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(Message started by: patento on Jun 14th, 2005, 10:28pm)

Title: Salary question
Post by patento on Jun 14th, 2005, 10:28pm
My profile: BSEE with 13 years of r&d experience (still working in technology..) , finishing JD from 3rd tier law school in 2 months, recently passed patent bar.

I am talking to couple of law firms for patent agent/associate position.  I am expecting one offer from a small law firm (IP prosecution and litigation practice - 10 lawyers...only one office) in San Francisco area.

How much salary (roughly ) could be expected ?

I am also talking to another one, they have a contract position and asking how much I desire per hour. I have no freaking idea.

Any help?

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by guest on Jun 14th, 2005, 10:39pm
I would estimate that you would be offered somewhere between $120,000 and $150,000 starting salary. Just an estimate.

For contract -- I would ask for about $65-85 / hr. This range multiplied by an avg billing requirement of 1900 hrs puts you roughly at the salary range described above. Make sure this is YOUR billing rate to the firm and not the firm's billing rate to the client for work you do.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jun 14th, 2005, 10:43pm
No kidding.

Giving the fact I have no experience in patents and don't have bar membership yet, I was going to ask something like 70K (which is almost half of what I make base + benefits in my current engineering job).




Title: Re: Salary question
Post by guest on Jun 14th, 2005, 10:51pm
This is anonymous1, by the way - just too lazy to login. At our firm, associates are offered positions assuming that they will pass the bar exam. They are given benefits, full salaries, etc. on this assumption. If they cannot pass the bar by the 2nd try (in some cases 3rd), they should start looking elsewhere. Other than that, there is no distinction between associates that have and have not passed the bar.

Experience is not a big deal for a starter - they will teach you.

One word of caution - I'm basing these salary ranges on what would be offered in my neck of the woods. California may be different (I would think higher, given the cost of living). Wait for some more responses on this board, or do some research online, before you go and ask for $120k.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by Isaac Clark on Jun 15th, 2005, 3:06am
I suspect that 70k is a little low particularly for the area
that you live in.  If you can find out what rate you are being
billed at, maybe 1/3 of that times 1900 hours would be an
estimate of what to expect.

Also, if you are being given an offer, don't worry about your
lack of experience.  Apparently the firm is just fine with your
credentials.

Hopefully you can get some hint of what they feel is a fair
offer before you have to name a figure.  It would be pretty
funky to say 70k when the firm is thinking that 100k is the
bottom they would offer anyone.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by melwrc on Jun 15th, 2005, 7:37am
120k is on the high side for a small firm to offer for a 1st yr associate.  www.nalpdirectory.com provides starting salary info for many law firms.  A search of SF for IP firms provided 125k as the highest.  It would be surprising for you to get very close to that from a tier III school.  90-100k seems reasonable to me.

An important thing for you to ask is whether they would be willing to do salary reviews every 6 months.  This gives you the opportunity to earn the higher salary.  Small firms are hesitant to offer big money up front, but are willing to shell out the money if you show that you're worth it.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jun 15th, 2005, 11:28am
Thanks guys.

One more question. My GPA (JD) is 3. It is approx. 3.4 if I remove first 2 semesters (they were pretty bad). Is it reasonably ok?

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by melwrc on Jun 15th, 2005, 2:15pm
You don't get to parse the bad semesters.  Employers will look at your class rank.  You will have to work pretty hard to get a job with the 3.0 (~50% rank) from a tier III school.  A good undergrad gpa from a respected school would be very helpful.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by IPLVR on Jun 15th, 2005, 4:27pm
At a big law firm you would get paid about 125K.  There are plenty of entry opportunities in the SF area.  I know several firms are looking.  Just go on Martindale....

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jun 15th, 2005, 5:40pm

on 06/15/05 at 16:27:19, IPLVR wrote:
At a big law firm you would get paid about 125K. There are plenty of entry opportunities in the SF area. I know several firms are looking. Just go on Martindale....


I checked Martindale. It came up with lots of listing but they all are posted by a search firm named BCG Attorney Search. Law firms don't pay search firms for associates without less than one year of experience, therefore, they will not be interested (I talked to one of them and this is what he told me).

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by Isaac Clark on Jun 15th, 2005, 9:16pm
That's what BCG told me when I looked into one of their job postings.
It seemed like a pretty funky thing to say when the job posting
indicated 0-3 years of experience was required.

There is one head hunter that mails out letters to people right
after they pass the patent bar, and then tells people who reply
that he only works with laterals.  How many of them would
be on a list of people who just passed the patent bar?

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jun 15th, 2005, 9:43pm
I checked with 5-6 tech companies in SF bay area. They don't hire agents/attorneys with no experience.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by PiP on Jun 23rd, 2005, 3:09pm
Do summer associateships count much for experience if you end up not working at the same company?

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jun 29th, 2005, 5:59pm
a small firm has offered me 40% of billing rate (they claim to have enough work as far as billing is concerned). I am JD from tier 3 (finishing in a month) - also BSEE with over decade of experience in technology- also recently passed patent bar. Have no prior experience in any legal field.

Is it reasonable salary to start with. What is typical billing rate in patent prosecution (charged to clients)? I am in SF bar area.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by melwrc on Jun 29th, 2005, 8:15pm
40% of bill rate is a very good number...but the big question is how they calculate your hours billed, and how much they will bill for your work.  You can really be hurting for hrs while you learn if they charge clients low prices for your work by writing off a bunch of your hrs w/o crediting you for the hrs.  

Another thing to ask about is whether 40% is inclusive of all your benefits.  If you are basically contract, then a lot of the 40% will get eaten up in taxes and health insurance.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jun 29th, 2005, 8:19pm

on 06/29/05 at 20:15:58, melwrc wrote:
40% of bill rate is a very good number...but the big question is how they calculate your hours billed, and how much they will bill for your work. You can really be hurting for hrs while you learn if they charge clients low prices for your work by writing off a bunch of your hrs w/o crediting you for the hrs.

Another thing to ask about is whether 40% is inclusive of all your benefits. If you are basically contract, then a lot of the 40% will get eaten up in taxes and health insurance.


thanks for the input. I will have another talk with them after I receive the offer. Fortunately, I still work in technology, so I am not desperate ....

regardless, I think I will be taking a 40-50% pay cut (initially at least) by moving from my current job in technology to this new job.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by Curious job hunter on Jul 20th, 2005, 1:10pm
Patento - How did this finally work out?  Did you receive an offer and was the salary cut what you expected?  I will be in the same boat ie: new to patent prosecution and in the market for a entry-level position and I wondered what I should expect.

Any info you'd be willing to share would be appreciated.  

Thanks in advance.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jul 20th, 2005, 1:38pm
That deal did not work out because they wanted to pay 60K for one year and then 40% of billing rate. Now, this 40% is pretty good but first year at 60K (and no benefits) did not go well with me.  I am still in touch with them. Hopefully, something will work out.

I am going little slow because I need some time for bar exam preparation. Don't want to take any chance with the bar exam. I will have no problem taking 3 months off at my current tech job, but will be difficult to get out for 3 months right after joining a firm.  I am more interested in part time work right now. I am in talk with a small firm....


on 07/20/05 at 13:10:35, Curious job hunter wrote:
Patento - How did this finally work out? Did you receive an offer and was the salary cut what you expected? I will be in the same boat ie: new to patent prosecution and in the market for a entry-level position and I wondered what I should expect.

Any info you'd be willing to share would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


Title: Re: Salary question
Post by Curious job hunter on Jul 20th, 2005, 3:20pm
Sorry to hear things didnt work out the way you wanted.  I wonder if that is commonly the type of deal newbies with no experience are offered.  

Thanks for responding and good luck on the bar exam.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jul 20th, 2005, 7:46pm
for new agents, it is not easy to get a job. From what I have learned so far, I would recomend that try to hook up with a IP lawyer or small firm for whatever work they can give you (even if it pays 6.25/hr). Experience is the king. There is lot of work out there for experienced agents.

Of course, it helps a lot if you are Ph.D. Even better if you went to a good school.


on 07/20/05 at 15:20:27, Curious job hunter wrote:
Sorry to hear things didnt work out the way you wanted. I wonder if that is commonly the type of deal newbies with no experience are offered.

Thanks for responding and good luck on the bar exam.


Title: Re: Salary question
Post by DCbound on Jul 25th, 2005, 11:54am
Patento, what tech area are you in? I'm assuming EE, but i'm wondering what the software field looks like out there for IP? I've got about 10 years of industry experience in software.

Also does the ranking of the law school matter a great deal? I'm looking into GWU or maybe GULC (have to get my LSAT up a bit for that one!). One more question ... how is USPTO experience looked at? After law school and a five-year stint at the USPTO, then maybe i'll change my nickname to CAbound.  ;D

Keep us posted on your job search. Good luck and thanks!



Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jul 25th, 2005, 12:10pm
I believe USPTO experience carry more weight than normal law firm experience. After 5 year at USPTO and JD from good law school, you look fine to me.

I am in to both EE and software .... talked to many law firms (big, small ....all) . Big law firms (either in size or name) won't hire you unless you are from a tier 1 law school. If you are not JD and applying for patent agent position, you better have a Ph.D. (even in EE or software fields).

Small law firms does not seem to care too much about your school or other credentials (in fact, they probably won't hire a lawyer from some big shot school because she/he is not gonna stay for too long). But, they lack infrastructure to train new lawyers/patent agents. Therefore, as I said before "experience is the king". (experience in tech is important but not that much. I have 13 years of experience but they don't seem to care much about it - at least not now when I have no experience in prosecution)


Title: Re: Salary question
Post by DCbound on Jul 25th, 2005, 12:50pm
Thanks for the quick reply. Very interesting and informative.

Its a hard decision to make the change from tech to law, especially at the ripe old age of 39.  ;)  I went the MBA route but it just wasn't that interesting or challenging for me, so this will keep me busy for a few years.

Its curious what you said about the differences between larger and smaller firms, but it makes sense. My undergrad in CS is from a small state school, with no prestige whatsoever, so i'm hoping a good law school and USPTO experience will trump my undergrad. Its going to be a fun life journey whatever happens.

Thanks again.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by patento on Jul 25th, 2005, 2:40pm
You are on right track.

Remember you are never "old" unless you believe so. And, its never too late to pursue your dreams (or do something new and interesting)



on 07/25/05 at 12:50:53, DCbound wrote:
Thanks for the quick reply. Very interesting and informative.

Its a hard decision to make the change from tech to law, especially at the ripe old age of 39. ;) I went the MBA route but it just wasn't that interesting or challenging for me, so this will keep me busy for a few years.

Its curious what you said about the differences between larger and smaller firms, but it makes sense. My undergrad in CS is from a small state school, with no prestige whatsoever, so i'm hoping a good law school and USPTO experience will trump my undergrad. Its going to be a fun life journey whatever happens.

Thanks again.


Title: Re: Salary question
Post by DCbound on Jul 25th, 2005, 4:51pm

on 07/25/05 at 14:40:25, patento wrote:
You are on right track.

Remember you are never "old" unless you believe so. And, its never too late to pursue your dreams (or do something new and interesting)


I agree with you 100% on age. At 42, my older brother was doing construction and hated it. He had exactly 1 year of community college education from 25 years earlier. He went back to school, and 3 years ago he finished his medical residency at age 52. Now he has his own practice and is loving his new life. I guess that's why i put the smiley after my comment on age - maybe even a little subconscious chuckle at myself.

I think i would go nuts if i had to do the same thing for 30-40 years and didn't challege myself.



Title: Re: Salary question
Post by melwrc on Jul 27th, 2005, 11:53am

on 07/25/05 at 12:10:47, patento wrote:
I believe USPTO experience carry more weight than normal law firm experience. After 5 year at USPTO and JD from good law school, you look fine to me.


I'm going to have to disagree with you there.  Not that PTO experience is necessarily a bad thing, but you are much better off taking a firm job ASAP.  The problem is that it is much harder, and takes a little luck, to land a decent firm job when you aren't even an agent yet.

After 5 yrs as an examiner, you'd be 3-4 yrs behind in skill level and pay grade compared to someone that worked 5 yrs as a patent agent.  The jobs are very different, and the examiner experience is really only useful up to the point when you figure out how things really work at the PTO, which only takes a couple of years.    

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by Wasting time on Jul 27th, 2005, 12:26pm
I believe that the post above was by a person who is a an agent with little experience and is in law school.

PTO experience will pay off in the long run when you are attempting to go in-house or manage a prosecution group. It wil also pay off in the short term because you will get up to speed very quickly in terms of prosecution.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by tech_spec on Jul 27th, 2005, 9:01pm
I would disagree, somewhat.  Having gone from PTO to a firm, I think law firm experience is more relevant if you plan to end up practicing in the firm. Well, ideally, you should work at the patent office for about 2 years and then move to a firm.  PTO experience is useful for understanding the inner workings of the system and knowing your way around the filewrapper, but you plateau after about 2 years. It may make a difference if you stay to become a primary, but between 2nd and 5th years in PTO, you are not learning as much as you could be learning in the law firm (in addition, you make about $20-30K less, although you are also not working as much :) )  

I am not sure how PTO experience is useful for running a group or going in-house? Maybe being a former examiner gives you some extra cachet, but as far as skills go, what does PTO experience add to the skills of an experienced attorney who's trying to go in-house?  

Disclaimer: I am reasonably new to the field, so if there are real long-term (beyond 5 years) benefits to being an examiner, please explain.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by NB on Jul 28th, 2005, 6:40am
I think it would provide insight on being efficient in prosecution and giving advice to others on efficiency. Ie. what works and what does not.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by melwrc on Jul 28th, 2005, 9:35am

on 07/27/05 at 12:26:37, Wasting time wrote:
I believe that the post above was by a person who is a an agent with little experience and is in law school.

PTO experience will pay off in the long run when you are attempting to go in-house or manage a prosecution group. It wil also pay off in the short term because you will get up to speed very quickly in terms of prosecution.


I've spent the last 2 yrs writing patents and responses to office actions. I also verified my opinion with more experienced attys at my firm. The value of being an examiner dimishes past a couple of years, which is one of the reasons so many quit within that amount of time, including an agent that my firm just hired. The simple fact is that being an examiner and a patent agent are two different jobs. Your experience as an examiner will help get you oriented and learn the processes, but you will not have experience being an advocate for a paying client. The demands are very different. You don't have to come up with creative ways to argue for patentability because the client wants a patent.

As for going in-house, big companies hire those with firm experience primarily. They will often cherry pick them from their outside counsel, which firms don't mind because it builds closer relationships with the client. I would be extremely surprised to hear about someone going to a Fortune 500 company directly from the PTO to be an agent.

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by newbie on Jul 28th, 2005, 1:59pm
I worked at the USPTO and obtained partial signatory authority after which i obtained a patent agent position in a mid sized company with a salary in the mid 90's

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by melwrc on Jul 28th, 2005, 4:55pm
How many years were you at the PTO?

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by newbie on Jul 29th, 2005, 9:14am
i was at the PTO 3.5 yrs and i'm mechanical

Title: Re: Salary question
Post by melwrc on Jul 29th, 2005, 3:08pm
I should've asked what city as well.  90k after 3-1/2 as an agent is about right (little on the high side if 90k is the base salary) for a city like Houston (i.e. cheap col), so you've done well for yourself to get the same level of pay with examiner experience only.    



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