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Jean Benvenuto, Lead Patent Paralegal, oversees and supports our clients’ foreign patent filings and prosecution and oversees U.S. filings and prosecution. With 30 years of experience in the field of law, Jean has worked in corporate, litigation, product liability, human resources, trademarks and copyrights, as well as for both in-house counsel and law firms. Originally from New York, Jean earned an Associate of Science degree in Legal Secretarial Science from Kingsborough Community College. She is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal and a member of the North Carolina Bar Association – IP Paralegal Division, as well as the Research Triangle Paralegal Association.


Penny L. Cole, senior accountant, has been with the firm since 2000. Penny plays an integral role in accounting, overseeing all complex billing functions and maintaining the accuracy of the general ledger. In addition to her daily tasks, she is a key team member to all of Coats & Bennett’s key process improvement initiatives. An accounting professional for 29 years, Penny previously worked as an accounting manager for Zema Corporation/St. Jon Labs and as an administrative assistant in the insurance industry. Originally from Pennsylvania, she has lived in North Carolina for 35 years.


Kristi Lee Dunshee is a legal assistant for the electrical team. She acquired seven years of Intellectual Property experience while working for Eastman Chemical Company. Her diverse legal experience spans 25 years and three states: North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. She has worked in litigation, family law and real estate. She studied paralegal studies at Southern Institute in Birmingham, Ala.


Katya Fox, Patent Paralegal, has six years of legal experience in the U.S., including two years in Intellectual Property. Originally from Belarus, she offers the team a wealth of international legal experience and multilingual skills, as she is fluent in Russian, Belorussian and English. She earned a paralegal certificate from Meredith College and is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal. Prior to moving to the U.S., Katya earned a degree with honors from Belarusian State University in Minsk, Belarus, which is the equivalent of a U.S. Master of Law degree.


Vickie Diane Hawkins is a legal assistant for the chemical team. She has more than 20 years of legal experience, including 17 years in Intellectual Property. She has experience working in both corporate IP and private IP law firms, and also worked at IBM as an MVS Systems Support Programmer. Vickie graduated summa cum laude from Durham Technical Community College with an associate degree in paralegal technology, is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal, and is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association.


Jenna Higgs, File Clerk, is responsible for maintaining the integrity of our physical filing system, as well as supporting ad hoc operational tasks. Jenna has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Meredith College and an associate of arts college transfer degree from Wake Technical Community College. She performs as a member of the North Carolina Master Chorale. Originally from Massachusetts, Jenna has lived most of her life in North Carolina.


Luke Higgs, IT&T Systems Support Analyst, oversees and manages all aspects of the firms IT needs including web development, telecommunications, and software support. With more than 13 years of IT industry experience, he provides innovative IT research and development solutions. He holds Network+ and A+ certifications and his extensive background includes internet service provider support, digital signage marketing, graphic design and web development. Prior to joining the Coats and Bennett team, Luke worked as technology coordinator and system administrator for the Johnston County Public Library System.


Alfonso G. Sandoval is the Intellectual Property (IP) Docketing Administrator/Purchasing Manager and has 14 years of IP experience at Coats+ Bennett, PLLC. Alfonso is a thought leader who provides innovative solutions to daily docketing processes, operations and logistics, and contributes to goal achievement. A certified Spanish/English Medical Interpreter, he worked for Duke University Health System for two years and continues to interpret, volunteering his time wherever needed. Alfonso attended California State University at Long Beach, where he focused his studies in psychology.


J. Michele Sleeper, Sr. Trademark Paralegal, has been with Coats and Bennett for more than 25 years. She has worked exclusively on supporting attorneys with their trademark clients from small businesses to corporate entities. Michele received her paralegal certificate from Meredith College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Rutgers University. She is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and the Research Triangle Paralegals Association.


Michael Vivona, Foreign Patent Paralegal, received his paralegal certificate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal. Originally from New York, Michael earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from St. John’s University. He is a member of the Research Triangle Paralegal Association.

Suzette Young Web
Suzette Young, Front Office/Accounting Assistant, is responsible for providing assistance to clients and visitors in addition to her accounting functions.  Prior to joining our firm, Suzette spent 15 years in finance and banking roles.  She was born and raised in Georgetown, SC and has one daughter.  Suzette enjoys a variety of outdoor activities such as boating, softball, and riding motorcycles & ATVs.  She’s also been active in her community by volunteering with March of Dimes and Relay for Life.



Contacting Coats & Bennett PLLC does not establish an attorney-client relationship and any sensitive information should not be sent until an attorney-client relationship has been established. Coats & Bennett PLLC will have no duty to keep confidential any information transmitted through this website.


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