Women on Top Awards: The Transformers

For Marie Claire's third annual Women on Top Awards, we combed the country for the up-and-comers leading thought-revolutions, creating businesses, and making names for themselves in fields from the military to the arts. None is a day over 40, with a couple of notable exceptions: We've added a "Super Woman" category to celebrate women of any age who made their mark on 2012. But their accomplishments speak for themselves...

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October 22, 2012 9:33 AM
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8. Top Lawyer

Mika Mayer, 36, partner, Morrison & Foerster

Résumé: Ohio native Mayer earned money for law school with a job helping small-time investors protect their ideas. After joining the Palo Alto office of international law firm Morrison & Foerster, she cofounded its venture intellectual property practice, and at 31 became the firm's youngest partner.

Path to the Top: "I was a chemical engineering major at the University of Arizona, and I interned at Motorola. I asked one of the patent lawyers there about his job. He was working on patent applications for car tire pressure sensors, which I'd never heard of. Seeing technology in its early stages was cool, and I wanted to help get new ideas to consumers. I applied to law school soon after."

Defining Moment: "In 2006, I was representing a Japanese pharma company that was considering a $10 billion acquisition of a smaller company. Based on my advice, they scuttled the deal and the company later sold to someone else for much less. That episode landed me on the cover of a legal trade magazine."

Early Bird: "I barely sleep; I go to bed at 12 a.m. and wake up at 4:30. My girlfriend texts me when she gets to her office at 10 a.m. — by then, I've cleaned the house and been working for hours."