PUBLISHED:February 07, 2023

Padowithz Alce LLMLE ’11 starts one of few Black-owned patent law firms


Pad Alce founded his firm based on lessons learned early in his career as a patent attorney.

Padowithz "Pad" Alce

Padowithz "Pad" Alce LLMLE ’11 is a patent expert in machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, and a rarity in his field. He’s one of the few people of color who’ve opened their own firms offering client-tailored services in this fast-paced and emerging area of patent law.
Nationally, less than five percent of attorneys are Black, according to a 2020 American Bar Association report. Black people account for just over two percent of partners and about five percent of associates, a 2021 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms shows.

“As I surveyed the legal landscape several years ago,” he said, “I literally could not personally identify a single patent law firm that currently existed in the U.S. started or led by a Black lawyer. I'm sure that they were out there somewhere, but several hours of Google searching didn't return any results.”

Alce, who also holds an MBA from Campbell University and engineering degree from North Carolina State University, founded Charlotte-based AI Patent Law in February 2020 – just before the start of the COVID pandemic. The boutique firm supports clients ranging from pre-seed startups to “unicorns” – tech startups valued at over $1 billion – and even multinational companies in the U.S., Canada, and United Kingdom.
“Machine learning and AI companies were gaining momentum in Silicon Valley,” Alce said. “I suspected that this time was the emergence of AI startups and that many more would need expert patent support to navigate patenting AI technologies.”
Padowithz "Pad" AlceWhile a student at Duke Law, Alce had set his sights on making partner at a large law firm, and eventually transitioning to in-house counsel for a tech company. But he says starting AI Patent Law has been his best career decision so far.
“Obviously, there are many risks to striking it out on your own, but the rewards of doing so far outweigh the risks in my situation,” he said, adding that the rewards include a more empathetic approach to working with clients and managing his firm. “I treat them how I wish I was treated,” Alce said.
Building a personal rapport with clients and providing excellent service have been central to AI Patent Law growing its startup clients by more than 10 times since opening. Amid his success, Alce honors his predecessors who helped to make it possible.

Alce has also built strong connections with his community over the years, too. He’s volunteered as a social innovations resource mentor with Queen City Forward and currently serves on the Member Board of Directors for Youth Development Initiatives. 

Through it all, he honors and celebrates the legendary Black figures whose struggles and sacrifice have paved the way for him to pursue his dreams.

“Black figures, historical and current, have trailblazed paths that have enabled me and many others, as beneficiaries, to follow and extend that legacy by leading new paths for diverse folks of all types,” he said. “I celebrate Black History Month by leading by their good examples, and do not take for granted the opportunities and liberties offered to me as a person of color because of their good work.”