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VB
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Salary for Advisor/Patent agent trainee
« on: Jan 4th, 2005, 2:21pm »
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I was wondering what the salary is like for a patent agent trainee (advisor) at a law firm.  I hold a Ph.D. in chemistry and was wondering what one would expect to earn working at a law firm learning patent prosecution.
 
Thanks.
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thought001
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Re: Salary for Advisor/Patent agent trainee
« Reply #1 on: Jan 4th, 2005, 8:11pm »
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Thank you for your important question. That was certainly one of the things I was very curious about when trying to get into the profession.
 
I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry (1995). I have lived and worked all of my life in New York. So all of the following historical information is based in New York.
 
I worked in industry for 7 years. Then I heard about becoming a patent agent by taking the USPTO certification exam. So I studied and studied for it for about a year. Then I took the exam and passed. So now it was time to try to get out of the dead end job I was in and become a patent agent in a law firm. I was so, so excited. I almost couldn't believe what was happening.
 
At the time, I was earning about $75K in a semiconductor company. I really had no idea what a law firm would give me as a patent agent.  I prepared a resume and got in contact with a recruiter specializing in placing patent attorneys and agents. On my cover letter, I stated that I would prefer my salary to be at least $75K. To my surprise, when the recruiter got back to me he said that one thing he takes issue with is my salary requirement. He told me that I was totally off base to be thinking that I would be getting that kind of salary to start. He told me that he has decades of experience in the field and that it doesn't work that way. He went on to tell me that basically, I didn't even stand much of a chance of getting hired as a patent agent and that I should think of trying to go to law school at night before applying for a job in the field.
 
Well, I was really taken aback. I couldn't understand  it. I almost laughed and thought what he was saying was a lot of baloney. Actually, I became quite annoyed with him. I let me rave on, and said ok, but inside I thought that this was just baloney. I thought--it just couldn't be that a law firm would pay that low for a Ph.D. in Chemistry  with patent agent certification.
 
I then applied to law firms around where I live. I did a lot of research on the law firms before applying. I noticed that one of them already had a patent agent on board. I was quite hopeful about that one.
 
Sure enough, one day after I got home, after working in the dungeons of the semiconductor company, my wife tells me I got a call from that law firm. I called them back, and lo and behold, they called me in for an interview. I went to the interview. The following day, mind you, I get a phone call (on my covert cell phone at work, of course, amid grinding machines) to hear the nerdy voice of one of the partners at the law firm. He offers me the job and offers me a salary of $90K. He told me that I could "think about it" and get back to him. Needless to say, I told him right on the spot that I was very happy with the offer and took it on the spot.
 
So much for that recruiter with his decades of experience. He didn't seem to know much. And to boot, I applied to only about 5 firms before finding one--and at that, only right around the corner to where I live--and I don't live in NYC.
 
The other patent agent there has two years over me. I can't be sure what her salary is, but I am sure she's making well over $100K.  
There might be one advisor in our firm, but he's an elderly man with connections to a partner. I have no idea what the deal is with him. I have noticed that advisors are extremely few.
 
Now, if I had applied without any industrial experience, perhaps the salary would have been $85K. That's my guess.
 
The patent attorneys there are making a minimum of $125K. Though my salary is much higher than it used to be, I realize that this firm is taking advantage of me. It ends up that I'm doing very advanced work that none of the attorneys there can do, and I can do a better job than them. And this firm is paying a fraction of what these other lawyers do, when I have found many of them to do average to inferior work.  
 
On the bad end, the firm I work in does not give bonuses. I was very surprised by that. And in addition, after my first year, I got a raise by only a measley $2K (to $92K). In addition, we have a partner there who rules everyone like he's a king, and makes all decisions on salary. So that sucks also. He's a very arrogant, hot head. Not easy to get along with. And he takes it out of your hide during the one year review. Not a nice thing to do. But these are all things you can get prepared for, unless of course, you find a better firm than me.  
 
Hope this helps.  Best to you.
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Pat Agent 007
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Re: Salary for Advisor/Patent agent trainee
« Reply #2 on: Jan 20th, 2005, 3:48pm »
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on Jan 4th, 2005, 8:11pm, thought001 wrote:
...The other patent agent there has two years over me. I can't be sure what her salary is, but I am sure she's making well over $100K.  
...The patent attorneys there are making a minimum of $125K. Though my salary is much higher than it used to be, I realize that this firm is taking advantage of me. It ends up that I'm doing very advanced work that none of the attorneys there can do, and I can do a better job than them. And this firm is paying a fraction of what these other lawyers do, when I have found many of them to do average to inferior work.  
 
...after my first year, I got a raise by only a measley $2K (to $92K)...

 
I'd guess the other agent is probably making less than 95k.
 
Re the firm "taking advantage", well, welcome to life as a patent agent.
 
My salary/raise situation is very similar to yours.  I started at 80k five years ago, now I'm at 90k (about 2k per year raises).  Compare that to the published pay increases offered associates.
 
When I first became a pat agent I had no intention of going to law school.  Now I see that my hard work pays the much higher salaries of the new associates.  The math is easy (firm income from your work = your billing rate*#hrs billed); note the difference in your ratio of firm income vs. your salary to that of the associates.  
 
You also have the glass ceiling to deal with.  Want to earn what your earning now for the rest of your life? Well, then no problem staying an agent.  Otherwise, at some point your billing rate can't really go any higher (clients don't generally like paying high billing rates for 'non-attorneys').  Again, simple math tells you that if your billing rate can't go up, your salary stagnates.
 
Sorry if I sound frustrated, but after 5 yrs of this I guess I am.  The law school apps are in the mail.
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DB
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Re: Salary for Advisor/Patent agent trainee
« Reply #3 on: Mar 23rd, 2005, 8:05pm »
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I find it rather interesting that in my experience (on the job hunt last year PhD Biology) that the salaries that I was being offered as a tech spec (85-90K) are quite similar to the salaries both other posters started at.  From my interviews, although it was not required, attending law school at night was highly encouraged and from all those that I spoke to, as attested by the previous posters, it was the best thing to do to ensure upward mobility through the firm and to ensure adequate compensation (when it is clear that tech specs end up doing the exact same work as 1 year associates but get paid almost 30% less).....
 
On another note, dont be fooled by the ease in which the previous posters found jobs...it is also in my experience that the current job market for tech specs is quite competitive.  Granted those who are exceptional will always be able to find a job, but gone are the days where every IP firm couldnt find enough PhDs to fill their ranks....this is definitely true for PhDs in the biological sciences, perhaps chemistry is not as crowded.... nonetheless, best of luck!
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danny
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Re: Salary for Advisor/Patent agent trainee
« Reply #4 on: Mar 24th, 2005, 11:46pm »
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"Granted those who are exceptional will always be able to find a job..."
 
exceptional at what, DB?  i've posted this question previously, but no one really offered me a clear answer... i've seen the resumes of many patent agents on-line and their publication record is not all that impressive... and considering that most do not have any legal experience... what does one have to be "exceptional" at to find a job?
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