Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Patent-Law-Light: Same Great Debt, but Less Fulfilling

Trust Admiral Ackbar on this one, folks...
I was a STEM major back in the day, in both undergraduate school and in graduate school.  Specifically, the "E" variety.
After working as such for several years, I became interested in "bigger picture" items.  What I found from my experience was that there was no shortage of smart people - if your throw enough money and PhDs at a technical problem, more often than not you can come up with a technical solution.  It may not be cheap, it may not be quick, but it (likely) can be done.
When people have "big picture" challenges on a project, it more often revolves around contract disputes, intellectual property, labor issues, regulations...but my engineering training didn't help me with those issues.  The engineering managers and other higher-ups struggled with these issues on a daily basis, yet they had no "training" with them, either.  At the same time, I also saw that the people above me had yet additional degrees...MBAs, PhDs, even a JD or two at the tippy-top (in the mahogany-paneled legal department, of course). 
It seemed to me that what was needed was someone with legal training and dispute resolution skills, not just technical skills.  Not just "another" MBA.  Not just "another" PhD.  The JD or two at the tippy-top might have agreed, although in retrospect I doubt I could have got it in writing.
Apparently, I should have been a law school dean, as I was several years ahead of my time:
Northwestern starts MSL program for STEM professionals
January 8, 2014
The Northwestern School of Law is offering a new Master of Science in Law designed for professionals in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
The program, which can take two to eight semesters to complete, will offer students the opportunity to concentrate in three areas: patent and intellectual property, business law and entrepreneurship, or regulatory analysis and strategy.
Graduates of the program will not be licensed to practice law; instead, the program will aim to "contextualize the complex web of intellectual property, regulatory, business contracting and licensing issues that scientists, engineers, medical practitioners and other STEM professionals around the world face.”
“Technical people increasingly have seats at the business table, and more and more of them are being called upon to lead — to sit at the head of the table,” Emerson Tiller, the law school’s senior associate dean of academic initiatives.
Lovely.  The problem with this is...it's just not true, folks.

Let's be honest.  NO ONE CARED about my "renaissance man" view of the business world.  Friends, I went back to school for EXACTLY THE ABOVE REASONS (i.e. contextualiz[ing] the complex web of intellectual property, regulatory, business contracting and licensing issues), all on my own, years ago, with no help, thanks.  I banked specifically on the "versatile JD," married with my engineering degrees and experience, along with the (false) employment statistics.  As such, I call myself "dupednontraditional" for a reason. 
I contacted many engineering companies and consulting firms, tried to market myself with this skill set, tried to demonstrate the advantages a JD/STEM combination conferred to engineering management and the bottom line.  The result?  Bupkis.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.  This was years BEFORE the Great Crash of 2008, mind you, which the ScamDeans and LawProfs love to blame for the lack of opportunities for JDs.  I saw plenty of question marks over people's heads, but no takers.  Nobody bought it.  Nobody believed it.  I finally wormed my way into another field that has nothing to do with my prior career, for the sake of my family, my credit score, and my student loans, but that is another story. 

My "versatile JD" was more like career-VD.  What is even more insulting is that you aren't even eligible to take the bar and practice law with this MSL degree.  Why would a watered-down credential do better than an actual JD?  Does a JD not cover IP, business law, and regulations anymore?  Did that all just go out the window?  Did LawProfs stop "teaching" these subjects, so now we need the MSL?

More importantly, where is the evidence for this need?  Who are the STEM-related entities crying out for this?  I doubt you will find them.

What I did hear in law school and in my job search, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, was "Why are you trying to do this weird science and law mix? Why aren't you just doing patent law?"  Interviewers asked me this.  Network contacts asked me this.  Career Services asked me this. LawProfs asked me this.  As if I was a f***ing dumbass or something and had never thought of that before, you insipid, baby-boomer, bubble-living academics.  Christ.  Glad to see those cushy six-figure salaries go to such brain-trusts. 

Patent law is good work if you can get it, of course - granted, most people don't, but hey, let's not ask too many questions.  A sad truth I learned the hard way - people are long on worthless advice, and short on actual help or solutions.  Just like the fable of "The Little Red Hen," Law Schools are happy to eat the student's bread but are not so big on the planting seeds, tilling, grinding, or baking.  Go "network" or something.  For me and many others, law school was like jumping off the high-dive platform, only to see the water rushing out of the pool while you plummet.  It has affected my career and my earning potential ever since.

Moving on for a moment from worthless not-law-degree varietals, what about that halcyon-panacea that is the Asgardian-Elysium known as Patent Law?  In my recent post on JD-Disadvantage III, an interesting set of sub-threads came up out of the blue, in which I also participated:
I know many, many patent attorneys (40% of the patent lawyers at my T60 Toilet) who graduated in the classes of 2008-2010 and who are either working for patent search firms or are at the PTO. The "lucky" ones work for the PTO, where they can eventually get to $100K + per year in exchange for a relatively easy, stress-free work life. The unlucky ones wind up as patent searchers at sweat shops like Cardinal Intellectual Property, Landon IP, Global Prior Art, etc. If they're lucky, they MIGHT make $40-60K/year with no benefits.

Engineering LEMMINGS, do not make the same mistake we made. After a few years of working as an engineer, it's very likely you'll be on the path to $100K/year. The patent attorney job market is super saturated and filled with Boomers who won't retire until you're 50 or so. Do not incur $100K + of debt and lose three years of income to become a patent searcher with no future. Do not even think about going to law school unless you get into the top 10 schools.

Seconded. Being a full-fledged patent attorney is "good" work, if you can get it. Increasingly, more and more don't.

STEM grads, ignore the siren call of the law schools, as their mindset on patent law is back in 1958 when Jack Kilby was patenting the "integrated circuit." The market has changed a little bit since then, but you won't hear it from them. Do not go this route unless family or close connections can get you a job.

Go do something with your STEM degree instead, like maybe invent something patentable in the first place? I guarantee you that you will have more fun and satisfaction doing so, and struggling patent attorneys will thank you.

Third. The patent field is super saturated. I have been a patent lawyer for 20 years and am still working thankfully. I know scores of experienced patent lawyers who are unemployed, several former partners in patent firms. I know several PhD/JD or MD/JD patent attorneys either unemployed or barely employed. Now how is that for a genuine waste of human potential and human lives as a result of this vile, evil law school scam?
Another former patent attorney here. Graduated from TTT in early 2000s. Worked as a patent associate for two years before being shown the door. Then couldn't find another patent-related job and did document review for about 8 years. I recently obtained a non-attorney position that involves contract negotiation and drafting for a good company. If I knew where my law degree would lead, i would have never stepped into law school or amass 160K in debt. Truth be told, I would have been happier back in science and sometimes I still think about what if. Don't go to law school, particularly at these prices. I second the comment above - patent law is ultra saturated.

DupedNontraditional is right about undergraduate career counselors in STEM being totally clueless about job prospects for patent attorneys. There's a lot of rot being purveyed over the Internet about how great it is to become a patent attorney when the truth is much worse. I am gratified that Google searches on the employment market for patent attorneys quickly turns up results like OTLSS.

Since I am a former STEM'er and current Toileteer First Class, I back up my comments with hard facts. Like... 40% of the STEMS that went to my Toilet never even made it into patent law.
Here's another fact-based way to look at it if you want more than anecdotal evidence: look on LinkedIn at how many patent examiners and "patent searcher" types have JDs. Or cross-check 50 or 100 names of PTO attorneys with registration numbers in the 60,000 - 70,000 and see how many of them are actually working as patent attorneys.

Here's another fact. If you spend more than a couple of years doing this type of searching/examining work, very few law firms are going to spend any time considering you for a job. Maybe in the old days that might have worked, but not anymore.

STEM LEMMINGS, patent law is a scam. You will not get rich. You will almost certainly be under-employed and unemployable as an attorney. You will be unable to return to your previous career and you will have lost three years of income and wasted three years of tuition. All your hard-earned money will go towards some arrogant fat-cat law profe$$or's second home, yacht, or late-model German car. DO not consider law school. Stick with engineering. You will come out much better in the end.

Whoops.  Looks like patent law isn't so great anymore, either - at least for those born after 1975 or so.

Friends, let's call this exactly what it is - deception on the part of law schools, trying to sell you a degree that the market doesn't want.  0Ls, non-trads, STEM majors, for God's sake please DO NOT FALL FOR THIS TRAP, unless your Rich Uncle has a patent job ready-made for you when you graduate or your employer wants you to have an MSL degree for some reason.  That should support an inaugural class of about, oh, I don't know, three MSL candidates.

Applications are declining and law schools are desperate, make no mistake.  The truth just can't be swept under the rug anymore - maybe its time for the law schools to patent a better broom.  Or stop flooding the market with JDs in the first instance which lead to the karmic-backlash currently underway.


  1. It's been fun putting the law school pigs on the ropes. Now, it's time to put their faces and asses in the dirt.

  2. I worked as a patent agent with my Computer Science degree. Then the firm ran low on clients. So I went to law school. Magna cum laude. But no interviews. Went solo. Went broke.

  3. The law school pigs haven't even begun to properly roast yet. Their greedy snouts are only just catching the faintest whiff of burning pork. This next year is going to be beautiful as we watch law schools suffer and perish as their house of lies collapses upon itself.

    1. I think 25,000 well-informed and thoroughly warned applicants per year would be a good goal...about half of the number who currently apply. But that would mean mass unemployment of law professors, no more new professors out of Yale, no more inhuman, soul-sucking deans climbing he ladder of deception, with raises, bonuses, and million-dollar sabbaticals at every step...

      Sounds good to me. We can help half a million suckers get an even break if we just continue what we're doing.

    2. That is a noble goal.

      Everyone who asks me about going to law school I tell no, unless they go for free or have guaranteed prospects after finishing. I can direct them to this blog if they don't want to believe someone like me, with over two decades of experiences - not all pleasant - and many sad stories to tell of careers never begun or begun and blown up.

  4. From the Northwestern Law School website:

    "We may develop more MSL programs in the future, including for non-STEM trained individuals—stay tuned."

    No doubt.

  5. STEMers and prospective Lemmings, heed DupedNonTraditional.
    I know how it is. You're sitting at your desk in some anonymous office building, churning out specifications, running some FEA analysis or a Monte Carlo simulation. You're over 30 and you realize that some people have risen faster than you in the corporate chain. You might be making $90,000 per year, but some of your contemporaries have gotten profit sharing or lower level management. Maybe you've noticed that most of the upwardly mobile "appear" to be getting MBAs. You're running into that point in your engineering career when you are getting desperate for a boost.
    So you say to yourself: "I can do better than an MBA. An MBA is a 2 year networking program for the type of people who read The Economist. I want to hone my mind, to develop razor-sharp analytical skills and to understand what all those contracts mean! Also, I've always liked writing and public speaking and law school will turn me into a persuasive writer/public speaker. And … since I handled my engineering courses with such aplomb, I will quickly be at the top of my law school class. Law school is for those English and Poly Sci majors who got drunk every night while I worked though Differential Equations.
    And if I find I don't like being a busy executive, I can always fall back on patent law or my old career. It’s a perfect plan!"
    Wrong Lemming. All wrong. Law School will probably teach you a good deal about 17th century English law. You'll probably spend several days learning a rule (RAP) you will never have to actually use.
    You might even learn how to become a better writer and you might become a better public speaker.
    But you won't have a job when you graduate.
    First, if you're over 30, that's most of the game right there. No one wants to hire you, least of all big law firms, which are the only ones which will pay you a salary sufficient to pay off all that debt. You are an apple that has fallen from the tree. You are considered used up. Why take an apple from the ground when you can get one from the tree? Besides, do you actually know what kind of hours Biglaw associates put in? You make roughly the same as they do, per hour. They’re putting in 80 hour weeks Bro’ (Bro’ ette?). You want that kind of existence?
    So that leads me to point two. Unless you got into one of the very top law schools, you're just a crabapple. Employers want and can demand Fiji apples from Harvard, Yale or Stanford.
    Third, unless your STEM major was EE or CS, the patent law field is clogged with experienced former Biglaw types looking for work. Patent law takes years of one-on-one mentoring to become proficient. Why should an employer hire a newbie law graduate when they can have their pick of experienced patent practitioners?
    Fourth (and I know this is hard to hear), you’re probably not going to dazzle your profe$$ors with your “real world” experience and brilliant mind. It will shock you when those English and Poly Sci majors kick your ass back to the middle of the GPA pack, where you’ll sulk with your 3.2 and wonder how it happened. All it takes is that 1L Fall set of middling grades and the good jobs are gone forever! But don’t take it too hard. There’s a good bit of randomness in law school grading and those Poly Sci and English majors will also struggle mightily for a job. Even if they make it to the much vaunted Order of the Coif and are editor in chief of their TTT law reviews, they will likely have problems.
    Finally,(and I know this is also hard to hear), you won't be able to just resume your old career in any way, shape or form. Your STEM skills will have become stale. Besides, what employer is going to hire someone who can't decide what they want to do and will likely run if they get some offer from a law firm? That JD (or career VD) is a huge scarlet letter that cannot be explained away, cannot be denied, cannot be concealed.

    1. well I suppose I will get back to writing specs and designing HVAC and stop daydreaming about a law degree...

    2. Patent prosecution is the soul-sucking worst. The worst. Oh sure, before I went into it, I naively thought it would be better than bench research because you'd get to learn about the experiments that worked, as opposed to running those stupid experiments for years on end. Clients will be pleased to work with me because I have experience! WRONG. An easy way to think of patent prosecution is this: writing a term paper every day of your life, in your office, with the door closed, & eating a grim lunch at your desk. You could choke to death on an apple while in said office, with said door closed, writing said term papers, and NO ONE would find you for days. They MIGHT find you if they notice you'd stopping billing. (Repeat 6 days per week for 30 years if you are lucky.) Or, a simpler way to think of it would be to imagine your life as a piece of chewed gum on the bottom of someone's shoe in either an urban or rural area. The people who were trained and working in patent law prior to say 1994-1998 were in the right place at the right time. Think Malcolm Gladwell analysis here. They weren't the brightest or the best lawyers or any of that nonsense. They were trained and ready when the patent budgets went high and the economy was zipping along. Interesting to note here that the same folks, who were trained in patent law by their predecessors, didn't see the value of training anyone that came behind them. It cut into their million dollar salaries, silly. Outsource to India and call associates "fungible goods". Professionalism is for chumps who don't have personal bankers! Then 2008 came. Budgets tanked, patent applications dropped. If you didn't have an "E" in your degree, you were hurting badly even with your fancy PhD and all of your Science or Nature or Lancet publications. Now, small to mid size firms are struggling as clients put the screws to them to lower costs and then there are those delusional 'clients' that biglaw won't touch, so guess who they call? They want all of your time, and offer to maybe pay 1K for an application but offer a "stake" in their shitastic invention. Or maybe they start out paying and then stop for no reason. Do yourself a favor and do not go into patent prosecution unless you hate people, hate interacting with humans, love to beg and do legal work for free for people who treat you like crap, and love being treated like human waste. Did I mention 'real' lawyers treat patent attorneys like shit? Just more joys of the profession. Find some line of work that you love and make sure it isn't patent prosecution.

  6. I confirm this is correct. I have been a patent lawyer for 20 years and am still working, but somewhere around a third of the colleagues whose paths I crossed over the last 20 years are not working currently. Another large percentage are underemployed. Let me explain a bit about what has happened. Up until about 15 years ago, patent lawyers were almost all in patent boutiques around the country. There were 20-30 big boutiques (c. 50-125 or so lawyers) depending upon how you ranked and counted. These big boutiques handled most of the IP litigation and IP transactional work. There were multiple other small boutiques, and the rest of the patent lawyers were inhouse in corporations. Unemployment was rare and mostly for short durations. Headhunters called frequently regarding job opportunities. That began to change in the mid-90's and by 2005 was fait accompli.

    How did it change? A few rainmakers started leaving the big boutiques in search of bigger paychecks from biglaw. They signed on for their bigger paychecks often leaving their former mostly collegial boutique to fend for itself without their book of business and in the meantime create a new duplicated infrastructure in biglaw to service their clients. Remember leverage is required to create big profits for those at the top of the pyramid. It was good for a few years for all patent lawyers as opportunities abounded as multiple firms started IP departments to compete with the patent boutiques.

    You can predict how this ended. Of course, the IP work did increase but nowhere near the amount needed to feed the old patent boutiques and the new biglaw competitors both. Further, the old patent boutiques were generally more collegial and not wedded to a lockstep up or out system designed to create great wealth for only a few at the top without regard for the human cost. As a result, after a few years, it has become increasingly common that the old patent lawyers now merged into biglaw are chewed up and spit out on the street. Because the transactional work is not as profitable as litigation and creates potential conflict problems, the patent prosecutors are highly vulnerable to being spit out of biglaw.

    Fast forward to 2013 (it took only about 15 years to get where we are today from the beginning of the demise of the patent boutiques), there is a huge glut of patent attorneys. There is rampant unemployment and underemployment, even among those who were not so long ago prominent in the field. A once relatively collegial profession that I was proud to be a part of is tattered, and as I see it largely ruined, corrupt and dysfunctional, just like the rest of biglaw.

    So what is some of the human tragedy? Well, a few got really rich. The vast majority, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, computer engineers, PhD chemists and biotechnologists, physicists, etc. who also hold a JD degree are now stuck with all that education at whatever cost in dollars and years it came at, in a supersaturated job market with far fewer opportunities than before. Moreover, they are now more likely to be a part of the biglaw pyramid scheme with little job security and precious little respect or dignity.

    So here we are today with truly tragic stories of highly educated, often highly indebted, STEM students including MDs, DVMs, and PhDs who might have and likely would have had a rewarding career in their technical discipline but who have fallen for the law school scam and are stuck with no job prospects, dismal job prospects, unemployment, underemployment, limited job mobility if they are working, job insecurity and for the most part unable to return to jobs in their technical field because of time spent in the lawyering camp.

    1. The author is correct there is a saturation of inexperienced patent lawyers. But what is more disturbing is that after Alice, companies are not willing to pay top dollar for patent prosecution in the software arts. Hence, law firms can only be profitable hiring patent agents and paying them $70k-$110k per year. In other words, if you are a software engineer, you make more money coding than as an entry level patent prosecution lawyer. In other words, it is simply not worth the opportunity cost to get a law degree. The reality is that patent law is very competitive, pay has gone down and a difficult job with limited opportunities. If you are a women the opportunities are better because high tech companies want women in their legal departments to help with their gender balancing. If you are a white male or even worse an asian male - forget it -there is nothing out there for you

  7. Globalization and technology changes have made the employment prospects even worse. Shops in India advertise writing patent applications for $50 an hour or less now. With the technological advances, we are all much more efficient and spend less time than before with the same tasks. In short, it takes more work to fill the plate per person than it used to. In the meantime, the number of registered patent lawyers added in the last 20 years is approximately
    the same as the number of registered patent lawyers in all of US history preceding.

  8. Top of my law school class.

    Top my engineering class. CS background.

    One of the lucky few to have a job. I make less than my friends in the trades. I make the same as most of my friends that stuck with engineering, but I lost 3 years of income and I incurred other expenses to get the JD.

    I don't have much job security, which is similar to my buddies in Engineering (see above on 3 lost years though), but unlike my tradesmen friends. The people who run things where I work and elsewhere have communicated that they are well aware of the glut of patent attorneys and they will act accordingly: pay freezes and pay decreases. Churn and burn.

    A named partner at a very respectable IP law firm (nationally recognized) explicitly told me he stopped his kids from becoming patent lawyers. Clients are squeezing because they know they can, and so, like everyone else, he is squeezing his associates to compensate for decreases in revenue.

    But hey Lemming, it's going to be different for you; after all, your Boomer parent told you education was the way to go. Only until you see your youth fade into oblivion will you understand what you did to yourself.

  9. Patent law. Nothing to see here. Move along.

    Credentialing will not immunize you from poverty. Education is the key....to the educators' future.

    Don't take the bait.

  10. This "Master of Science in Law" is just an example of niche marketing. Northwestern needs money and has to get it somehow, so it offers a "special" degree aimed at people, like myself a dozen years ago, who had been pushed out of their job in engineering or IT and felt the need for a way to distinguish themselves in order to find work again. It's a false promise; more plainly put, a lie. But the inflated salary of the $enior ASSo¢iate dean of a¢ademi¢ initiative$ has to be paid somehow.

    Other examples of niche marketing:

    The proliferation of LLMs in "animal rights" and myriad other narrow "specialties" that do not exist.

    The dippy programs and certificates in environmental law, international law, sports law, entertainment law, aerospace law, and so forth.

    Indiana Tech "Law School", which preys upon racialized people as one of the last untapped populations eligible to sign the papers for federal funding.

    The LSAC's efforts to sell law school to students at junior colleges and to people interested in an MBA.

  11. I am one of the original commenters in the piece. I graduated froma TTT in early 2000's. The market for patent lawyers was still pretty hot, but 9/11 put a significant damper on firm's hiring. In any event, I did get an associate position, but unfortunately, it only lasted 2 years and I was out on the street. What prospective patent lawyers need to realize is that with very rare exceptions, new law graduates do not go in-house. Typically in-house positions require at least 4 years before they will even consider you as a candidate. In my case, I only had 2 years and was not able to latch on with another firm. Thus, I had to reinvent myself. After 8 years of document review hell, I am now working as a non-attorney for a large company doing contract drafting and negotiation. I'm fortunate to have the job as many were not able to land ANY law job post-graduation.

    Here's the bottom line for prospective patent attorneys: If you do not have a Ph.D. in hard sciences, your options will be limited to litigation. Generally, only big law firms do patent litigation and they are hiring individuals from top-10 to top-25 law schools. If you go to law school outside that range without a Ph.D. or an engineering degree from a highly reputable university (meaning Ivy or equivalent) with good grades, then you will face long odds of landing an associate position. Litigation just isn't done on a volume basis in small patent boutiques. This would then leave you considering patent prosecution. If you have a Ph.D., or again an engineering degree from a reputable university with good grades, then law firms will be more lenient with respect to what law school you attended. You could get a good associate position coming from a TTT if you have a good scientific background, but it will certainly not be as easy as someone graduating from Harvard Law with a Ph.D. from MIT. Seriously, patent law is saturated and highly competitive. Back in the day, law firms were hiring Ph.D.s as technical specialists and sending them to law school at night. This was basically a cottage industry where the whole patent field was flooded with Ph.D.s who were sick and tired of going on multiple post-docs making poverty wages in the hope of landing a permanent academic post or industry position. I have many friends that are unemployed, former patent types. What happens is that once you become a senior associate, the firm reasons that you make too much and they cut you loose and hire newer, cheaper meat. It's all about economics with these people. So patent law can still be done, but you better have the goods. I would recommend any prospective IP type to try and land an examiner position and stay no longer than 2 years, then go to law school if you decide it floats your boat. Law firms do NOT like candidates with more than about 2 years of USPTO experience as they feel that working from the examiner side for too long has a negative effect on one's mindset from the applicant side. If I were to do it again, I would have stayed in science. Law is such a highly unstable profession. I never felt like my job stability was in jeopardy in science. In law, it can be a day-to-day issue that wears on your mind after a while. Good luck, but I would avoid law school altogether.

    1. "What happens is that once you become a senior associate, the firm reasons that you make too much and they cut you loose and hire newer, cheaper meat. It's all about economics with these people."

      "I did get an associate position, but unfortunately, it only lasted 2 years and I was out on the street."

      "Law is such a highly unstable profession. .... In law, [job stability] can be a day-to-day issue that wears on your mind after a while."

      So true. So true. And across the board, not simply in IP or patent law.

      10:21 is speaking from experience. Heed the good advice. Look two years beyond getting the JD and possibly (?) landing a job ,,,, what kind of career (i.e., life) is this profession providing?

      "I would avoid law school altogether."

  12. It's interesting that Northwestern is offering up this garbage credential. Aren't they members of the T14? Why are they commodifing themselves? If they are so hard up for revenue and students that they need to do artful dodges like this I can only imagine how bad off lesser schools are.

    1. Here's an experiment worth trying: contact one of the bottom-feeding law schools and ask if you can show up and design your own LLM (international law, sports law, music law, really let your mind wander here), which you would then pay to take. I hypothesize that 100% of third and fourth tier law schools would welcome you with open arms.

  13. Also, Lemmings, don't even think about trying to solo as a patent attorney fresh out of school. For one thing, without those crucial 4 years of patent experience, you're going to be committing malpractice even if you get any clients. On the plus side, if you do get clients, they're not going to be able to pay you to patent their non-novel, obvious ideas. The successful patent solos are all ex BigLaw or in-house types who brought corporate business with them.

    I knew a few poor, desperate suckers who tried to go solo after graduating without jobs. One crashed and burned, spectacularly. All the others are clinging desperately to a lower middle class existence and are basically patent searchers hoping an actual, paying inventor will come to them. The folks at the PTO seem more content, but they have to be aware their chances of getting a job at a law firm are decreasing exponentially over time.

    And it must surely grate that they are surrounded by people who DIDN'T blow $100,000+ and three years of salary on a useless degree.

    I also want to second @10:21: " What prospective patent lawyers need to realize is that with very rare exceptions, new law graduates do not go in-house. Typically in-house positions require at least 4 years before they will even consider you as a candidate. In my case, I only had 2 years and was not able to latch on with another firm."

    That's 100% true. I occcasionally get a call from recruiters who see that I'm 5 years out of law school. They assume I have significant patent experience and want to talk to me about in-house positions. As soon as they hear 10 words about my background, that's it. They've heard enough.

    The patent law firms wouldn't even look at me in law school because of my age (35) and my undesireable background (ChemE) and now it's too late. I'll probably never break into the field.
    I guess I'm lucky to have a job; I just wish I had paid more attention to those few voices counseling me against law school in '04.

    Never listen to anything these vile pig law schools say.

    1. I always saw ChemE majors as extremely bright people. What would compel such a person to go to law school in the first instance in what has been a glutted market for years.

    2. I just wish that some voices had counselled me against law school in 2009 and 2010. Everyone in my circle thought that it was a great idea.

    3. anon @ 7:06,
      (1) Everyone thinks they're brighter than they actually are, including me. I had some of that special snowflake about me.
      (2) In 2004, the legal market didn't seem nearly as bad, including patent law, and I thought I had an in at my company.
      (3) My current legal work, believe it or not, is actually much more mentally stimulating than engineering work. You can kind of coast in engineering once you reach a certain proficiency.
      (3) My brother-in-law law school professor strongly urged me to go to law school. I foolishly believed him. If you can't trust family, who can you trust?

    4. That's what Scamblogs are for: Trying to inject some degree of reality into a fairy tale that lived far beyond its expiration date. Scamblogs are trying to prevent your regret from happening to others.

      Inertia has accumulated over the years in favor of the conventional wisdom: "Law School's a Safe bet for the undecided Liberal Arts student and a great bet for all others." Sometimes it takes pictures of fetid commodes to flush away the fairy tale.

      Blogs are at their best when writers who have lived the hell share their experiences. They're not unemployed, bitter losers. Many are lawyers; most work. They've paid far, far too much for far, far to little (if anything), and it's been most unpleasant and is rapidly shrinking.

      Maybe I'm sentimental, but when I know there's a bridge out ahead on the roadway, I like to tell passing motorists.

      Counsel a student to read several blogs. The best critical reasoning they can do occurs outside a classroom. Third Tier Reality will bring them closer to truth than a real property hornbook. Tell the student, "You're already a lawyer and you've got your most important client--YOU. Become informed and don't you dare let her make a bad choice."

    5. Hm, I work as a para at a solo patent agent's firm, and we do pretty well representing people before the USPTO. I'm currently studying to sit the patent bar and become an agent myself, and my boss has offered to partner with me once I am registered.

      Then again, I am not going to law school, or spending anything on tuition besides a bar review course. So if it doesn't work out representing individual clients, the loss isn't really severe, and I've had a paying job the past few years while learning patent law, as opposed to paying to go to law school.

  14. Realistically, the only well paid area of IP law for maybe 15 years has been litigation. Patent prosecution work has been commodified for most patents, with a few firms specializing in high end patent work where there is a lot a stake - and some international work.

    Litigation is a tough environment which heavily rewards a rare combination of skills and experience. It does not lend itself to the sort of leverage that BigLaw likes - the optimum patent litigation team is less than 6 people. Moreover, you need to not just be a quick study on the technology, but have a very good knowledge of civ pro, evidence, strategy, economics, etc. Law schools are pretty poor at teaching that stuff. The prior art patent searching has been driven way down on price - plus some of the better search companies are Indian now.

    Companies looking for in-house divide people into IP creation (filing everyday patents), licensing teams (who often are not lawyers), and hard ass IP litigators for companies that defend 2-5 cases per annum. The two latter groups are well paid - but need experience, preferably private practice experience - 5-10 years to be taken seriously.

    And of course, patent reform could gut the value of IP and make the whole business lose value overnight. A huge amount of the litigation revenue is anti-troll defence work.

    1. Lot of truth to this comment, although I've used Indian search firms and found the quality terrible. I'd rather pay $120/hour for a search and actually get a decent set of results.

    2. TITCR. I know a very well compensated engineer who went to a T25 LS at night. After graduating, his place of work offered him an IP lawyer position FOR HALF his engineering salary. He paid for the law degree cash and was very wise to keep his engineering job while enrolling in LS.

      Shocking, but true.

    3. I have used search firms from all over. Some of the Indians are bad, but a few do quite good work (and pay their people better too.) Similarly, many of the US firms are so-so - non-patent prior art and non-US prior art is where a lot of search firms, especially US search firms are poor. A few of the Indians are very good at the non-patent and the non-US especially the Japanese art.

  15. When it comes to any flavor of law school, STEM majors need to STFA.

    Stay the fuck away.

  16. To rub salt in the wound, after charging $20K-50K in tuition and then assuring the IP law grad that opening their own practice is the way to go when there are no other job offers, that same law school is more than likely also offering an "IP and Entrepreneurship Law Clinic" that will compete with small patent boutiques and solos. Since the clinics don't charge a fee, guess where the clients that used to go to solo and small boutique firms end up? Law schools, like ovoviviparous sharks, are completely oophagic in this regard.

  17. Just yahoo or google "Law School IP Law Clinic" and you'll see how many law schools have these clinics.

    1. These clinics don't teach crap anyway. Mine certainly didn't. It was mainly an opportunity for the practitioner-instructors to burnish their resumes.

  18. In patent practice, whether litigation or prosecution, if you don't get an associate job within 6-months to 1 year after graduation, your career will essentially be over before it begins. If you fail the bar exam, well your life will then be that much harder and your marketability will continue to deteriorate until you pass the bar. Prospective law students who want to eventually practice in patent law mistakenly believe that if they can't get a firm job, then they can get an in-house position. This is absolutely false. As one of the posters mentioned, you need about 4 years of large law firm experience before your marketability piques the interest of companies. Working at small shit law isn't going to get you very far in the interview process if you even get an interview at all. My experience is that in-house attorneys are recruited out of big law. I've seen it time and time again. The moral of the story is that you need to get an associate position in midlaw, biglaw or at a patent boutique in order to have a chance of making your education pay off. If you're working for some 2-5 man patent shop, your future options will be quite limited.

  19. No substitute for patent lawyers in-house who have great practical pre-law tech/science experience in workplace and several years of early lawyer experience in biglaw or IP boutique. And somewhere along the way they have to be able to get along with and speak the language of non-tech geeks - so the enterprise can actually benefit from their wisdom.

    Used to be those folks could get such essentials without being from the so-called "best" schools, but not any more. Which frankly sucks because the so-called "best" schools don't deserve them, IMHO.

    Based on what I have been able to gather, none of them would recommend their career paths to newbies, because it is so uncertain and they know how rare their great jobs are these days.

  20. The other BIG thing about patent law that never gets discussed by law schools or deans is that YOU DON'T NEED A JD TO PRACTICE PATENT LAW!!!!! Anybody with a bachelor's degree in a hard science can sit for the patent bar. Once you pass then you can draft and file patent applications, correspond with the USPTO, and advise clients. E.g. you can do pretty much everything a 1-3 year associate could do. The only things you can't do as a patent agent that an attorney can do would be patent litigation and licensing, but guess what? Many patent litigators and licensing attorneys don't have technical backgrounds because it isn't required. So the one area of law that a STEM degree helps you with is an area where you don't even need a JD.

    So a couple of things:

    1. If you're an STEM grad and the idea of law school pops into your head, take the patent bar first. It's a maximum of $2500 for the course and test fees and if you pass you'll have roughly the same employment opportunities as a recently minted JD. Additionally, many big law firms have switched to the model where 1-2 patent law partners oversee numerous patent agents rather than associates because patent agents bill at lower rates. Passing the patent bar is much better option than spending 200k of non-dischargable debt on a JD.

    2.Realize that patent agents depress the wages and cost of services for patent prosecution (writing and preparing patents). If you're a newly minted STEM JD, you will have to compete for services with patent agents.

    3.Most patent prosecution takes place in a few places around the country, that's it. New York, DC, LA, SF, Boston, etc. You don't open up a solo shop in a small town because the demand isn't there. Patent prosecution is driven by big companies with huge R & D budgets. The number of garage inventors is minimal.

    4. Legal zoom offers provisional patent filings.

    5. In-house legal departments aren't big law or small law. If you go in -house you're not a revenue generator (you don't bill your time), you're an expense. In-house legal department don't have the resources to spend years training a newly minted grad. That's why 4-5 years minimum is usually required to get your foot in the door. Additionally, in-house attorneys like to hire people with in-house experience. So if you're coming from a law firm you're going to be a step down from other in-house attorneys looking for work because companies constantly go under, downsize, etc., so there are always a few in-house attorneys looking for positions.

    1. Thank you for this. As discussed above, I went to lol school for the magical-versatile-JD and STEM combo that is currently being touted. Had patent law been my driving force, I certainly would have studied on my own first and sat for the patent bar to see what it was all about. Funny, the ScamDeans and LawProfs don't advocate this.

      STEM-folks, pay heed to 7:31AM. This is a critical point of material information that the self-interested law schools will not tell you about. Until they have cashed your checks, of course.

    2. I like the patent bar option a lot. A person who knows something about science and technology can simply ignore the preening professors and their self-serving nonsense.

      Incurring $200,000 in debt to spend three years with conceited charlatans would be a tragic waste for anyone who's already experienced the challenge and substance of a STEM degree.

  21. "But if you really, really network I hear there are all kinds of opportunities in patent law."

    Why are law deans beginning to remind me of The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

  22. Word @ 7:31 AM.

    The law schools are always pushing what you can do WITH a law degree. What's lost in the discussion is what you can do WITHOUT a law degree:

    1. Practice patent law.
    2. Practice tax law before the IRS subject to C. 230.
    3. Be an advocate in social security-disability cases.
    4. Some immigration practice
    5. Various state-level administrative proceedings

    1. Re: @7:31 AM:

      In other words, the JD - as usual - serves to dramatically decrease marketability and value. The new model favors patent agents (JD Not Required) vs. patent attorneys. You've spent $150K++ opp. costs for less than nothing.

      Re: @ 4:35 PM:

      Again, an excellent corresponding point.

      The JD, all around, is subtracting massive value. There is no part of law anymore where the long-term outcomes, even from elite schools absent connections and money, justify the current cost for the vast majority.

      We've reached some sort of tipping point for sure. Similar, perhaps, to the tip of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.

  23. You mean that with a law degree you can't eventually buy one of these? It only costs 150K:


    1. Well, it takes a law degree plus $150K.

  24. And proof that the market is flooded with JDs:

    Entry Level Attorney (Brooklyn)
    Jan 14.

    Commercial and real estate litigation law firm in Brooklyn seeks full-time, entry level attorney. Responsibilities include legal research, drafting of contracts, pleadings and motions, and court appearances. This is an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the areas of commercial litigation and real estate law. Must be extremely organized and computer-savvy. Brooklyn residents or local commuters only.

    • Location: Brooklyn
    • Compensation: $35,000

    post id: 4286892952

    1. $35,000 is just about equal to the annual payment needed to pay off $250,000 in student loans in ten years. Maybe they offer free snacks at the office.

    2. After taxes, that salary would not cover the payments.

  25. Commercial and real estate litigation law firm in Brooklyn seeks full-time, entry level attorney. Responsibilities include legal research, drafting of contracts, pleadings and motions, and court appearances. This is an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the areas of commercial litigation and real estate law. Must be extremely organized and computer-savvy. Brooklyn residents or local commuters only.

    • Location: Brooklyn
    • Compensation: $35,000


    Let's see ... 35 grand is about a week's billing for one hot shot lawyer in Manhattan.

    Do the law profs in their ivory towers have any clue how absurd their warped view of the 21st Century legal market is?

    1. The law profs don't care. Their angle is self preservation--and the only way they achieve that is to keep feeding the monkey. If they don't dupe new lsat takers into going to law school, then they lose out. So they have zero incentive to be honest with people.

  26. Sorry. One more comment. I originally posted about the 40% of qualified graduates at my Toilet that couldn't get jobs as patent attorneys and probably never will.

    I just want to clarify the demographics. Much of the group was your average nerdy white guy but there were a couple of single and double minorities (think non-caucasian females) who also couldn't get jobs. One had a EE. A EE folks. That should have been a home run for her. It wasn't. Both were very articulate, intelligent and attractive, and they had a bit of industry experience before going to LS.

    Sooo Lemmings ..... if you think your race or sex might help you getting a job, think again.

  27. What are ones job prospects as a patent agent in the SF Bay Area if you are about 50 years old, have a BS in electrical engineering but have not been an engineer for over a decade. The only thing I need is to pass the patent bar. Will I have problems getting hired because of age or not engineering for years?

  28. I don't think the time out of engineering work is the issue. There will be challenges, but more likely because of your experience level as a patent agent, and frankly because of age. Demand for the work may have to pick up for all the people in line ahead of you to get employed. If I were you, I'd make some alternative career plans just in case. I'm in my early fifties, living on the east coast, have been a patent attorney for sixteen years (which has entailed writing hundreds of patent applications), and am currently having trouble getting an offer. This is just not the profession that it was 15 years ago.

  29. There is one more angle to this that is worth mentioning, and that is the way in which the law itself (or more exactly, the way in which courts have been interpreting it) has changed over the years. This has had a huge impact on the market for patent lawyers. Prior to the formation of the patent-specialized Federal Circuit in the early 80s, patent law was a small, not remotely prestigious backwater, and it paid accordingly. A few did very well, most were no more prosperous than local McDonalds franchisees and other small businessmen. Then along came the Federal Circuit, with its strong pro-patent bias, and patents suddenly became seen as something worthy paying for and fighting over. Patent lawyers did very very well for themselves for the first decade or so after the Federal Circuit came into existence. Some who were already in established patent boutiques quickly became millionaires. Many people got word of this and decided that they too, would become patent lawyers, and the field started becoming noticeably crowded. But the Federal Circuit was still there, adding value to patents and income to many patent lawyers by declaring that business method patents were just as good as any other kind, giving trolls and others still more patents to sue on. This was in the late nineties.

    How here we are, about 17 years and two deep recessions later. There has been a reaction against patents that goes beyond the other factors discussed in this thread, centered chiefly at the Supreme Court (see KSR, Alice, etc.) but also arising from important sectors of the tech sector. In various ways patents and patent lawyers are once again finding themselves sneered at, and not just by the public, but by the people who run corporate America (i.e., America). The patent world is quickly moving to where it was prior to the formation of the Federal Circuit, only with vastly more patent lawyers to feed.
    So even if there were not this general overhanging supply of lawyers to deal with, things would still be tough for most patent lawyers. And they are set to get tougher still before some new equilibrium is reached.

  30. Well I come at this issue from the opposite direction. I am a practicing attorney (who is underpaid/underemployed) with a fuzzy liberal arts bachelor's degree. I am thinking about going back to get either a second bachelors degree or masters in engineering. When I come out with an engineering degree, will I be able to get a pure engineering job?

  31. Thanks for the insights into the world of IP. Is the non LS path of becoming a patent agent a similarly poor choice? It's certainly cheaper than LS, but are there jobs these days?

    1. I am an unemployed patent prosecution attorney with 18 years of experience. My income as an associate peaked at $235k, which was great. By 2009 I was a senior associate at a large IP boutique. Early 2010, myself and 9 other senior associates were let go so that our work would go to greedy partners. Patent law has been a nightmare roller coaster. And now I find myself in competition with PATENT AGENTS. In fact, I apply for patent agent jobs posted on law firm sites. Firms figured it out . . . why pay an associate salary when you can pay someone else far less. My law degree/legal education has been useless. As a prospective patent prosecution practitioner, there is no reason to pursue a JD.

  32. @ 5:41,

    I just finished my first rotation in a mechanical engineering co-op, and I am a non-traditional student (holding advanced degree in music). I did have more difficulty finding a job than my traditional-student peers, in no small part because some interviewers couldn't fathom the switch. Other than this, though, I never had the impression that I would struggle to find engineering work. The bar is at once too high and too onerous for there to be a multitude of technical grads at any time.


    Your arts degree and JD will be ignored (sorry, ego), but you will find engineering work.

    1. "...in no small part because some interviewers couldn't fathom the switch."

      This is probably THE fundamental roadblock for all concerned. For all the hypocritical talk of being "entreprenureal" and "thinking outside the box," many people and organizations stay firmly within the narrow cookie-cutter confines. Anything that is not a buzzword is de facto confusing and suspicious.

      That said, the engineering world may actally be more receptive to a music-degree-turned-engineer than a lawyer-turned-engineer, which in and of itself speaks volumes.

  33. I am about to start law school for patent law. Have Bachelors and masters in CS/Computer engineering. In my Late 20s and making 6 figures. This post has really scared me. Is leaving my job and city to attend full time law school worth it? I went back and forth between Phd, MBA or Law and decided to go for law school. I start this fall and it is so hard to make this decision. Do you think I should instead keep working as an engineer and go to part time law school?

    1. My gut response is: don't go, for all the discussion enumerated above, full stop. You're making six figures in your late 20s, and with all due respect, it is hard to appreciate how rare that is in the wider world. Things change when you try to buy a home, have a family, etc. etc. etc., even if you think you don't want those things, and the JD will likely be an albatross.

      That said, if your are a die-hard entrepreneur and must go, explore/study for the patent bar on your own time; there are lots of resources and study kits to give you plenty of eye-strain and perspective. Talk to actual practicing (patent) attorneys THAT YOU TRUST if you haven't already; get the low-down.

      The only trouble with part-time law school is that law school is prestige-driven. If you are lucky enough to live near a top-tier law school (and, I mean, top-tier) and can go part-time, then you could give it a shot. Pedigree will follow you forever, so aim high.

    2. I forgot to add - wait a year. There is absolutely no rush, now, as a non-trad. Look into this, do some more independent research, take your time. It's not like the law schools aren't desperate for students. If I went to law school now with the LSAT I had back in 2002, I would be treated like a king now, with scholarships, etc., make no mistake.

      Again, I use the handle I use for a reason. Don't go. But if you really,really want to go, take your time, really size things up, get the best deal possible. There is no rush.

  34. Exactly. You dont need a law degree to be a patent practitioner. You just need to pass the patent bar.

  35. I was wondering why the opinions here were so biased.... then I read the URL.
    Nobody but bashers would post here.

    1. Better go get some balanced coverage at your local law school pimping IP law.

  36. I really appreciate for this blog and all of your suggestions... I have Masters in Engineering and was thinking to apply for law school... I am familiar with such scam...After going through this blog and talking to some of my friends I decided not to apply for law school..Just waste of time and energy..U guys saved my time, money and energy

  37. I read through this page while nearing depression because work has been sparse and while I have a full time, well-paying job, because i'm non-traditional to some extent, it is very difficult to get a new position. I graduated from law school at age 27 in 2007, but deferred an (my only) offer from a firm in DC because my father was ill. Joined in 2008, but got laid off in 2009 due to the recession. I went back to IT and did that for about 2 years, and then out of the blue, I emailed a patent law firm in my state about a position. I took about a $45k paycut to pursue this position thinking it would get me back in the game,

    It did, but here I am with 5 years of patent experience, but with a JD from 2007. Law firms look at this with eyes askance, as if they've never seen an aberration in their lives, and it must be a HUGE RED FLAG because in this profession you must not be aberrant or your career will pay.

    So now I have 5 years of experience, with an 8 year old degree and its very possible I will be laid off soon with no where to go because in-house won't hire me because I only have mid-tier and boutique firm experience and big-law won't hire me because I am non-trad. I can only get work at a bother small firm, with probably significantly smaller pay.

    If I had stayed in IT, i would be making at least what I make now. Its a more stable market, but it just has less "prestige", which doesn't feed your kids.

    1. Sorry to hear your story. It is not an unusual one.

  38. This is really scary :) I just started law school. I have BS in Computer engineer and CS, and masters in CS. I worked for 5 years as engineer which didnt really took me anywhere as i didnt want to go into management. I just started law school at GW and working as tech spec at a firm. They are paying for my tuition as well and paying me what i made as engineer. Is this a bad move? Should I get back to engineering? I am going to be studying my ass off for next three years working and studying if I continue.

  39. I would like to share my experience as a patent attorney. I graduated and passed the bar over a decade ago. I was told by everyone that I would be making six figures. However when i failed to land a summer internship at an ip firm i got nervous. I remember it like it was yesterday when i spoke with the "career counselor", and i told her sarcastically that i did not want to wind up on food stamps after law school (i was exaggerating for dramatic effect). I will never forget her reaction: she rolled her eyes and looked at me sternly and said "you will never wind up on food stamps".

    Well, technically, she was right. I never did wind up on food stamps because ironically, when you go solo, you dont qualify for unemployment. Instead i have gone on several stretches where i have been quasi-homeless (its too humiliating to even elaborate, so dont bother asking).

    Today, i am working on transitioning to another career. And it has been excruciatingly painful and humbling, and i often ask God what i have done to deserve this. I can honestly answer: nothing.

  40. Can you tell me what was your background in engineering? and which law school you went to? so far i have not met any attorney out of job with electrical or computer engineer.

  41. To Nov. 5 @ 9:20 am:
    I can't say for sure what the job market will be like for you, since the market depends heavily on the age and technical expertise of each applicant. I can only relate my own experience.
    I was laid off from a small firm some time back, after 16 years as a patent prosecution attorney. In the heyday of this profession, I would get 5-6 calls a day from recruiters.
    Now, I send out about a half dozen resumes a week, and rarely even hear back, and have not gotten an interview in months. BTW, I have two Engineering degrees (Mechanical Engrg and Electrical Engrg) with B+ averages (Dean's list etc) and graduated from a second tier law school with honors (and numerous awards and scholarships) in 1995.
    Since I'm now 56 years old, your situation could be substantially different.
    First, you should know what area of the profession you want to pursue: prosecution, litigation, licensing or other. Second, you should be contacting people in your preferred area and polling them about the demand for attorneys with your credentials and in your intended area of practice.
    I note that you don't need a law degree at all to do preparation and prosecution. If it were me, I wouldn't attend law school to do prep & pros.
    However, if you think you have an "in" doing litigation, it could be lucrative. However, the days in which you could simply proceed blindly are gone. You have to carefully investigate your area of interest before committing years of study and money (you appear to have the advantage of having your tuition paid for, so this may be less of an issue for you) to pursuing this profession.
    My personal situation isn't that bad. I saved up a retirement nest egg, and don't really need to work again. However, if I were 36, instead of 56, and didn't have money, I'd be looking at a career change at this point.

    1. Sir:
      You are much younger than I am. I have a patent about an electrical & communication device being infringed by several companies. The case is strong as attested by several law firms. I can pay you to work with me to check on my analysis, discuss its legality, and help me find a good litigator who could possibly be you to assert my rights of licensing. I can afford to pay 50% of a lawyer's salary and bonuses when I receive royalties; such bonus definitely reaches accumulatively in six to seven figures. Since there are about ten potential companies making infringing products with small damages, they would prefer licensing to fighting in court, the collection of such funds will redeem your bonus gradually. Below is my email for a short while.
      Best regards.

  42. I was seriously thinking about going to law school. I have a BS in chem, MS with distinction in CS, and MS with distinction in cyber security. I was also thinking about taking the patent bar exam and hoping it would assist in getting into a law school. I am 65 yrs old with over 40 years in the CS field as a programmer/engineer and have had my own consulting company since 1981. I have consistently made over $140k/year. After reading this blog, I can say that the information in it has scared the living shit out of me. I think it best that I dispense with the idea of going to law school. At best, I might consider taking the patent bar, but after reading this blog, I have reservations about that as well. Thanks for all the useful information. This blog is an eye opener.

  43. Silicon valley engineer here. I can tell you why we're looking to move into law. In our field you only keep a job for 2-3 years, then either they lay you off or the company goes bankrupt. Then you spend 6 months unemployed, frantically job-searching. If you're lucky you find another tech job, which will last another 2-3 years. The typical career arc in tech is work 3 years, unemployed 6 months, lather rinse repeat... until you hit 45 when nobody will hire you because "OLD", right in time to pay for your kids' college. It's exhausting. It's stressful. We all feel cheated because engineering was supposed to be a golden ticket but the rug got pulled out from under us. Most of the engineers I know are trying to chart a path out of tech. Most engineers don't want their kids to be engineers. So the longing I read on this blog of "I wish I'd stayed in tech!!" is misplaced. The grass isn't greener over here, folks.

  44. Chemistry PhD from a top ten school here. This discussion has been purely about people with engineering backgrounds can anyone offer more insight on people interested in this field with a science background, PhD specifically.

    I can say that what the above engineer says is the same situation with a PhD chemist or biologist. Funny, we always thought that engineers had it made with some many more opportunities...I guess its the same shit for engineers as well. In science you are better off with a MS degree...a PhD makes you unemployable and you don't make any more money with a PhD Vs and MS in most cases.

    If you go on any of the blogs frequented by scientists/chemists like Chemjobber or InthePipeline....you will find much of the same horror stories that the patent lawyers on here are posting. That the industry is fucked and everyone is laid off and begging young students to not go into the field and ruin their lives. I guess we have no choice but to just never succeed its starting to seem like. No matter how many degrees you have or from how good of schools, its all useless.

    If the less degreed = more opportunity paradigm that is present in chemistry/biology is applicable to patent law (which from reading this thread it seems like it is) the best thing to do is pass the patent bar and be satisfied with becoming a patent agent.

    This is what I was planning to do and considering law school (currently interning at an IP firm), but this thread makes law school seem like a waste of money. I really wanted to change careers because despite what many people think, once you get out of grad school the majority of chemistry jobs (which you can only keep for two to three years at a time) are extremely boring and repetitive manual labor.

    I honestly don't know what to do with my life. Every thing I try to pursue the internet just shoots down.

    1. Gale - if you are interning with an IP firm - have a frank discussion with the powers that be about your prospect of employment with that firm post law school. Better yet, see if they will kick in some money for you to go. If they are non-committal about post law school employment and are unwilling to help you with the cost - its probably best to avoid law school.

      FWIW - I am a well employed, well paid, but completely burned out patent lawyer who is looking to leave the profession and do something else. I started at the PTO, moved to big law, went in house, and then back into private practice when the company I was with folded. I'm at a solid firm now making good money, but the hours can be brutal and I am seeking a new adventure. Thankfully I don't have law school debt or golden handcuffs to deal with. However, I do have some very challenging geographic issues.

      More to the point - the patent law market remains quite saturated. While things are getting better, current graduates have to compete with the glut of patent lawyers minted between 2009-2014 who are still looking for that first job. We receive 500+ resumes for every job opening we post, the vast majority of which are from lawyers who have no or little experience. My firm can't afford to train new lawyers, so most of those resumes head right into the trash.

      Sorry to be bleak - but the reality is the market sucks for patent lawyers who have less than 4 years of experience. Moreover - I can say with certainty that patent law is not a life affirming occupation.

  45. If the patent law job perspective is really this bad, why there are still many patent attorney job postings on the web? I am very confused and curious.

    can someone clarify a bit?

    Can someone shed

  46. A really big problem with patent law careers for lawyers is this: The existence of PATENT AGENTS. Patent agents do not need to go to law school and do not need law school to prepare and prosecute patent applications at the USPTO (They just have to take the Patent Bar exam just like lawyers). Patent examiners are not even required to go to law school either, they just need a B.S. degree. The patent industry is already bifurcated between patent prosecution and patent litigation. Lawyers typically already do either mostly prosecution or litigation in their practice, seldom large amounts or equally of both. For clients that know better, why hire an expensive patent lawyer for patent prosecution, when a cheaper patent agent who is just as competent can do the same job just as well? This is just another stress vector pointed at patent lawyers that they have to deal with.