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   Author  Topic: networking and patent law  (Read 633 times)
Robert Carroll
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networking and patent law
« on: Jun 20th, 2006, 3:22pm »
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Is it possible to slip in the back door at a decent patent law firm if one has horrible grades at a first tier law school?
 
I'm mainly interested in patent litigation, hopefully in biotech patent law.
 
I believe I have the talent and ability to be a patent attorney, but until recently I was under the impression that it is difficult if not impossible to get a position in a patent litigation law firm unless you have stellar grades at a first tier law firm and a technical background.
 
When I entered law school I was immature and irresponsible. In addition I suffered from depression and chronic tiredness which I believe (god willing) is no longer a problem for me.
 
After about a year and a half of law school, I realized my grades would be a problem and I made a half-hearted attempt to impress professors with my writing ability, in hopes that somehow this might lead to gaining connections which would help me get a law job. I succeeded in impressing several professors, and also felt in my trial advocacy class that I had a developable presence in the court room, but this strategy yielded no results.
 
I say half-hearted because I was depressed bordering on suicidal at the time, and although I received top grades in those writing classes the papers were late and I did not give an impression that I would be a responsible attorney.
 
If you read JD Jive many attorneys will complain about document review, but when I discovered the decent pay given dr attorneys I was quite pleased that I might not be an indentured servant the rest of my life.  
 
This, I think, is an advantage I may have over graduates with much better qualifications on paper - I do not feel that I am entitled to anything, so I am willing to work harder, take more risks and have an optimistic attitude in obtaining a job than most would be. The question, though, is whether this is enough: is it even possible to have a career in patent law without a background that includes good grades and no technical background.
 
I read on this board and heard from a patent attorney that it may be possible to work as a patent litigation attorney even without a technical background. In both cases they also said that, while the pay is lower, the work may be more interesting and you are more likely to work on litigation than an attorney who passed the patent exam.
 
So my first question is whether it is possible to network or use other tactics to obtain a career as a patent litigation attorney. There was once a post on the site JD Jive where a young attorney described how, despite having mediocre grades, he obtained a good big law position by using questionable tactics where he deviously forced a meeting with a hiring partner. He was laughed off the board, and I don't know if he was legitimate, but I thought about giving it a shot since I am fairly desperate.
 
My second question is: What should do if I am unable to gain a patent litigation position?
 
I really would not mind doing document review for a few years even though I hear it is miserable work as penance for my debauchery in law school, but I don't want to do it for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, the law is rather hierarchical based on your grades and first job out of law school, so I probably would want to change fields or go solo.
 
My impression is that it is possible albeit difficult to go solo as a patent prosecutor, but as a litigator you must work at a law firm. So would it be worthwhile in obtaining a patent litigation job to go back to my undergraduate school and obtain a degree in computer science? I'm more interested in biotech, but really my impression is that the first several years of law firm work will be well-payed grunt work anyway, and I really just want a decent paying position that could lead to future career possibilities or going solo in a way that document review would not.
 
The other wild cards in my situation are 1) I spent a few months in a mental institution and several months completely unemployed which would be difficult to explain and 2) I have not completed law school yet and hopefully will be taking a course with a professor who has knowledge and experience in the IP field, and that course will involve writing a thesis paper. I'm somewhat mystified by the issues I am writing about because it seems like everything written on the topic contain secret assumptions that everyone agrees on but I can not understand why, and feel like an idiot for disagreeing. I feel as though I will hit a grandslam or strike out. Unfortunately although the professor seems like a charismatic guy who would greatly be able to help me if he tried, he is either 1)arrogant and aloof and does not care about his students 2)has an interesting teaching style and has refused my many requests for his help for my own best interest or 3) is cowardly and selfish because he is reserved and has a fear of getting close with any of his students. I'm sorry to bring these bizarre personal issues up but if anyone has any advice as to how to deal with a professor who seems like he should be able to help you and is very similar to you but outwardly ignores you and treats you with disdain.
 
All comments and advice are greatly appreciated.
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p@tent.guy
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Posts: 17
Re: networking and patent law
« Reply #1 on: Jun 20th, 2006, 7:39pm »
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I would not aim for a top tier law firm. I would also delete this post.  
 
If you spent time in an institution - that may be an issue to getting admitted to certain bars (do not know this - something to check). As for your professor - never confuse apathy with malice.  
 
As for your potentially solving a fundamental IP issue beyond all the existing literature on the subject: In the infamous words of my undergraduate professor when I thought I had solved the the kissing number problem for the regular pentagon one day after hearing about the problem in a colloquium: "No you didn't."
 
The rest of that conversation went:
Me: "But you didn't look at the proof."
Her: "You made a mistake. Don't embarrass yourself - figure out our mistake and start over."
 
I was seething at her until I found she was right. I felt twice as bad because she was a nun.  
 
Law (and to some extent science & engineering) is not a lovey dovey profession. You need to not only present, but also actually be, a rock of stability for people who in many cases are putting their lives in your hands. While as a person I might, as a patent professional, I do not care about your personal struggles or any excuses about your grades.  
 
What I care about is that you have the ability to execute and win. Demonstrate that ability over time and your reputation (and salary) will grow. Finish your degree, and look for a small firm willing to give you a shot because you have (insert top tier law school here) on your resume, and build your skillset so that you are valuable to a firm.
 
Otherwise, pull it together and don't trash your reputation by even entertaining the possibility of doing something shady to get hired.
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