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   Interested in Biotech Patent Law - Many Questions
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waffle
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Interested in Biotech Patent Law - Many Questions
« on: Aug 7th, 2006, 8:25am »
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Okay, I've finally found a forum with a high concentration of patent lawyers, so now I can finally get answers.
 
I am a high school senior interested in patent law.  It has been suggested to me several times because I asked for a job that could mix science and law.  To sum it up, after reseraching and talking with a local patent lawyer, I thought this was a good job for me.  However, I am concerned with the education needed to get there and how many hours per day are usually spent doing it.
 
I have just learned by reading through this forum that a Ph. D seems to be really, really important for biotech patent law.  Is it really that important?  I am interested in possible study in biophysics for undergrad (I will probably major in physics).  For employment, will employers be looking for really generic experience in any biology related field, or will they really be looking for the differences between those in biochem, biotech, biophysics?
 
How important is the difference between a BA and a BS?  The reason I ask is because if I go to a liberal arts college, they might not offer a BS.
 
How much time on average would you be spending in school to become a biotech patent lawyer (excluding undergrad), and how much in debt would you be by the time you get out of law school and into the field?  With the salary you'd be getting, how long would it take to pay off the debt?  Are there ways to make money along the way throughout grad school and law school?  How many hours per day and week do patent lawyers work?  Weekends?  I have been doing some summer work over at a personal injury/discrimination office, and they seem to have very flexible hours and seem relatively not stressed out.  Can this be said for patent law?
 
Are there any other science related fields of law that might require less school if interested in biotech?  I may have more questions, so thanks in advance for answering these.
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waffle
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Re: Interested in Biotech Patent Law - Many Questi
« Reply #1 on: Aug 7th, 2006, 9:47am »
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Also, would a physics major be the most flexible science major for me to decide to do any type of law, should I opt out of patent law?  I read that a lot of law/business firms look for people who have done math/physics, since they consider these people the "smartest" (obviously subjective), and I do know that it really is best for your critical thinking skills.  What about chemistry?  Organic chemistry is something that I've found interesting, though I don't know how I'd go about doing it should I pursue a physics major...
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smokie
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Re: Interested in Biotech Patent Law - Many Questi
« Reply #2 on: Aug 7th, 2006, 10:33am »
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Hello Waffle,
I am very impressed that as a high school student you have seemed to figure out what you want for a life-career.  It took many of us a long time to make a decision.  
1.- you need some sort of a life science or engineering degree to be qualified for the Patent bar exam given by the USPTO (just go to the site [uspto.gov] and look at the requirements for registering for the exam - this will give you an idea of what major fields you need to play in).
2.- a Ph.D. helps most if you are starting out in the field and don't have a law degree - you then most likely will land a job as a technical advisor (you can choose to go to law school and study at night while working)
3.- I know of people who have done a Master's in a Biology related field and then gone directly to Law School - although they love science, their main reason for the MS was to help them become patent lawyers
4.- I suggest that if you are serious about being a Patent Lawyer, you seriously consider a getting a Master's degree in the field of your choice
5.- realize from the day you enter college that the grades you accumulate are going to go with you and people who may want to hire you are going to be looking at them diligently (in some instances, they may be considered in determining your salary), so do your best to make the best possilbe grades - not only will this give you the chance at the best law schools but also may give you an advantage over someone else when searching for jobs
6.- as far as your question about physics majors - I have actually seen patent law jobs advertised that are looking for people with that background - and personally know a very successful IP lawyer who majored in physics and then went to law school
7.- a B.S should take you 4yrs; if you go for a M.S. - 2 more yrs average (though this depends on the discipliine), if you go for a Ph.D. instead you may spend anywhere from 5-7yrs; and finally 3yrs for law school - you decide which route to take.  If you are REALLY set on law school and don't want to pursue a research career - I would suggest you stop with the MS (at the most) and go to Law School - the things you learn as a MS student will hold you in good stead.
8.- please realize that these are my personal opinions - drawn from my experiences and beliefs and in no way should be thought of as "expert advise"
9.- I hope this helps  Smiley
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waffle
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Re: Interested in Biotech Patent Law - Many Questi
« Reply #3 on: Aug 7th, 2006, 1:29pm »
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Thank you for the advice smokie!  I wouldn't go so far as to say that I know exactly what I want in a career though, yet from what I have been learning about it it seems good for me - I know I'm generalizing but it seems to be good for very well rounded people who have their top interests in the sciences (of course it can also be said to be law for complete science geeks Smiley).  I like science (basically biochemistry and physics are my favorite - biochem for conceptual stuff and physics for the challenge) but I also like other things, and from what I have learned you need to be very well rounded.  You can be good at science, but if you suck at writing then you probably can't write good patents (I think), and I like the fact that you have to communicate with others (research seems more introverted, and I consider myself in the middle between introverted and extroverted).  For all I know, I could find out in my senior year that I hate physics and love us history, so that could make patent law go right out the window, so you never know.
 
From what I have been reading here, a lot of posts are saying that you really do need a PhD for a bio- related career in patent law.  How true is this?  Does an MS really cover everything?  I ask not because I'm too lazy to do a PhD, as on the contrary I'm sure I'd find it very fulfilling.  I ask because I simply do not want to be stuck in school forever, a reason why I don't want to go into medicine (well, that and the fact that I hate doctors and needles Roll Eyes
I read that a PhD can take anywhere from 4 to 10 years and you might not even make it.  For the extreme cases, can it really take 10 years and can you really fail at getting it, or are these merely EXTREME cases?  
 
Also let's say I want to do biophysics (not as a major - very few schools offer the major) in undergrad.  However, most colleges only offer a PhD in biophysics (some, such as JHU have a masters) - though I am still interested in biochem; would doing a biochem grad study make the physics that I did in undergrad pointless?
 
There were other questions that concerned me in my original post, so if those could be addressed by someone if they have the time, I would really appreciate it.  Thank you smokie - it does help, since you are repeating some things that I have been told before, so I know what most people think, while other things I haven't heard before, so I'm getting different opinions.  The biggest concern that I have with asking people about patent law is their own age.  For example, someone who graduated and became a patent law 20 years ago may have a completely different opinion than someone who just got a job as a patent lawyer.  Interests in different sciences could've changed (though I think biotech prospects are getting higher) and opinions on education could be different.  20 years ago it could have been "a BS is all you need" while now it could be "you need a PhD or you'll starve!"  Naturally, these are both extremes, but I want to get many opinions.  I know many probably consider this way too early to be thinking about this, yet in a field such as patent law, which I am contemplating seriously, undergraduate major and your studies are very important since the employers want very specialized people.  Thank you again for the advice, and keep it coming!
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sdpowers
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Re: Interested in Biotech Patent Law - Many Questi
« Reply #4 on: Aug 9th, 2006, 1:51pm »
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Permit me to mention an additional consideration: retirement planning.
 
Any financial planning seminar you may attend will discuss "the power of compounding" and how important it is to start saving early. Ideally, you should fund a good portion of your 401k before you are 30. Early funding permits long-term compounding, which thereby reduces the total amount you need to divert from your paycheck over your lifetime.
 
Unfortunately, many folks who pursue PhD's do not get into a position where they can begin retirement planning until after they are 30.
 
If possible, mix some work years into the school years so that your savings grow commensurate with your knowledge. That will also give you the context of real world experience to help you make better education decisions.
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