Before entering law school next fall, I will have a year of high-tech patent prosecution experience as a patent engineer. How much will this experience benefit me when seeking an IP/Patent associate position with the big firms? Can it make up for not being at the top of my law school class or not being from a top 25 law school?
Your experience as a high-tech patent prosecutor will certainly strengthen your application and should compensate for the fact that you have not graduated from a top 25 law school or at the top of your law school class. Patent prosecution attorneys are typically in high demand, and the pool of attorneys with the appropriate technical background is small. Your background will likely make you eligible to sit for and increase your chances of successfully completing the Patent Bar.
Attorneys with scientific undergraduate or graduate degrees are highly in demand in the Intellectual Property arena. Moreover, attorneys with technical expertise in certain scientific fields are far more likely to obtain employment as a patent attorney than those without such expertise. As a result, the pool of potential candidates for patent positions is particularly small. To top that off, your technical experience as a patent engineer will provide you with the technical know-how to understand the technical intricacies of patent prosecution, infringement and negotiating and drafting tech-related licensing agreements and briefs. This puts you at an advantage over many of your law school classmates.
While there are certainly differences that could be pointed out, for the most part the expertise of patent attorneys falls into the following categories: (1) the life sciences, (2) chemistry & pharmaceutical, (3) material science, (4) electrical engineering, (5) physics, (6) mechanical engineering, (7) medical devices, (8) computer science. In terms of demand, the greatest demand is for attorneys with backgrounds in electrical engineering or computer science. There is also a strong demand for attorneys with biotechnology, biochemistry or organic chemistry backgrounds. The lesser demand is for those with mechanical or chemical backgrounds.
The fact that you appear to have both a technical degree and a patent prosecution background, when coupled with a law degree, makes you a unique and highly desirable candidate for law firms. While there are certainly many people who graduate each year with technical and science degrees, very few of these people may have any interest in attending law school because there is usually a good market available for these individuals, even without a law degree. Therefore, you will be a fairly unusual commodity with a law degree. Additionally, the demand for patent attorneys is compounded by the fact that the need for patents has continually increased dramatically. For example, a recent article in the Legal Times stated that the number of patents issued each year has increased 30-40% since 1990. During the same period of time, the number of software patents increased by approximately 200%.
It is important to mention, one of the reasons your background is valuable is that it makes you eligible to sit for the Patent Bar. In order to even sit for the Patent Bar, an applicant needs prior scientific or technical level training at the Bachelor's degree level in a science or engineering field (or significant college credits in one of these fields). Assuming you have the requisite training to qualify to take the Patent Bar, you must also pass it, and the pass rate for the patent bar exam is much lower than for most bar exams - it typically ranges from 28% to 40%. In the 1996 exam, for example, 968 people passed, and 1794 failed. Your engineering background and prior patent prosecution background will certainly help your chances of completing the exam successfully. Once you pass the Patent Bar, you will have all the elements in place to have a successful law firm career.
I did notice that your question assumes that you will not be at the top of your class in law school, even though you haven't started. Although you will likely be a marketable attorney, graduating at or near the top of your class will dramatically improve your opportunities with top-tier firms. I strongly encourage you to focus on your performance in law school. Although you may still be quite successful without stellar grades, graduating at the bottom of your class may be a significant hurdle for your success, especially with respect to opportunities early on.
In conclusion, it seems as though you have all the pieces you need to begin law school and do well throughout your career. I recommend that you focus on your grades, and pay careful attention to the firms that have an Intellectual Property practice, especially those that offer summer associate internships. One of the best ways to make inroads with a firm is to take a summer associate position, so that you will be in the pool of law students from which they choose full-time associates. We wish you the best of luck!
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About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.
With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.
Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.
Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.
One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.
One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.
Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.
In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.
Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.
In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
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Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
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