Lateral Attorney Report
Did I Get The Wrong IP Credentials?
By Paul Danielson
I work with a lot of IP candidates, and the IP market for both attorneys and patent agents is somewhat unique. For general attorneys, whether it be litigation or transactional, it matters more where you went to law school and what you have in the way of work experience than it does what your undergraduate major was (with the caveat that it never hurts to have, say, a finance background if you are doing finance transactions). But in the IP world, if you are an otherwise strong candidate, your job prospects will likely hinge on what it says on your degree depending on what the legal market is looking for at any given point in time.
There is currently an intense demand for attorneys and patent agents with degrees in electrical engineering and/or computer science. In fact, nine out of ten IP positions on the west coast are seeking such a background, and many firms will not even consider a candidate without a formal degree in these areas, regardless of that candidate’s knowledge and experience. In speaking with partners and recruiting coordinators at law firms, it is clear that this dynamic is driven by client demand. Thus, current job-seeking candidates with degrees in the life sciences are finding that their opportunities are few and far between (we have seen a recent small but significant uptick in demand for life sciences IP on the east coast, and are optimistic this will start to be the case on the west coast towards the middle part of next year).
What this means for you as an IP candidate is that, if you have a degree (even a Ph.D.) in a particular technical area, and you are finding that you are not getting any traction with law firms, it is not because you have “bad” credentials, it just means that you will have to pay attention to the market and either have the patience to wait for demand to pick up in your field, or make sure to jump on available opportunities if your background is in high demand at the moment, because that can always change as the hiring cycle and market moves on. In either case, a good recruiter should be able to inform you about the state of the market, and the likelihood of landing interviews quickly or tempering your expectations and having patience to wait for the next market cycle.
- Learning to Wait With Grace: The Art of Patience
- Is There a Need for Patent Attorneys With PhDs?
- Can Experience as a Patent Prosecutor Benefit a New Attorney?