Faith at Work in Law: Brandon Zuniga
Getting to Know You.
I am licensed as an attorney in the State of Texas, and I am registered as a patent attorney with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I help individuals and businesses obtain, enforce, and assign intellectual property. This includes trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets.
As necessary, I also respond to official communications from the USPTO on behalf of my clients, deal with letters to opposing parties, and file various papers in state or federal court. I have also helped people with franchises, non-disclosure agreements, or employee agreements.
Because patent attorneys deal with technology, they are required to have a technical degree or its equivalent. It is also useful to have experience working in a technical field. In my case, I have a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, so before I became an attorney, I worked for several years as a Process Engineer and designed petrochemical facilities. My clients included major oil companies like ExxonMobil, Valero, BP, Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), and Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC). As you can imagine, some of these projects were quite large and expensive. For example, I believe one project I worked on was estimated to cost around $18 Billion, and was going to be largest refinery in the Middle East.
As an interesting fact, I went to law school in Boston. Since I didn’t have a car, I biked almost everywhere. I loved it.
What do you do on a weekly basis?
Most regularly, I meet with clients to figure out how to best protect their products or ideas. Then, I draft applications or other official papers as applicable.
For example, if I file a patent application, it is typical to receive an Office Action from the USPTO alleging that the claimed invention is not patentable for one or more reasons. I will analyze the Office Action from both a legal and technical stand point. Then, I respond to the Office Action, explaining why the invention is actually patentable. Often, my response points out legal or factual errors in the Office Action. Although, in some cases, I might amend the application if I think that is more likely to lead to a granted patent.
How has your personal walk with Jesus impacted the way you work?
In both my previous job as an engineer and my present job as an attorney, the decisions I make can involve very high stakes. Throw in some tight deadlines and you have a nearly guaranteed recipe for stress.
With that in mind, peace in the midst of potentially stormy circumstances is a very tangible way that my personal walk with Jesus impacts my day.
For me, it begins with a simple truth: God is sovereign and all-powerful; I am not. As a result, it doesn’t make sense to worry about things that are outside of my control. It makes more sense to just leave them in God’s hands.
One potential concern that is actually beyond my control is worrying about making someone else happy. I can work hard, solicit feedback, consider advice, incorporate comments and generally make every effort to accomplish certain objectives. Nonetheless, I can’t actually control what a judge, administrative official, or opponent does. Additionally, no matter how great of a job I do, someone can always be disappointed with it. Thus, if my value, happiness or peace-of-mind hinges on the end-result of making someone else happy or accomplishing a certain objective, my emotional well-being will always be outside my control. Ultimately, I think that would be an unhealthy way to live.
On the other hand, if my goal is pleasing God, I know I can always reach my goal. I know this because God only asks us to do things that he also gives us the power to accomplish. For instance, God wants me to be diligent at work. He also asks that when I’m working for someone else, I work as though I were working for Him. Because these issues deal with effort and motivation, but not an end-result, both are things that I can actually control. Of course, as an added benefit, they also tend to result in a productive day.
Want to learn how Jesus fills our work with passion and purpose like Brandon? Download our free Faith Works course here.
What challenges have you encountered as you walk your faith out at work?
The biggest challenge I encounter at work is keeping the right perspective when things get busy. It is very easy to simply forget about God as I check items off my To-Do list. However, God isn’t just an afterthought. He wants to live in communion with me all day long, and I would hate to miss out.
How have you been able to represent or re-present Jesus through your job?
It is easy to love my friends and hate my enemies. But if I want to properly represent Christ, He calls me to more . . . to love my enemies and pray for those who would intentionally seek to harm me.
I realize this is a nuanced issue. For example, I also believe I have a role in defending the powerless, such as orphans, widows, or children. Yet, even fighting against evil does not require hating evildoers. Looking at Jesus’ example, he came to give of himself for the sake of the very people who killed Him. He was not a slave to fear and self-preservation.
Similarly, Jesus said that if we want to follow Him, we must deny ourselves and take up our crosses. Moreover, He said that whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake and the sake of the Gospel will save it.
While this is all generally contrary to human nature, if I trust in God’s goodness, understand my own sinfulness, and recognize the unearned mercy and grace that God extends to me, I get both the confidence and the motivation to love when human nature would otherwise say to run in fear or fight back in hate.
Bringing this principle closer to home, because of the industry I work in, I get fairly regular opportunities to love people who could be considered enemies. For example, as part of my job, in some cases, I am literally paid to pick apart and criticize the work that other people have done. However, I don’t have to attack people themselves.
On a practical level, this means that while I often have to criticize what others say or do, I never have to belittle or insult another person. As an added benefit, showing respect for others often helps build bridges between opposing parties and makes it easier to identify and capitalize on shared interests.
What are some lessons that God has taught you through your work that could help our blog readers?
God is continually teaching me humility and dependence on Him through my imperfections, limited understanding, and physical limitations. Looking back on all that I have learned (and forgotten) as a chemical engineering student, a process engineer, a law student, and now an attorney, I have become increasingly aware of how much more I still have to learn. It’s almost as if everything that I understand only serves to open my eyes to how much more I could know, but don’t.
The great news is that God hasn’t called me to know everything. He has called me to know Him. It’s easy for me to forget that because I like to learn and to do. But I was made for relationship with God. As a result, I am constantly learning that I’m a human being, not a human doing.
Any books, lectures, mentors that have been inspirational to you in your field?
I almost feel like I’m cheating because I work in a field that involves both law and technology. Basically I can talk about anything I want, and it would be applicable to one of those fields.
With that in mind, and before I list a few authors and books, I would like to explain why I find these resources interesting in relation to the fields in which I work. Starting with the law, it deals with relationships between people and the rules that govern those relationships. Similarly, engineering deals with the physical universe and the rules that govern the physical universe. See a pattern? Maybe I just like rules. Or maybe it is something more. For example, if we want to influence the world, it probably helps to be familiar with the rules that govern it.
Of course, behind the use of influence are a lot of often unstated objectives. And, if we dig even deeper, under the objectives, and amongst layers of experiences, advice, instruction, and even subliminal messaging, we find the lenses themselves through which every human perceives everything, namely, world views. Although unseen and underappreciated, these world views establish the moral norms that get codified by the law and even determine the process variables that engineers try to optimize. As you can see, world views are a fairly deep subject, but I think their influence on society can hardly be overstated. In fact, I would suggest that understanding a person’s worldview is generally a prerequisite to truly understanding the person.
If I have piqued your curiosity, materials that provide interesting perspectives on worldviews include works by John Piper on Christian Hedonism, “Pleasures Evermore” by Sam Storms, various publications by C.S. Lewis, and the writings of John Lennox. Although I don’t necessarily agree with every thought expressed by these individuals, they have spent a lot of time considering topics that I find intriguing, and they have developed some refreshingly unusual approaches for addressing admittedly complicated issues.
If this inspired you and you want to learn how Jesus fills our work with passion and purpose like Brandon? Download our free Faith Works course here.