Frustrated when she couldn’t get the job she wanted with an established firm, Navy veteran Maresa Martin Talbert formed her own law firm.
“When I was coming out of law school, which was in 2017, I knew I wanted to practice intellectual property law and most of the jobs that I had been applying to, they wanted someone with the senior range with five to 10 years of experience or they wanted hard science people with patent law experience,” Talbert said. “I wasn’t finding the jobs in law that I wanted in my experience level. It was a really trying time of not getting any traction in applying for jobs, which was the first time I ever experienced that.”
For a time, Talbert worked under contract for other lawyers.
“I realized that the work I was doing for those other attorneys, I could be doing for myself,” Talbert said.
Talbert’s family and her mentors at California Western School of Law encouraged her to try going solo.
In April 2018, Talbert formed Talbert Law Office.
“It was supposed to be a temporary thing until I found work at an established firm,” Talbert said, but “the success came.”
Her first client came from one of her school professors.
“Slowly but surely, it just kind of grew from there,” Talbert said. “Now, it’s a thriving practice.”
For now, her law firm is herself, two law clerks and a paralegal with about 50 clients, but Talbert said she’s planning to expand the firm by the end of 2021, taking on more attorneys and paralegals.
She said she will always remain a boutique law firm
“I don’t want to be huge. I always want my clients to feel that they have access to me,” Talbert said.
Diane Mas is one of those clients.
Mas said Talbert is helping her put together the legal framework to expand Project New Village, a nonprofit organization created to make healthy food more available in underserved neighborhoods in what Mas called Greater Southeast San Diego.
“She is helping us put together all kinds of policies and procedures so we’re at a point where we can grow,” Mas said. “She lives in the neighborhood we serve, so she gets it. It’s been wonderful working with her.”
Growing up in the small Texas town of Copperas Cove near Fort Hood, Talbert said that she wanted to be a lawyer since she was a child and watched how lawyers were portrayed on television and in movies.
“It was like a very prestigious title, Talbert said. “My friends and my family, they all heard me for years from about the age of eight wanting to be a lawyer.”
Initially, Talbert wanted to be a criminal lawyer.
In law school, “I realized that wasn’t my passion at all,” Talbert said. “Then I started learning about business and this intellectual property, which is not a new thing but is a new term that really started sparking my attention.”
Talbert’s parents were in the military, and they encouraged her to enlist so she could use the benefits she earned there to pay for law school.
“It’s a great path I don’t regret,” Talbert said. “If I had taken on debt that would have been very burdensome right now.”
She joined the Navy in 2010 and served nearly five years as a surface warfare officer, and still serves in the Navy Reserves as an Executive Officer, where she oversees the operation, maintenance, and training for Littoral Command Ships Squadron One, Mine Countermeasures.
She also is a board member of the National Naval Officers Association and the California Western School of Law Alumni Association and secretary of the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association.
She also is a member of the Executive Board of the San Diego Bar Intellectual Property Section.
Her husband, Sharef Talbert, is a Navy Information Professional Officer.
Before joining the Navy, Talbert served as a legislative aide in the Texas state Senate, and thinks she may run for office herself one day.
“I am very much interested in the political space, I love policy and being able to make a difference,” she said. “I get asked so much from community members if I’m going to run.”
Talbert said she never felt that her race held her back in her career and may play to her advantage.
“There’s not a lot of Black attorneys in intellectual property,” Talbert said.
Still, she said that “With everything I do, I feel I have to go the extra mile.”
Talbert said she would encourage Black youths to consider law as a career.
“The profession of law, I love it,” Talbert said. “I feel like I’m living my dream right now.”