was not born with blindness. He had a very weak vision with mere sense of lights and colors and regularly went through surgeries to improve. He lost his vision completely while he was sixteen, during the last surgery he had in his eyes.


Jack Chen, Legal Department, Google

Jack studied computer science and received MS from Harvard and Berkeley, and worked as a system engineer at Xanboo Inc., a New York-based startup that produced internet-based home automation and security systems. Later on, he became more interested in law through his work in tech arena and received law degree from Fordham University. Before joining the legal department of Google, he spent two years as a patent and trademark attorney in the New York office of Kenyon & Kenyon, and three years as an associate at Baker Botts LLP.

“I graduated with an MS in computer science. While working for a startup, I began becoming interested in patents. I worked with outside counsel to create a patent portfolio of fifteen patents for the company. I leveraged my interest in inventing and was an inventor on approximately ten patents. Through my work with outside counsel, I gained a greater appreciation for law. I saw that law would allow me to work more with people than computers, something that I appreciated as an outgoing person. I decided to go to law school to invest more in law.”

– Jack Chen (In an interview with American Foundation fro Blinds)

 So, how does a ‘blind’ lawyer does his mountainous job of research and analysis?

Jack reads by listening: he uses a screen reader at his standing desk, and the VoiceOver function on his iPhone. Typically, he listens through 620 words in a minute; for most of us, following and understanding the words in such a speed is clearly impossible. An OCR software helps him to convert print and graphical documents into text. Recently, he has been provided with an assistant to boost up the effectiveness of his work.

Apart from the monotonous desk job of patent regulations and legal research, Jack has competed in five triathlons, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile run. When Chen was preparing for his most recent triathlon, he said he routinely got up at 3:00 a.m. to train before coming into the office.

In 2012, Chen climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which is the highest peak of Africa.

Jack and his guide on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Jack and his guide on Mt. Kilimanjaro

“Kilimanjaro has the distinction of being one of the Seven Summits that is doable without special climbing gear; I wanted to test myself but I didn’t have a lot of time to work on learning climbing techniques. I figured if I liked it, I could get into the gear later and try other peaks”, Jack stated in one interview with Bloomberg Law.

My general advice for those looking for a career in this field of work is to address the elephant in the room from the get-go and frame your experience and abilities in your own terms.

Jack Chen