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marc coleman
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need career advice
« on: Dec 2nd, 2003, 2:24pm »
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I have an undergraduate degree in nutritional biochemistry (pre-med). I have about four years experience in the biotech field. Recently i've been studying the LSAT and contemplating law school. I understand that I may run into difficulty landing a first job after law school but on the other hand the potential six figure salary range may be worth all the trouble. Does anyone have any advice or extra pros and cons to offer?  I would also like to know if you IP attorneys are pleased with your jobs. Any information would be helpful. Thanks in advance.
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JimIvey
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Re: need career advice
« Reply #1 on: Dec 3rd, 2003, 10:45am »
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If you're drawn to the law generally, you don't have to limit yourself to considering patent application preparation and prosecution exclusively.  While technical experience may not be helpful for other areas of IP (trademark, copyright, etc.), it can be very helpful in other areas of the law.  For example, you might find a passion for patent litigation or licensing.  Having technical expertice can provide special insights into some issues involved there.
 
You should be aware that going to law school is a dramatic change in your career path.  I turned out to be less passionate about the law itself than my classmates.  Luckily, patent practice tends to emphasize the law itself less than other types of practice.  Particularly, the body of law is primarily statutory, is finite, and changes somewhat infrequently.
 
What I really can't tell you is how sought-after nutritional biochem is as a technical discipline within patent practice.  You may find that the demand is more than sufficient to support a career in that direction.  You may also find insufficient demand for that and may feel that you must follow a different path (e.g., licensing and/or litigation).
 
And, the risk there is that you may not enjoy that type of work.  For me, the transition from an entirely "hard" environment of engineering where "better" and "worse" are objectively quantified to the "soft" environment of law was just too much (think B.S. vs. B.A. in undergraduate studies).  Luckily, I found a compromise between those two worlds in patents.
 
I hope that's helpful.
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James D. Ivey
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Marc Coleman
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Re: need career advice
« Reply #2 on: Dec 3rd, 2003, 7:00pm »
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Jim,
 
    I beleive we're in the same boat here. I dont have any overwhelming passion for law. In fact, I too am considering patent law to be middle ground between my scientific roots and a hefty paycheck. I dont mind what i do now, but unfortunately bench scientists and associates dont get paid as we should unless you're a Phd, and even then the education to pay ratio is not the greatest. Upon acquiring a law degree, I would like to work in house for a biotech company, or for a firm that represents biotech companies.
    Before making such a huge investment in obtaining an education in law, I have a few major concerns. As you suggested in your previous post,  I'm not particularly sure what kind of chance I stand after law school with my particular background. I may have a technical edge, being experienced in the biotech industry, but doesn't everyone going into patent law have a technical background? and arent alot of them Phd's with law degrees? I guess what I'd really like to know is.....
 
1) Is my plan feasible?
Am I doing this for the wrong reason(money)
can you shoot holes in my reasoning
 
2)How does an entry level patent attorney fresh out of school get a start? As I understand it, you arent promised a job even if you've done summer internships.
All of the patent attorney jobs that i've come across require a J.D., Phd, and at least three years experience.
 
3)What is the salary range for an entry level patent attorney?
 
4)Do you like what you do? Would you do it all over again?
 
 
  Thanks. I really appreciate this advice from a working professional.  
 
 
         M.C.
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JimIvey
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Re: need career advice
« Reply #3 on: Dec 3rd, 2003, 8:35pm »
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Hi Marc,
 
1.  Is it feasible?
 
Like everything else, it depends.  I had good grades (3.74) and a good score on the LSAT (99th percentile).  I was wait-listed at Boalt but eventually got in.  The next year was even tougher, so I might not have got in if I had waited a year.  The classes graduating ahead of me seemed to have little trouble finding jobs, but the first Bush recession started in my 3rd year so the job market really tightened up.  Things were tough.  Things would have been much tougher if my grades were a little lower and/or if I had gone to a different school.
 
I can't answer any of those variables for you.  You'll have to decide.  I think you can lookup average GPAs and LSAT scores of incoming classes of various law schools and see where to might fit.  You should also try to figure out what the economy will be like in about 4 years.  Good luck!
 
As I've posted before (on the older message board), life sciences seem to require PhDs.  I can't swear that's true, but that's what I hear.  Apparently, there are no really simple genetically modified mice.
 
Is money the wrong reason to change careers?  That depends on how happy money makes you.  I like to fly airplanes, sail boats, and collect strange geeky gadgets.  All of that takes money.  Beyond that, however, I don't have much use for the stuff.
 
My reason for changing was primarily that I didn't like the life my more senior colleagues had so I looked for a different path.  I got lucky that my path turned out the way it did.
 
Re getting an entry level position.  By far, the best way is a summer internship at a firm that treats it as an extended interview for an entry level position.  Inhouse positions (within a company) are tougher without work experience.  It's possible to get work without doing the summer internship, but it's easier with.  As a friend once advised me, "you only need one job."  So 1,000 "no"s is okay as long as you get the one "yes."  
 
Re JD, PhD, and 3+ years:  See?  That's the PhD I was telling you about.  And I've posted before that the first 3 years are the toughest to get.  It takes about that long before you can really do the work without much supervision.  However, after 3 years, you're very valuable and firms and companies really compete for those people.  That's why firms are fairly frequently willing to hire out of law school to build the 3+-year attorney -- it's easier than trying to find one out there.  But firms don't advertise in web sites, magazines, and such for entry level positions.  They go directly to the law schools because that's where the candidates are.
 
Visit a couple of law schools and see if they have job listings posted somewhere.  Most do, I think.  You'll see what kind of jobs are out there for new grads.  Talk to the career counselors there too.  They'll be able to give you a sense of what the future looks like if you graduate from there.  
 
At Boalt, they didn't even really have many jobs posted.  Instead, they have a week of interviewing (like a mini job fair) each year.  I think there were even an earlier job fair for minorities.  I didn't go because I never knew about them (not being a minority and all).  A Korean friend told me about them later.  So, you can go to 3-6 on-campus job fairs during your JD program.  Ask the career center/office at the school about the attendance and hiring rates out of those.
 
Salary range for new associates: I don't even know.  It was about $70k when I graduated more than 12 years ago.  I believe it's over $100k now, but I don't know how much over.  How much is your soul worth?  Wink  That's how much they pay....
 
Do I like what I do?  Short answer: yes.  Long answer:  Here's my life now.  I work in a home office and I can live comfortably if I bill 4-5 hours per day (that's about a 7-8 hour day).  I have my favorite music playing while I work in comfortable clothes with my dogs at my feet.  I spend the time I would be commuting to/from work with my 1yr-old daughter.  My office has a peek-a-boo view of San Francisco across the bay through pine trees and redwoods.  All of that I wouldn't trade for anything.
 
On the downside, the work is tough.  I'm essentially a professional writer with deadlines.  Imagine getting writer's block at 9pm when you have to seal the envelope and drive to the Post Office no later than 11pm!  The amount of intense concentration required at times gets really old after 12 years.
 
Would I do it all over again?  That's a really hard one!  If I could go back to age 17 and start over, I think I would try to be an airline pilot and maybe would have accepted an offer to play college football.  However, going back to age 25 (when I entered law school), I don't think I would have done anything much differently -- well, maybe in my personal life, but not career-wise.
 
Thanks for encouraging me to blather on in a narcisistic manner for so long.  I hope it helps.
 
Regards.
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James D. Ivey
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marc coleman
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Re: need career advice
« Reply #4 on: Dec 4th, 2003, 1:34pm »
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Jim,
 
     Thank you so much for your input, you've been a great help. Although i'm a bit discouraged by the apparent need of a PhD for someone with a science background looking to get into patent law, I havent been completely discouraged from the idea of law school or patent law for that matter. Besides, like you said, there are other areas that might better suit me. Licensing and litigation....hmmm...I guess I'll have to find out how well paid those guys are. (sm)
   Question. Is there a such thing as cross training in law? For instance would I be able to represent sports figures or entertainers as well as biotech clients?
    I plan on talking with more people before I make this major decision, but unfortunately I must make this decision very quickly. The LSAT is in Feb. and the application deadlines for the schools that im looking at are in March.
   Oh yeah.....to all you undergrads majoring in science fields....are you sure thats what you really want to do? Just make sure you're absolutely in love with science. Also plan to stay in school for the long haul...say 8-12 years.
 
           M.C.
 
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