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(Message started by: guest examiner on May 15th, 2007, 6:38pm)

Title: examiner to firm questions
Post by guest examiner on May 15th, 2007, 6:38pm
Currently, I'm an examiner at the PTO and am thinking of going for the switch to a firm.. I've got some questions hopefully some of you can give some insight on.

First, is life generally much better at a firm?  I rather like the PTO, except for production of course.  While I am not having a problem doing production now, I see it could be a problem down the road.  Many of the old timers on my floor moan about how it is horrible to constantly stress about making production.  I do not want to turn into that.  I know life at a firm can vary, but can anyone  share some experiences?

Many of the firms I would be applying to work at would are also the firms  that I deal with as an examiner.  Surely this is common, but is there any conflict of interest issues I should be aware of?  

I do not have a law degree but I think I would like to go to law school.  While the PTO's law school program seems nice, I dread the prospect of production+law school.. somehow even as flexible as the PTO can be, I envision that a firm could be even moreso.  Although I don't really know what firm life can be like..

thanks for any thoughts!

Title: Re: examiner to firm questions
Post by different examiner on Jun 4th, 2007, 1:40am

Title: Re: examiner to firm questions
Post by Lyza on Jun 4th, 2007, 6:04am
This interests me, Guest Examiner. What is it that you examine since you do not have a law degree? Are you an engineer/patent agent or a Ph.D.?

I am not an attorney but I have a 20+ year history working within the law firm environment. Without a JD, your options within a general practice law firm will be limited. Law firms are notoriously traditional, rigid and hierarchical institutions where everyone is either an attorney or considered "staff." If you are a patent agent, steering yourself toward IP boutiques may produce more options and better treatment, as they will better understand your worth, but it will depend upon the firm.

Regarding production, you will undoubtedly trade that stress for the stress of making your assigned billable hours which can be heavy. To make partner, first you must be an attorney, and a general rule of thumb is that you must bring in business in addition to meeting your billables to be considered. Even then, you may not be granted equity partner status.

Regarding flexibility at a firm, it depends upon the firm but I doubt that any law firm will be as flexible an environment or offer comparable benefits as will a government position. If time-off and other flexibilities are a primary concern for you, you might want to rethink going out into the private sector. It is difficult to compare the policies of a private business with those of a public institution, union-like in its employee protections. Very large law firms might come close to PTO-like benefit packages for attorneys, and possibly for patent agents, but not for staff, and even then, your work load may be heavy.

I'm sure one of the attorneys will have more to offer. Again, what is it you do at the PTO? Thanks and good luck.

Title: Re: examiner to firm questions
Post by pentazole on Jun 7th, 2007, 3:16pm
At my firm, we have recently hired an ex-examiner.  We have many non-lawyers, and most of the current lawyers are Ph.D./J.D.'s who started off as agents, and went to law school part time while the firm paid for it.  Your best bet is to work for a boutique IP firm.  General practice firms are not going to be your cup of tea.  You want to find a firm that has a practice group related to your area of expertise, and make sure that they have enough work for you continuously.

I'm not a lawyer, I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and practice within a chemical group.  I will be attending lawschool part time starting next year for that J.D. designation.  There really is no conflict for you to start working at a law firm.  Is life better?  I am not sure.  From what I heard it's quite hectic in the PTO and the money isn't all that.  At a law firm as a first year patent associate you will be making at least 100,000 and depending on what firm you are associated with, your hourly requirements will be anywhere from 1800-2000 hours a year.  The firm I work at is wonderful, relaxed hours (1800), great pay, and lots of work at all times within my field.  I think you will be OK qualifications wise, but it's a tough market.  Everyone wants to be in IP, apparently it's the only financially rewarding job out there.  I can tell you that for my first year as a patent agent trainee getting paid a technical consultant salary, I was making more than most senior research scientists.  It's quite sick.

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