How should a future patent attorney choose a law school?

AcademicEggHeadThe new USNews law school rankings have been released.  Everyone knows that the rankings are worthless, but we follow them anyway.  Engineers and scientists usually do pretty well on the LSAT and often end up with the following law school options:  

  • Attend a highly-ranked law school;
  • Attend a lower-ranked law school with a renowned intellectual property program; or
  • Attend a lower-ranked law school as a night student and continue making money during the day.

The name of the law school matters most when you are looking for your first job out of law school.  Many people advise students to attend the highest ranked school where they can gain admittance.  Others would advise you to go to the school that offers the best financial package.  Not many advocate part-time solution — because it is such a hard road to work full-time then attend school four nights a week.  However, some of the most skillful attorneys that I know went through school that way.

What is your advice for hopeful pre-law students? Please leave a comment:

108 thoughts on “How should a future patent attorney choose a law school?

  1. 108

    This has been an excellent discussion so far. Here’s my problem: I went to a top 10 undergrad program which didn’t have a top engineering program. I got my degrees in Mechanical Engineering and History. I always wanted to be an inventor and got my first patent pending. I filed it pro se but did all the prosecution and drawings myself. I’m looking for licensing partners but that may take some time.

    I have more patentable ideas, but I’m currently at law school. It’s ranked by US News at around #50 and is a relatively new school in NY. Their IP program is ranked fairly high, though I wonder what would be different at a more prestigious school.

    My questions are: 1. Should I seriously consider transferring to a higher ranked school if grades/money permit it? I know I’ll be a patent attorney anyway, but is going to a higher ranked school determinitive?

    2. Does the fact that I’m an independent inventor matter?

    3. What are the odds of leaving a legal career to go back to get a Masters or Phd? I sometimes wonder if I’d be happier doing pure science or engineering. Does everyday patent attorney practice actually make use of your technical background?

  2. 106

    “Unfortunately, I can only do one or the other, which would you pick, MSEE or 1 yr of WE as an agent?”

    MSEE. You’ll get that 1 year of work experience later, or during law school. And everybody will have the 1 year of experience at some point. Not everyone will have the MSEE.

  3. 103

    Thank you both for the responses. How would you rate either of those options compared to getting my Master’s in E.E.? I can do this in the upcoming year before law school, but then I’ll have no real work experience, just a bunch of degrees back to back.

  4. 102

    “Is it better to get a year of work as an engineer or as a patent agent (I have both offers) if my goal is to work at a major law firm”

    Second what the person above said: working as an engineer for one year isn’t going to do jack for your legal resume, at least not compared to a year working as an agent. Plus there’s no better way to get a feeling for the pool than to sit on the rim and dip your toes in the water.

  5. 101

    Dear Need to decide:

    patent agent is my recommendation because a year is not enough time to gain any meaningful engineering experience.

    What do the other folks think?

  6. 100

    I will be starting law school next fall. Is it better to get a year of work as an engineer or as a patent agent (I have both offers) if my goal is to work at a major law firm, ideally in the SF Bay Area?

  7. 98

    The two best law schools in my state, Texas, are UT Austin (top 20 law school) and Univ. of Houston (top 10 IP Program). It looks like the consensus would be to pick the higher ranked overall law school? I still have yet to apply to law schools, but just want to hear opinions in case I am faced with this decision in the future…because I am sure I will be.

  8. 97

    Hi Everyone,

    Enjoyed the website. I am interested in becoming a patent attorney in the life sciences. Nontraditional 39 year old MS student in biology at Southern Methodist University. Doing my thesis at UT Southwestern Medical School (UTSW) and working full time as a laboratory manger. I have significant research experience at UTSW plus Duke University and five first author publications before going back to school. My questions are as follows:

    1) How can I leverage this experience gained at the BS level? There seems to be a greater emphasis placed on the advanced degree in biotech patent prosecution versus the application of one’s knowledge gained through experience. Why?

    2) Is there more competition for patent agent positions in comparsion to patent attorney positions?

    3) Why do the IP engineering positions value one’s experience more than having a doctoral degree?

    4) Get mixed advice about the importance of scientific credentials after one gets a JD. Given my previous experience will the MS be enough? Do firms value the science credentials equally with law school grades….or are law school grades more important? If you don’t understand the science, how can you do patent prosecution work in the life sciences?

    5) What effect will the current poor economy have on the future prospects for aspiring IP attorneys?



    Sarah- The Univ of Minnesota program is quite good. Best of luck!

  9. 96


    If you read all of the postings on PATENTLYO, please be advised that the best, brightest and most mature IP attorneys do not post


  10. 95

    Yes, the joint program shortens the JD/PhD route by one year. One semester of law courses count towards the PhD, and one semester of coursework for the PhD count towards the JD. In addition, the dissertation waives the law school final year writing requirement.

  11. 94


    Where undergraduate degree is biochemistry (as opposed to engineering), PhD is valuable if you want to specialize in patent law IMHO.

    I don’t know anything about the joint program. Do some courses count for both degrees so that you don’t have to take as many courses than if you pursued the degrees separately?

    Good luck.

  12. 93

    Hi Everyone,

    I am currently considering pursuing a JD/PhD at the University of Minnesota. I have an BS in Biochemistry and plan to get my PhD in a biological science as well. How important is the PhD in IP law? I have been hearing conflicting information. Also, has anyone heard positive or negative comments about the joint program in Minnesota?


  13. 92

    In response to: Eury | Oct 06, 2007 at 11:32 PM

    U.S. News & World Report calls the top 100 law schools — “Top Law Schools”

    I would suggest that you pass the patent agents exam and work as a patent agent for a year or so and then decide whether that is what you want to do or whether you should go on to law school (which is a big time and money commitment).

  14. 91


    I suggest that you consider a Masters in Biomedical Engineering.

    I am sure some of the other posters will have different ideas/recommendations

  15. 90

    I just got shafted (slighted) by not getting my name on a patent. I am a scientist in a tiny research group, yet our attorney won’t put everyones’ name on. No financial gains, but it would help our professional resume as we work for a tiny no-name contract company. How can one stay motivated?

  16. 89

    This will be a little long…

    I graduated from a tier 1 undergraduate program in 2006, with a degree in economics. I started out in the engineering program (in operations research and financial engineering) and then switched into the B.A. program, largely because at the time I was struggling academically and I perceived the other students in the program to be smarter. The truth was that I simply was not working as hard as my peers (I was more concerned with some of the social aspects of college). So, I got intimidated and quit.

    Now that I’ve graduated and I’ve been working in finance for a year, I have come to regret this decision to drop out of the engineering program. I also think I would have been more engaged if I had studied a more “pure” engineering disciple (mechanical, chemical, etc) rather than ORFE.

    I would like to go back to school for a masters in engineering. I have considered that intellectual property law MAY be something of interest to me down the line as well, but I am not sure. I am trying to find out if this kind of long-term plan is feasible, and what the optimal approach to my career would be. I am 24 so I have lost some time (as most of you did receive a B.S. in engineering). Oh – and of course somewhere in this grand scheme I also need to makes some money.

    I recently learned about the difference between earning a MEng and an MS in Engineering. I hear that an MEng qualifies you for more positions in engineering, but that it would take longer for me to attain that degree. Is having an MEng important if later I wanted to explore patent law? I do not want to make a decision based on the assumption that I will go to law school, because I may not go, but I also don’t want to make a decision that would close off that possibility.

    People tell me that I am all over the place and I need to make up my mind. I’ve always been “well-rounded,” but that that has its downsides – namely indecision and noncommittal. I think a good place to start would be good advice.

  17. 88

    “1. Is it true that the patent firm general don’t hire minorities?”

    No. I think we even have one or two white electrical engineer types here.

    “2. Is it possible to get a job as a patent lawyer with a biology degree?”


    “3. How difficult is it for someone who is a minority with a BS in biology”

    That is getting quite difficult, I think, because you will be competing for jobs with people with Ph.D.s and (in some cases) years of post-Ph.D. experience.

    “what would you recommend? i.e. after law school, go for master’s degree in biochemstry or physics or?”

    A master’s degree in biochem after law school?! That’s a waste of a law degree, which isn’t a cheap thing to acquire.

    For the love of life, do not waste time getting a masters degree in science if you aren’t loving it. Go to the best law school you can get into and become a patent litigator. Your BS in Biology will distinguish you from the political science and history majors.

    After you pay your loans back and buy your house, find a job where you can have a real life.

    Trust me on this.

  18. 87

    2 Questions and please be frank:
    1. Is it true that the patent firm generall don’t hire minorities?
    2. Is it possible to get a job as a patent lawyer with a biology degree?
    3. How difficult is it for someone who is a minority with a BS in biology and what would you recommend? i.e. after law school, go for master’s degree in biochemstry or physics or ??

  19. 86

    Hello everyone,

    I have been reading the blogs and they have been helpful, but I just need a little more advice. What is exactly considered a “top name” law school? Like between 1- 10, 1-20, what number range qualifies top rank?

    The second question is I am going to school for electrical engineering, should I go to law school for patent law or just become a patent agent since I do not intend on actually practicing as an attorney, I just want the patent law degree?

  20. 85


    Law students with a BS in EE have the easiest time finding patent prosecution jobs, whether they have had work experience or not.

    That said, some firms will like that you worked for a few years — which demonstrates at least some kind of skills to work with others (whether with clients, team members or management). In addition, the masters might be helpful in understanding more advanced inventions.

    If your work will pay for the masters and you’ll be able to either pay off student loans or start saving for law school, I say work for a few years. It will help you be better suited to relate to inventors and understand their inventions. It will also help you appreciate law school and the practice of law.

    But if the masters will be on your tab, I can’t see how the masters would be worth it. Anyone with a masters in EE out there who thinks differently?

  21. 84

    I will be receiving a BSEE from a 10-20th ranked engineering school. I am interested in becoming a patent attorney. In order to do so, is the ideal situation to go to law school right after graduation to maximize the amount of law-related working years? Or working in EE for about 3 years while obtaining a masters. Then going to law school? Or working even longer to become an expert in engineering, then attending law school? Thanks!

  22. 83

    I will be receiving a BSEE from a 10-20th ranked engineering school. I am interested in becoming a patent attorney. In order to do so, is the ideal situation to go to law school right after graduation to maximize the amount of law-related working years? Or working in EE for about 3 years while obtaining a masters. Then going to law school? Or working even longer to become an expert in engineering, then attending law school? Thanks!

  23. 82

    So you want to look at some examples of documents that patent attorneys prepare? Goto and look at some patents.

    As for your practical experience, when you look at those patents, how comfortable would you feel preparing them?

  24. 81

    I graduated in May with a BS in physics and am now considering pursuing a career in patent law. My practical experience is unfortunately limited to a series of research internships I’ve completed before and after graduation. Does this put me at any disadvantage?

    Also, could someone suggest a website that might have examples of what kind of legal documents patent attorneys commonly prepare?

  25. 80

    I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering and will be earning a BS in Chemical Engineering next May, I was told that I could go through a certification course instead of the formal education. I am aware I would not be a patent attorney. If anyone has any information about such a program I would greatly appreciate it. I am looking for a career in Patent Law.

  26. 79


    I have been reading the comments. I am greatly appreciative of the feedback. In general, the overall pattern seems to be as follows:

    (1) If an engineer is accepted to a highly ranked law school in the top 15, then that should be a priority despite the extremely expensive tuition.
    (2) If the acceptance is to a mid-level tier 1 school (i.e. local state university in the top 40-70), then that choice is sufficient if one wants to work in the local area. But the “catch” is that one must graduate in the top 10% of the graduating law class.
    (3) If acceptance is to a top IP program ranked low in tier 1 (i.e. Santa Clara), then it can still be a good choice if one wants to work in the local area (i.e. Silicon Valley for Santa Clara, Depaul for Chicago, or Houston for Texas). But a top 10% class rank for the grades is still recommended.

    The overall feedback still has a gap. If an engineer does go to a top law school (i.e. Chicago) and is ranked in the bottom quarter of the class, is that still better than being ranked at the top 10% of a less prestigious law school like at a local state university (middle ranking of tier 1) without the debt? I don’t know. This is all new to me.

    The bottom line is that I definitely want to switch to patent law and don’t mind the exorbitant legal writing. I’ve been timed at 12,000 ksph as a technical writer on many engineering projects and code reviews. I’ve written hundreds of pages of engineering documents in less than a week. Overall, I’ve written thousands of pages throughout my career under severe time limits, which is ironic because English was my 2nd language in early childhood. Technical writing is great.

    Engineering jobs are tough during a recession. I’ve had to move around the country to stay employed. I watched that movie about “Office Space.” It reminded me of many layoffs I have observed. In 2001 I worked at a startup company that went out of business in Denver. The job search in the aftermath was tough, and I actually wound up doing hard labor at construction sites before I finally found a new job in Florida. You may recall that scene on “Office Space” at the end of the movie when Peter is doing construction labor with a hard hat – I’ve been there. It is demoralizing. Right now, I work as a well paid contract engineer that I don’t trust long-term. To me, patent law gives extra job security and valuable skills compared to just engineering by itself. The recession of 2001-2002 was horrifying. I know another recession is very likely within the next decade. Type in “recession” on Wikipedia and you’ll see that there is usually one every ten years or so (i.e. early 70s, early 80s, early 90s, 2001, etc.).

    Biomedical Engineer (Master’s Degree)
    Physics (undergraduate major)

  27. 78

    I have a BSME and am looking into patent law as a career change. I have done alot of research on the internet and have probably seen less than 5% of jobs looking for ME’s almost all EE’s and CompE’s. Is this the prevailing job market or I am looking in the wrong place.

  28. 77


    If you want to do IP litigation, you can do that without taking the patent exam, but if you want to take the patent exam, so that you can call yourself a patent attorney then you need the coursework. You do not need a degree, just so many credits in tech classes.

  29. 76

    What about potential Law students who would like to pursue IP, but do not have the Biology, Chemistry, or Engineering backgrounds. I currently work for an IP firm and believe that it could be the direction I would like to go. Any advice?

  30. 75

    What about potential Law students who would like to pursue IP, but do not have the Biology, Chemistry, or Engineering backgrounds. I currently work for an IP firm and believe that it could be the direction I would like to go. Any advice?

  31. 74

    I live and work in the D.C. area. I am an IP specialist. I have found that there is an immense and urgent need for IP lawyers and agents with engineering backgrounds. If anyone needs help finding a position or wants to change firms, I am the one to talk to!


  32. 73

    I am in my last year of law school at night and work by day – you are correct, it is brutal. No time for anything else when you live like this. But, law school is just so very expensive these days. All the patent attorneys that I work with did it this way.

  33. 72

    I have an MBA and a computer science and computer engineering major. I also have experience as a patent examiner at the USPTO. What type of business-related jobs, if any, are relevant for both an MBA degree and the sector for intellectual property?

  34. 71

    I am currently a third year EE student and at a recent career fair I spoke with the USPTO and after looking at their information, they come across as a great choice right out of school. I live in Northern Virginia and therefore, I would not have to move. I was attracted to their benefits, pay and the option for a paid trip to law school after working for two years and on the contigent that I continue to work there during school, although after graduation there appears to be no binding agreement to stay. However recent events in my life have led me to look elsewhere as I may be moving to the west coast. Unfortunately for me this would completely eliminate the USPTO career option. I was curious about how often companies will offer paid trips to law school and what exactly would my job be right out of school since I am assuming that the USPTO is the only place where I can find a job as a patent examiner.
    When talking to the rep from the USPTO he also mentioned that because as a patent attorney I will be writing patents to the analysts at the USPTO, experience as actually being one of those who reads these applications will be highly valued in future employers. Does anyone feel as though these claims hold clout?

  35. 70

    My advice on “choosing” a law school are as follows:

    Go to the best one you can get into. Use U.S. News to figure out “best”.

    IP, or even patents, don’t require a “specialty” in law school.

    Bottom line, the best firms are looking for the best lawyers – they are not concerned with your practical knowledge when you graduate – they’re concerned with your legal prowess.

    So while it is well and good to rave that Franklin Pierce or George Mason have great IP law programs, not many big firms are looking at those schools for hires, and, more importantly, most big firms do not want partners from no-name or low-name schools.

    You can certainly do well at a lower ranked school and have a fin career, but the better schools open more doors.

    That’s the hard truth.

    By the way, I went to a “middling” school – nothing special, no IP focus.

    I ended up in Big Law because of my Patent angle, sitting along side of the Yalies and Columbians.

    But, to be sure, I knew that I was just part of the IP hiring craze, and I knew that I’d be extremely hard pressed to make partner.

  36. 69

    what requiremnets for filling patent in Mongolia
    Documents required for filing an application for:


    1. Request

    2. Two copies of specifications (specification disk can be enclosed)

    3. Author’s Declaration /available upon request/

    4. Assignment Deed /available upon request/

    5. Power of Attorney /available upon request/

    6. Claims

    7. Abstract

    8. Priority documents (e.g. international search report and preliminary examination report)

    Industrial designs

    1. Request

    2. Two copies of description of the design

    3. Drawing of the design

    4. Power of Attorney /available upon request/

    5. Priority document

    Utility models

    1. Request

    2. Two copies of description of the model

    3. Claims

    4. Drawings

    5. Power of Attorney /available upon request/

    PS: In case of inventions, industrial designs or utility models which relate to human food supply or hygiene, a document issued by the organisation responsible for epidemiology and hygiene should be attached certifying that those solutions will not harm human body or health

  37. 68

    There has been substantial debate about whether to attend the best overall law school or to attend a lower ranked law school with a strong IP program.

    As a first year law student at a lower ranked law school with a strong IP program, I definitely don’t regret making this decision. I came to law school immediately after graduating with a BS in mechanical engineering (from a top ranked engineering school) with honors. So far in law school, I have done well (top 10%) and will be working as a summer associate with a well regarded IP firm in Boston this summer.

    The law school that you decide to go to depends on your career aspirations. If you know you want to work in the IP department of a big general practice law firm, going to the best overall law school that you can get into will help because of school name recognition. However, if you want to work for an IP firm, a law school with a strong IP program may be advantageous. Schools with strong IP programs will provide you with invaluable IP courses that other schools do not offer (e.g. Patent Prosecution – where you learn how to draft patents and respond to office actions). This can give you an edge up on the guy coming from a better ranked law school but without such IP classes.

    Regardless of what path you choose, it is critical to work as hard as you can first year. Try your best to be at the top of your class, as it will open many doors for you for a summer associate position after your second year (or even your first year). Also, work on your writing skills. I cannot stress this enough. Coming from an engineering program, I realized that my writing skills deteriorated from the time I entered college. During my last semester in college, I took an advanced writing class to hone in my writing skills – and it has helped me greatly so far. Writing clearly and concisely is the most fundamental skill any aspiring attorney can have and it definitely helps when applying to law firms.

    But back to the point. Choosing a law school shouldn’t be based solely on the US News rankings. (See link to There are many other factors to consider when choosing a law school (e.g. location, cost, faculty, size, etc.) You want to choose a place that will provide you with the best learning atmosphere. Once you make your decision, buckle down and hit the books. First year is busy, and falling behind on your reading assignments can seriously kill your grades. Good luck.

  38. 67

    Hello. I just graduated this past December with a degree in mechanical engineering and was considering going to law school for patent law. I don’t have timeline in terms of planning for the LSATs of anything yet, but I was wondering if anyone could recommend some schools with strong patent law programs that I can start to look into. I checked out the US News rankings for IP programs, but I am not sure if they are really accurate. I am looking for options at all tiers, so anything you could recommend would be appreciated. Thanks. =)

  39. 66

    “Go to school in India, because all the prep and pros work is going to be outsourced there within ten years.”

    There is no aspect of patent proescution more significant than attending weekly R&D meetings. Perhaps the ‘law firm factory approach’ to prosecution will be outsourced one day, but quality applications are always drafted within shouting distance of the lead inventor.

  40. 65

    Learn from my mistakes and do the following:

    -before attending law school, look for the best LSAT prep course you can possibly get your hands on and learn this stuff inside and out. If necessary, spend as much as a half year to a full year devoted to this aspect of testing. The higher your LSAT score, the better tier level school.

    -a pre-Law curriculum wouldn’t be bad at all. Learn all you need to know about “IRAC”ing (issue rule analysis conclusion). This is the heart of law school.

    -get as much writing experience as you can

    -the better tier level of school=better marketability. Don’t fall for some of the lower tier (like tier 4) schools. The school that I come from garnered a pretty bad reputation as one that loves to get as many folks as they can while failing them out in droves. They are a money mill and they do not care about your success.

    -Gain experience in your technical field first (preferably 2 years or so) and then go for the patent bar. If you came to law school with those credentials, you are way ahead of your peers.

    That’s it for now. Take this stuff seriously. I tried to tell some young 20 somethings about this who just studied a week before the LSAT came around. The laughed at me and I just shook my head. Sometimes I wonder if there is inbred stupidity in this society! But do the formula and you have it made.

    Oh! BTW, see about getting some tuition funds socked away as far before law school that you can. You don’t want to carry the equivalent of a mortgage when you grad out of law school.


  41. 64

    I just discovered this thread, and it is simply awesome. Thank you all!

    I have a BSEE from a third-tier school, but I graduated 1st in my class, summa cum laude, and I’ll have one year of grad work behind me before I enter law school. I’ve also done some pretty cutting-edge research in nanotechnology.

    If I get into a T10 school, what do my job prospects look like for patent law? I’d probably start in litigation, but I want to do a mix of both if possible. Same question for T20.

  42. 63

    Be aware that your engineering degree is very important to law firms. Civil Engineers, Industrial Engineers, BioAg, etc are not in the same category as EE and ChemE.

    I’m in the former list, and finding a job in patent prosecution is difficult.

  43. 62


    Anyone else 1st pass the patent bar, then try to get a job as an evening law student.

    My brief (past few weeks-even before getting my actual USPTO registration #) experience has been rough-w/a PhD in pharmacology + 5 pubs-only 1 interview at a firm I wouldn’t even want to be at w/o a job offer).

    If you fall into this category and got a spot in a law firm what worked/was the deciding factor (connections? good fit of tech background? grades? etc)

  44. 61

    I am a student graduating with a BS in chemistry this year and planning on attending Law School in order to practice patent law.

    Will I need a higher degree than my BS in chemistry in order to secure Patent Law Job?

  45. 60

    i’m a military vet, 6 yrs nuclear pwr plant engineering, 6 yrs commercial aerospace, and 6 yrs military/defense aerospace engineering. taking the sept lsat and planning on starting law school in fall ’07.
    i am finishing a masters in engineering management in summer ’07, and i plan on taking the patent bar exam by summer ’07.

    i plan on staying in texas….probably dallas. should i try to attend smu, ut, houston full-time and get into IP afterwards?
    would it be a bad idea to try to keep my job and attend the evening program at smu or tex wesleyan?
    houston has a top 5 IP program, but ut is much higher rated at 16, and smu is about 43, whereas houston is about 70-83 on most rankings. I like the focus on IP at houston, but will it hurt my options later if i go to houston instead of ut or smu?

  46. 59

    Hi, I definitely agree with Jim from May 5 ’05. I just graduated and was in the same situation, Tier 2 school with little to no IP program, average grades, etc. All of the IP firms I interviewed with asked why I went to that school, and not being in the top 10%, they pretty much threw out my resume in front of my face.

    Before Law school I also had friends that told me I would get a job easily… yeah right. My resume of my time before law school is nothing to sneeze at (masters degree, with 5 years engineering experience). The simple fact is that the market is flooded now. When you have PhDs with 10 years experience getting Law degrees, its impossible to compete.

    The plain and simple advice to 99% of people to lead to the easiest time finding a job, (1) go to the highest ranked school regardless of IP program (2) if not tier 1, grades are the next important thing. Note that I said this was for ease in finding a job in the summer and after graduation. Of course financial concerns are an issue, but that’s something that must be decided personally. I say the higher ranked the school the better, even if you have to pay more, you’ll make more in the long run. IP reputation of the school is less important, though there seems to be Franklin Pierce grads working everywhere, and GW grads suck up all the patent jobs in DC.

    I also agree with the posts that recommend going to school where you want to practice. For the majority of people this will likely hold true. Having been in the military for 5 years before law school, I didn’t really have a place I called home, and for the most part didn’t care where I went after graduation, I was just looking for a nice place to work. When I applied to cities far from my law school, interviewers couldn’t understand why i was wanting to move there, why i was applying so far from my school and what they perceived as my home. They couldn’t understand that I was up for moving anywhere. They feel that if you don’t have ties to there area you’ll be more likely to leave. So, go to school where you want to practice.

    The bottom line from my experience, the common sense way that this job hunting process should work is not the way it works. Throw common sense out the window, for the most part its what school you go to, period. Prior work experience means next to nothing (unless you did something monumental). I really find it all to be a joke and sometimes regret this career move.

    Unlike Jim, i may be a little bitter. I should have gone to culinary school!

  47. 58

    I am a 2L at a 4th tier school and 50% class rank. I am just realizing that firms hire based on law school reputation and class rank. I have an opportunity to take a Business Development Position with a large Fortune 100 company, and finish up my law degree part-time. Seems like finishing full time with the hopes of joining a law firm is going to be next to impossible. (I am clerking at a one man firm in town.) I have a MBA and a PE, and will take the PatBar exam this December…..but all that seems futile since I am not in the top 10-20% of a mid-to-lower tier school??? So do I take the BDM position, and just plan on using my degree to help me in the corporate world?

  48. 57

    In-house after 8 years in firm, 4 years of which was agent going to night school at a top-tier. You will open the most doors in your career if you choose the highest ranked school you can get into (huge statistical advantage), and go during the day (better network down the line, better chance to clerk). The other thing that can be a real asset is patent examiner experience.

  49. 56

    I am currently in law school full time. I am at a fourth tier school, but at the top of my class. My experience looking for a job has been quite bizarre. Everybody i talk to says that I should be getting snapped up without a problem. In actuality,I never get interviews. I definately think that the name of my school has something to do with it.

    I am currently interning for a small boutique patent firm and hope maybe I will get an offer for something when the summer comes.

    Does anybody here know of the potential in the field of intellectual property taxation? It seems to me ultra-specialized, ie, few firms are involved with it. That’s an area where I would like to generate a practice. Mostly, prosecution, opinions, and taxation.

  50. 55

    Hey everyone,

    I am completing my Ph.D in Genetics, I have a MS in Pharmaceutical Sciences (pharmacology) and have an MBA Certificate in Business Management. I will take the Patent Bar because I am interested in patent law. But also, I want to process my own patents if I come up with ideas and inventions. I have a friend who is a scientific analyst for a law firm and I am using him as an angle to shadow lawyers involved with representing pharma companies. It will be a “quasi” internship, where I will go in once every two weeks, ask questions, help out if I can. I want to see if Patent Law is something worth pursuing as a career before I try to apply to law school. I don’t do great on standard exams (specifically of the LSAT type, not science or math related) so a top tier school probably wouldn’t want me.

    My question is: Do pharmaceutical companies hire people who are patent agents? JDs? Or do they primarily hire some law firm to take care of all of that. I am just trying to guage how marketable I would be for some greedy corporate pharmaceutical company.

    You guys may think I am nuts, but I would rather do more school (Pharmacy or Medicine or Law) before I get caught doing a Post-doc. No way am I doing a Post-doc!!!!!!!!!!

    Regardless even if I don’t plan on going to law school, I will take the Patent Bar and become at the very least a pharmacist or physician. You guys probably think I’m crazy. hehehe I am.

  51. 54

    Hello, I have been trying to get comparative salary information for Technology Specialists.

    I am a Technology Specialist in a general practice Boston firm, have 3 years of experience in biotech, and have passed the Patent Bar. I’d be very grateful if anyone here could share salary information for this position and level of experience. Thanks.

  52. 53

    My situation: I have a BSEE, MSEE (with a “NAME”) and I have about 5 years of excellent work experience as an engineer. Now I’m considering moving into patent law. I am looking at a local school with an evening program. By the time I will be done with school, I will have 9 years of engineering work under my belt…..what kind of starting salaries are we looking at? what is considered satuartion point for most patent folks? Any insight would really be appreciated….

  53. 52

    Hi Dennis,
    Since you’re a practicing attorney in Chicago, I was wondering if you could answer this question for me. I’m applying to law schools in Chicago, and I was wondering how the firms such as your own look upon Tier 2 schools with strong IP programs (or at least according to what I’ve heard) like Kent Law.

    I guess in a more generic terms, do strong students from regonial Tier 2 schools with strong IP programs have decent job prospects. Do you have to be in the top 10% like I’ve heard from all Tier 2 schools?

  54. 51

    JW — Great question. There are some salary surveys on “” They are fairly accurate. As an example, my firm (MBHB) pays $130,000 for first year associates who just graduated from law school.

  55. 50

    I know this may be a quesitoned asked often but I didin’t see it, but what is “good money” to a patent lawyer, I am fixing to graduate with a ChE degree honors and a publication and wonder if it is worth all the rigors.

  56. 49

    I know this may be a quesitoned asked often but I didin’t see it, but what is “good money” to a patent lawyer, I am fixing to graduate with a ChE degree honors and a publication and wonder if it is worth all the rigors.

  57. 48

    Hello. I’d like to go to law school with the strong IP program. (I’m a patent engineer of a Asian company.) Is there a list for law schools with the strong IP concentration? I heard U of Houston, Franklin Pierce are good. What else?

  58. 47

    Hi, I am thinking of getting into law school after i graduate this december in Electrical Engineering(B.E.E)my question is would it be wise to become a patent agent while going to law school or i should find a job as an engineer? And if i was to work as a patent agent can i go full time or should i go part time night and weekend classes. Your help would greatly be appreciated.

  59. 46

    I am a third year law student in a second tier law school. I have a Ph. D. in Chemistry from a well reputed college. My law school G.P.A is in the lower half of the class. I recently passed the patent bar. However I am finding it difficult to get interviews or offers. Any suggestions as to which market I should look into? Strategies?

  60. 45


    I am considering becoming a patent agent. My background is >20 years of engineering hardware design (RF, microwave, military & commercial systems). I have a BSEE & MSEE.

    At this point in my life, I have no interest in going to law school. Instead, I am looking to leverage my engineering expertise into a career change.

    If I were to pass the patent bar exam, how difficult would it be for me to get an entry-level position as a patent agent? My understanding is that I would have to “apprentice” at a law firm for a time before I would be able to work for a technology company as an agent.

    I would greatly appreciate any advice you can give me.

  61. 44

    For the most part, Law firms don’t care much at all about the MBA portion.

    If you want to be an in-house consel then an MBA might be useful — especially if you will be negotiating licenses.

  62. 42

    I have a CompE degree from a top-5 school and I’m trying to decide between paying 30K/year for a top-10 law school or going to a law school ranked 30th for free tuition.

    For my legal career, I don’t aspire to work 60+ hours/week regardless of the pay. However, I would obviously like to have the best career in IP law possible with a 40-60 hour work week. Is it still worth the 100K tuition difference to go to a top law school, even if I don’t aspire to 60+ hours/week at the top firms.

    Any ideas or insights?

  63. 41

    I’m interested in patent law and have an interview at a firm in the coming weeks. the firm is in boston and one i’m very excited about, but all the JDs who were tech advisers have gotten them at Suffolk which i can’t find in any rankings. i have a Ph.D. and lots of scientific experience, but am concerned that going to such a law school part time will be bad for my career. will i be limited only to firms in Boston or will other firms be interested in the future? would it be better to work for the firm and go full time to a better school than part time and have the firm pay for Suffolk? thanks!

  64. 40

    It is great to be a parent in law school if you don’t work during school. If you have been in industry, you will likely find that law school takes less time than your old job.

    The caveat is that at the end of the semester you need to have facilities in place for babysitters so that you can cram for the exam.

  65. 39

    On April 26, ‘bing’ asked about how marriage/family should enter into the law school decision equation. I am also interested in how people have handled that additional concern. I am a married father of two children under age 3. What is your experience with how parents balance law school (full or part time) with families?

  66. 38

    I’m already in law school and I work full time as an Engineer. Going full time during the day was not an attractive option and I’m glad I didn’t do it. I’m working myself to death, but I think I made the right choice. The evening students are more laid back and willing to help each other out.

    However, I’ve been told by Career Services firms will not hire anyone without any legal experience, such as interning, clerking… making copies. The big question is how do I get legal experience while working at my current (tech) job. I’m attempting to weasel my way onto our internal patent review boards and network my way into getting some type of legal position. But enough about me, I was wondering what others have done to get legal experience while going to school at night or how you made the transition from a technical career to a legal career. Do I have to quit my job and go and work for a firm?

  67. 37

    Some advice for theguy. Since you are getting a free ride….excellent but look for the strings. I got my Master of Science that way just before the company started requiring a four year min. requirement to stay else you repay the education expense.
    I was a product developer (EE from a top engineering school) for 10+yrs before taking the plunge into patent law. The job market has been rough but I have been clerking since first year (3L now). The firm where I am working now never asked me about GPA (unusual) because of my experience and I am gaining lots of experience for patent prosecution (claim language, arguing office actions). Short term, the school and GPA get you in the door but in the long run, the experience will be premier and the school will be just another plaque on the wall. Research your potential employer (firm) and ask pointed questions about how it is managed, how they train their associates, what is the reward system (billables/new clients), etc. Good luck.

  68. 35

    I am a PhD engineer with 3 years R&D experience with a big electronics company. I have the opportunity to go to night school to get my law degree (focus on patent law)on the companies dime while working in their law offices during the day. I will earn the same near 3 figure salary I do now and incur no debt in the process. Unfortunately I am restricted to a specific law school and it is a Tier 3 school. Given that I will be gauranteed a job when I finish, how much will the Tier 3 school hurt me if I choose to move beyond my current employer later on. I know everyone is big on the name schools, but for me the added debt AND loss of salary seems like a deal breaker. Any thoughts/Advice?

  69. 34

    Is Minnesota considered a good school? It is top 20, but no one seems to really know that. I want to do patent. I am also looking at Wisconsin. Please advise.

  70. 33

    If you want to work for any recognizable firms, law school ranking is critically important. I had no option but for a low-ranked law school due to marriage, kids, work, geographic limitation, etc etc. Hearing some comments about benefits of attending a low-ranked school at the time I made my choice was very assuring. I have an advance engineering degree with high honor, however, the law school ranking pretty much keeps me out of all recognizable law firms. Only small and smaller firms that pay less than my engineering salary expressed interests in me. If I could start over, I would do whatever it takes to go to the highest ranking law school possible.

  71. 32

    Matt, that post was really quite depressing but incredibly enlightening; I really wish that someone had said something similar to me when I had started my chemical engineering program as very few people are finding work at all in my area despite the myth that engineers will never be without work.

    On another note, I am desperately in need of advice and am hoping that someone may be able to help me out. I’m a chemical engineer who will be graduating in either December 2005 or April 2006 and I am currently considering a career in law. My ChE profs have advised that I consider patent law due to my techie background and several law school reps have suggested the same thing. I’ve taken their advice to heart and have researched the field and while I think that I may enjoy working in this area, I’ve learned better from past experiences to trust all that I’ve read.

    Due to the fact that I started college while still in high school, I’ve got this mass of credits that could be used towards another degree and I’ve been toying with the idea of staying an extra semester to get a B.S. in Political Science as well as in Chemical Engineering. This would be in addition to my three other minors, international research experience, and publication. Would anyone consider an additional background in PS to be in any way beneficial in law school or would another degree make me seem less focused to an admissions committee (my minors are in petroleum engineering, French, and chemistry)?

    My greatest concerns are about getting into law school as well as financing it. I’ve had to pay for undergrad all on my own and will be financing law school as well and money is very tight. I have heard and read of people who have found firms willing to pay for the education as a form of indentured servitude, but how does one go about doing this? The prelaw department at my school and my professors have been less than helpful in this regard.

    Many lawyers I’ve met have completed their education at night programs and while I am strongly considering that approach, my worry is that I will be unable to complete a program with the job that I will most likely be forced to take. My strongest areas are in the writing and presenting aspects of our work. I will most likely end up as a sales representative for a company and will be travelling as a result, making night school an impossibility.

    Due to this money problem, I’ve been hoping to find another alternative for an engineer who likes to read, write, and do literature researches. While I continue to explore the possibilities of a career in law, is anyone familiar with another occupation where I could utilize both my engineering background as well as my writing skills? Any jobs where I can find out if patent law is for me before I dish out the $30,000 for tuition that I don’t have? πŸ˜€ Your advice will be greatly appreciated.

  72. 31

    My experience: I didn’t do too bad on the LSAT but not good enough to get me into a tier 1. I luckily got into a borderline tier two. I have average law school grades. I am finishing my second year.

    Finding a summer job has been next to impossible. I haven’t gotten an interview since last summer at the patent law interview program (those aren’t even *real interviews, they are pre-screens). Believe me, this is not due to lack of trying.

    Before I went to law school, this is the statement I heard frequently when telling people I was going to law school, “Engineering degree + law school equals the easy street to getting a job” or “Engineers dominate law school without trying.”

    Well, both of these are false, as I am living proof of both.

    However bitter this post may sound, I am really not bitter. I am just trying to debunk the myths portrayed to me.

    That being said, anybody need a clerk? πŸ™‚

  73. 30

    Hi, I am a patent examiner at the USPTO in class 215 and 220 (almost 3 years experience), and I am currently waitlisted at Temple in Philadelphia, and American in Washington, DC. I’m moreless interested in IP Law, though I’m open minded enough to keep my options open. Any advice on which – if I get lucky enough to choose – of these schools I should take will be much appreciated. Thank you.

  74. 29

    I realized too late that my previous post was completely off topic – sorry about that.

    To try and make up for it – I’m going to be starting law school next fall and my main criteria for choosing a school was that I wouldn’t have to quit my job or move in order to attend. That left me with only one option. Luckily it’s also a decent school (tier 1 for whatever that’s worth), but that wouldn’t have made too much of a difference to me as I don’t need to compete for a job after graduation (ain’t nepotism grand).

  75. 28

    Mike Savoi wrote:
    “I do have one comment on the outsourcing of patent law to India. While there are several companies over in India doing this, I think with Patent Law, there can be a little bit of a disconnect between the inventor and attourney/agent. The inventor has simply solved a problem. The agent/attourney must determine what is legally able to be protected. Phone calls and emails can only do so much, at least for a patent that is physically based. Actually seeing the apparatus and how it works can be huge in writing down all that is protectable.”

    I’d assume that one of the main reasons companies would want to put U.S. patent attorneys in countries like India is that, since so many engineering/research teams are being put together there, it’s helpful to have the attorneys there as well for just the reasons you were describing. That being said, I’m not exactly sure what point you were trying to make. What do you mean about a “disconnect” between the inventor and the attorney? In my experience (as a patent agent) it’s quite common to go through the entire prosecution process without ever being in the same room (or even the same hemisphere) as the inventor or the invention. When doing work for foreign associates, it’s fairly common to not even speak directly to the inventor at all.
    Good luck on the patent bar btw. I’d highly, highly, highly suggest getting that out of the way before you start law school.

  76. 27

    I do have one comment on the outsourcing of patent law to India. While there are several companies over in India doing this, I think with Patent Law, there can be a little bit of a disconnect between the inventor and attourney/agent. The inventor has simply solved a problem. The agent/attourney must determine what is legally able to be protected. Phone calls and emails can only do so much, at least for a patent that is physically based. Actually seeing the apparatus and how it works can be huge in writing down all that is protectable.
    As a side note, I see some law schools offering courses in intellectual property management, strategy, and development. These are things not easily grasped by people who have been taught in a very strict culture. My example is working with factories over in Asia, while they have been great at copying a product. More than not the copy works horribly and fails quickly. They don’t have a great understanding of the techniques involved that made the original product. They just do what they are shown/told and do not think creativly about how to solve the problem of their inferior product. That is something that the American culture has a bit of an edge on, for now.
    I simply write this from my own experiences as I contemplate the costs and commitment to attend law school and go down this career path. My choice right now is to take the Patent Bar and gather up law school applications

  77. 25

    If you know you want to be a patent attorney…

    I opted for a combination of 2 and 3. Not only does the University of Houston have outstanding IP JD & LLM programs (ranked 4th by USN&WR, in case you missed it), but you can usually expect to have at least 1 or 2 courses offered in the evening durin…

  78. 24

    I am finishing my second year as a night student at a first tier law school while working full time managing a lage group at a biotech company. This is almost impossible while taking 5 classes(including a writing course). Anyone who is not an engineering major should stay far away from a night program. It is just simply too hard to get the grades you need to land a job unless you are an engineer. I am in the top 50% of my class, I have 10 years experience at a large biotech company doing biotech and software work, and I have passed the patent bar. I thought my experience would pay off and overcome not being in the top 10% of my class. I was wrong, firms seem to care less about your knowledge in the field, students coming straight out of school seem to do just as well. I am not sure most firms have the ability to judge quality work experience, and the future potential value of bringing in new clients that industry experience can bring. Firms care about 1. grades, 2. law school rankings, 3. journals. Finding work as a patent agent/student associate in the current work environment is simply too difficult unless you have the extra fifty plus hours a week that not being a night student affords you.

  79. 23

    Just a warning for those of you going into law: For the most part, attorneys make their living through the written word. Patent law is no different. I spend most of my time (1) writing; (2) thinking about what I am going to write; (3) discussing what is going to be written; and (4) reviewing what others have written. I do lots of other things, but on an average day, 75% of my time involves writing.

    If you don’t enjoy writing, you might not enjoy being a patent attorney.

  80. 22

    Patent prosecution is writing patent applications, a lot of office work, usually with direct contact with inventors, so it can be pretty neat especially if your inventors are ‘cutting edge.’ Litigation is litigation. It’s more for those who enjoy the competition. It’s also easier to log billable hours when you can concentrate on one big project rather than many smaller ones. Many of us do both, many specialize.

    I teach part time at a “No. 2” school, and I’m also an alum (LLM) at the same school. Incidentally, the school scores high in other concentrations, like trial practice and lawyering skills.

    I’d say you need to balance all of the above. The student who has no connection to the IP field and can afford the tuition should decide differently than an engineer or scientist who has been working as patent liason and has a direct connection with a firm that might hire her or him. The PhD will have better prospects than a BS. Also, there will be geographical factors. There will be more chances for flexible employment in a bigger city, and more choices in lawschools. Becoming a patent agent is a fantastic way to differentiate yourself. The exam can be taken and passed before you have any of the bad habits of writing real patent applications!

    Disclaimer: these are my personal views, not those of my firm or law school.

  81. 21

    I apologize for my ignorance. What is the difference between patent litigation and patent prosecution? I will enroll in law school for the first time this year. Thank you.

  82. 20

    For what it’s worth, I was making all these decisions last year (I’m a patent agent who is finishing up my first year at a Tier 1 school). I think all of this has been mixed in with the other posts, but here are my 2 cents:
    – No matter what anybody says, the higher the rank of your law school, the better your prospects for work after you get out
    – Sure grades matter, but the “better” the school, the less grades matter.
    – Someone mentioned that it is better to be Summa Cum Laude at a Tier 2 than B student at Tier 1. First, that isn’t necessarily true. Many firms only hire from Tier 1 schools (or at least practically only hire from Tier 1 schools), and will consider B students (although you have to have other things going for you). Second, as someone mentioned, because you have to get great grades at lower tiered schools to have a shot at many jobs, so the competition is much more cutthroat, which makes law school much less enjoyable. Plus, it’s hard to build a network of friends (later referrers) if you hate your entire class because they were hyper-competative jerks. Law school is hard enough without those kinds of people making it even worse.
    – While the IP reputation of the school is nice, no firm is really going to notice it (unless it is a firm that happens to have a lot of graduates from that school). You go to law school to learn “how to think like a lawyer” (or so they tell me), and if you’re lucky, you pick up some patent law along the way. But really, you learn all your specific substantive law on the job.

    For me, I chose the highest ranked school I got into. But that was also because that was the highest ranked, and best regarded, school in the city I want to practice in. I could have gone to another local school with a good reputation and an excellent IP program with a full ride scholarship, but I decided not to. Mainly because of 1) the competition I would face at the lower ranked school (by competition, I mean the overly agressive people I described above) 2) I knew the overall reputation of the school meant more to employers than the IP reputation, and 3) I wanted the option of being able to work in other cities besides where my school is, and with the lower ranked school I wouldn’t have that option.

    Wow, that was long. I hope this was helpful, and not too random.

  83. 19

    There are those that like going to law school, those that like being lawyers, and very few in-between. Just get the best practical training that you can, from whatever source you can, and then try your best until somebody notices.

  84. 18

    For those (few) who went to law schools married (with kids), how would you factor marriage/family and convenience into your decision?

    I’m a would-be law student (also a mother with two young kids) having to soon make a decision between two regional schools: one with a better overall ranking but less an IP program, the other lower-ranked but with pretty strong IP program. I found this discussion very timely and extremely helpful. Many thanks to Dennis for posting the question and to everyone who posted his/her comments! Having a PhD with significant research experience (post-doc and industry) and sitting on the patent bar in two weeks, I’m not so worried about finding a job in the region going to either school. But I also look forward to interesting law school experience while hoping my family won’t suffer too much from my new endeavor. Meanwhile it still remains a small possibility that we may move out of the region or even the country. (If you happen to work in the SF Bay Area, the schools I’m considering are Hastings and Santa Clara Univ. Any thoughts are appreciated)

  85. 17

    I think the importance of your GPA falls off much faster than the importance of where you went to school – no one has ever cared what my grades were at my tier one school, just that I graduated. (As one of the lawyers in my firm told me when I started, “D minus equals J.D.”) Your first employer out of school may care, but odds are your second won’t.

    I do think that law students underestimate the possibility that they might want to do something else by the time they get out of law school. If I had it to do over again, I think I might have pushed to try to get into litigation, instead of staying in prosecution. And some of my most satisfying work has not been IP at all.

  86. 16

    Peter – Thanks for the comment. Although summa cum laude is an honorable goal. I don’t think that a new law student should base a career path on the expectation that she will achieve that goal.

    At lower ranked schools, all the students know that the top 10% is a hard cutoff for many of the best jobs. As such, there is some serious competition for the very best grades.

  87. 15

    In hindsight, the biggest bear I face is tuition debt. But, that aside, my experience teaches that the best grades in the highest ranked school land the first job. So, I think attending a school where one can earn the highest grade point would trump the school ranking. In other words, better to be Suma cum laude at a Tier 2 than a “B” student at a tier 1.

  88. 14

    I’m going to disagree with most posters in that I think going to a name school is only important if other factors point you in that direction. What I mean is that if you are outgoing and a self-starter, going to a mid-level law school can be fine. You will be able to overcome your school name with your personality and perseverence, especially if you’re in the top 10%. On the other hand, if you aren’t as confident in your ability to open your own doors, a name school will do that for you.

    Of course, another big consideration is the network you create at law school. Some of the most prolific rainmakers I’ve seen were able to utilize their law school network extensively, frequently being referred work from former classmates. The better school you go to, conceivably the more people in your network will have higher quality jobs, and the better the chances for referrals. Following that logic, if you plan to practice in a particular region of the country, going to a good regional law school may actually be better than a big name school located elsewhere.

    Finally, I think cost is a huge consideration. Going to a decent in-state law school, even one with a mediocre IP program, might be preferable to avoid the mountains of debt accrued at big name schools. This is especially true if you decide that IP isn’t for you and you don’t want to have your choices limited to only the highest paying jobs.

  89. 13

    My general advice to would-be law students is to go to a name law school — tuitions are so high and students take on so much debt that it’s too risky to ignore the placement and salary statistics. That may be more true for law students in general than for scientists and engineers looking to become patent lawyers, but who knows, they might graduate during a particularly slow hiring year, or they might change their minds during law school and decide they want to practice something else.

    One comment with respect to what Jason reports: I would tell would-be patent attorneys that if it is at all possible, go to a place where you get to do at least some prosecution. I didn’t — my first job was doing all litigation — and the lack of prosecution skills is a career hindrance. If you don’t get the opportunity/training drafting patent appliacations at the start, you might not ever. It’ll make you a much better patent litigator as well.

  90. 12

    Having gone to a “name” law school with an IP law program that would be considered minimal and working in both a big coast city and a midsize midwestern one, I have a few thoughts on the subject.

    1) A lot depends on where you want to work, if you want to work in the city you go to school in, generally your law school “name” is not as important. Local employers know their local schools well and a local reputation (as opposed to any national ranking) of the school will stand for more. It is also the case that many attorneys at the firm probably attended the same school, and they know more what the education there entails.

    2) If you want to work on a coast in a big city, or want to move after school (particularly to a coastal big city) go to the best law school you can regardless of their IP program. This is especially if you are looking at doing IP in a general practice firm. The reason is simply access. At higher ranked law schools, more firms will interview which gives you more options. Further, general practice firms often won’t recognize a top tier IP program (the person making intitial decisions may not be knowlegdable about IP), but will recognize a highly ranked school.

    It’s not that your school is going to have that much effect on how a firm will treat you once you are there, great attorneys graduate from all law schools. It’s that the law schools reputation simply attracts more employers to look there for new attorneys, and that gives you more options and a better chance to find a good fit.

  91. 11

    I am finishing my law program at a top law school after several years working as a patent agent. My perspective on the job market is that IP employers come in two flavors: 1) Big firms that mostly do litigation, and 2) small firms that mostly do prosecution. The big firms have a big presense on campus. I have been very surprised to find that they don’t really care much what your background is. They consider every fresh law school graduate to be brand new to litigation (which is probably mostly true). These employers do seem to care what school you went to, and tey focus their attention on the law schools that are great overall, not focused on IP. In fact, I have often interviewed with heads of IP departments that have a general litigation background and no technical degree or experience. The small firms are where you end up if you want to prosecution (which I do). If the small employers are hiring, they are just glad to find a lawyer that wants to do prosecution. I don’t think they care what school you went to. They are more interested in whether you can write a good patent or not. For these employers, I usually have to provide several samples of patents I have written. They never ask about what classes I have taken, etc.

  92. 10

    Go to school in India, because all the prep and pros work is going to be outsourced there within ten years. Think I’m kidding? Google around a bit. Even though they work for $40 an hour, Indian engineers and lawyers aren’t dumb. That’s why outfits like Microsoft and IBM are using them. With this kind of price disparity, if you don’t think all the quality corporate work isn’t going to eventually follow companies like Oracle to India, you are just kidding yourself. India has thousands of US trained PhDs who are willing to work in Bombay for less than the cost of a big firm paralegal. It is only a question of time before they are trained, and then we are all toast.

  93. 9

    Paul, that is a good question. From my perspective, the market for patent lawyers is still strong, so you will most likely get a job — especially if you are most interested in doing patent prosecution. However, I would not necessarily count on getting a job at your top few choices. Elizabeth is right that if your other credentials are strong, then the law school might not matter so much — for instance, if you have a strong PhD or a high GPA from Stanford’s EE department, then you will likely not have much trouble finding a job.

  94. 8

    “The name of the law school matters most when you are looking for your first job out of law school.” Queries: Is that true for beginning patent lawyers? That is, do patent firms (or patent ends of big firms) care as much about name schools?

  95. 7

    While it is certainly easy to overstate the importance of reputation (and US News is a lousy barometer), it is one available proxy for the quality of your classmates and the rigor of your classes.

    I would also agree those going to law school to become patent attorneys (and especially patent litigators) should choose based on the whole school, not just the IP program. You can learn a lot of patent law later based on your experience — and if you have been a patent agent you know a lot of it already. On the other hand, this is your chance to become a lawyer. Take evidence, comparative law, federal courts, some business courses. All will help you to be a good patent attorney. And don’t forget to take a few courses just because they are interesting or taught by great profs.

    Finally, if you are sure you will be a patent attorney, you will be able to pay off the debt. But if you’re not so sure, too much debt can really trap you when you want to do something less remunerative! In my view, money is the only good reason to go to law school part time.

  96. 6

    “Would anyone agree that lots of patent classes would be wasted on a law student who has been a patent agent for a couple of years?”

    Well, I took IP Law and Patent Litigation for the sake of a couple of easy ‘A’s, so I could spend more time at work. (Actually, that’s not quite true – Patent Litigation was taught by a rather reknowned IP litigator as a guest professor, and I was interested on what he had to say about litigation strategy. But I definitely knew all the law we covered in class.)

    I do have to say that every patent agent I know who goes to law school snickers at what law school professors think practicing IP law is like.

  97. 5

    Which is the best school for a future patent attorney:

    1) The law school with the best overall program; or
    2) The law school with the best patent program?

    I think that the answer depends on the type of career that the future attorney hopes to create. Would anyone agree that lots of patent classes would be wasted on a law student who has been a patent agent for a couple of years?

  98. 4

    I practiced as a patent agent for a few years before attending law school, and chose to attend a higher ranked school over a lower ranked school with a renowned IP program (and scholarship). And I’m glad I did — although familiar with substantive patent law before attending law school, there is much, much more to practicing law (even patent law) than the substantive law itself. (E.g, procedural and jurisdictional law, history of law and equity, etc.)

    The person who intends to practice law as a career for the long haul should go to the best law school they can at least because so much of the education involves acknowledgement and response. The better the professors and students, the more to acknowledge and the better the responses.

    That being said, U.S. News is only a rough guide as to what law school is “best.” Chicago, for example, probably has the best first-year curriculum in the nation. (But “best” in the sense of providing the most rigorous training, not in the sense of being the most nurturing!) Within roughly equally U.S. News ranked schools, determining what school is “best” seems to require highly individual considerations.

  99. 3

    Great comments. Here is a problem: Tuition at my law school is now over $30,000 per year plus books and living expenses. That is beginning to be some real money.

  100. 2

    I went a route not (quite) mentioned on your list – “name” law school full time while working half-time. My firm paid for law school, but required me to either stay there for a period of time after graduation or repay my tuition.

    It’s a lot of work, and you miss out on some of the benefits of going to a “name” school – I did not participate in any of the extracurricular activities (moot court, law review, etc.), because I was busy working. Nor did I even consider living on campus, since I was coming to school later in my career and after my marriage. I didn’t join a study group or make many friends there. On the other hand, it’s a great way to keep your eye on the ball while you’re in law school, and remember what you’re there for. If your plan is not to be a law student or a law professor but a lawyer, there is no better way not to get too caught up in the weird mentality of law school than to spend every afternoon working in a law firm.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily just your first job where the “name” school helps you, either (I realize that you said “most,” not “only”). I think that clients like to see a name they recognize on your web page. This can be a big help, especially if you’re thinking of hanging out your own shingle. Also, I think that it helps a lot to have at least one big-name school somewhere on your resume for most IP jobs. If you went to a top-notch tech school, it’s less important to have a big-name law school. If your undergrad degree is from somewhere less prestigious, it’s more important to have the “name” on your law school.

    I doubt that I would have gotten an interview at my current employer without at least one big name school on my resume, despite the fact that I’ve been out of school for a few years.

  101. 1

    I am just finishing the night school route discussed above, it is for the birds. Go during the day! I went to a low ranked school, my fellow Ph.D.’s are going to top ten schools in the daytime. Go in the day.

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