As a legal recruiter who specializes in patent agents, the most important initial issue that I have to address when I first see a resume or speak to a candidate is whether the candidate is viable in the law firm market. This market is highly competitive. Moreover, the patent agent candidates that get hired by the top firms are not necessarily the best and brightest engineers and scientists. The reality is that I have to turn away many eager and highly talented scientists and engineers because they simply don't meet all of the key requirements for a patent agent in the law firm market. The purpose of this article is to help inform current and aspiring patent agents regarding the actual key requirements used by the major law firms in their hiring decisions. There is one last general point to keep in mind. This market is also complex. It is wise to retain the services of a top notch recruiter who is both knowledgeable and experienced with the law firm market. Although beyond the scope of this article, good recruiters bring high value in a professional job search in terms of information, efficiency and effectiveness.
1. The Degree
The first initial requirement is whether the candidate has the exact technical degree that the firm is looking for. Often, this determination is not difficult. For example, the most "in demand" degree is electrical engineering. You either have that stated degree or you do not. But what if you don't have the exact same degree but you have something that is truly equivalent? If that is the case, then you will have to explain this to the law firm. In addition, you not only need the right kind of degree, you need the right level of degree, meaning certain graduate degrees when the firm asks for them. Going to a prestigious school is also a definite plus, but not usually critical. Your grades are also a significant factor in this determination.
2. The Patent Bar Exam
Your degree is not your only technical requirement, however. Being a patent agent is only partly about the science and technology. Rather, patent prosecution entails mastery of the law of Intellectual Property also. Just as you have to show your technical expertise, you must show your legal expertise as well. You do this by taking and passing the bar exam administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Virtually every law firm seeking a patent agent will make admittance to Patent Bar an express requirement. Yet, many aspiring patent agents do not take the test, believing that they will be able to get by solely on their outstanding technical achievements and then the law firm trains them to be patent agents. It does not usually work this way. Firms do not want to spend the time and money to train new patent agents. They want experienced patent agents who have passed the Patent Bar and have already been trained by someone else. This leads to the third requirement.