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   Being a happy, healthy, and ethical lawyer
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   Author  Topic: Being a happy, healthy, and ethical lawyer  (Read 2967 times)
Masdf
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Being a happy, healthy, and ethical lawyer
« on: May 13th, 2007, 9:05pm »
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I'm slogging my way through this article from 1999 about the culture at law firms.  
 
(Type "Being a happy, healthy, and ethical lawyer" in Google to see the article- This BB would not allow me to paste the link)
 
I'm currently a patent examiner strongly considering going to law school for patent/trademark/other ip law and have being reading extensively about the demand for attorneys with huge billable hour requirements. I make a good living right now and would rather have a high quality of life than a skyhigh salary.  
 
Are there many firms with reduced billable hour requirements, especially in the IP arena? What about inhouse council- Is this any better?  50 hours a week I wouldn't mind but much more I don't think is a good idea.
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Bill Richards
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Re: Being a happy, healthy, and ethical lawyer
« Reply #1 on: May 24th, 2007, 10:08am »
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Congratulations on your mature attitude on work and earning a living.  It sounds like you've given this a great deal of thought.  If you're happy where you are, why do you want to look elsewhere?
There are many, many law firms that do not have the intense billable hour requirements.  They are generally the smaller firms that specialize in IP work.  The salary will be lower, however.  In-house counsel is a good choice, but there are many different situations.  In general, however, the work is less hectic.  I know of a number of colleagues who went in-house from a law firm enviroment and are very happy.  The pay is not as high as it might be at a law firm, but it can still be quite good.  The only drawback at this time is that many in-house positions require some prior experience.  Don't know if your PTO experience would be attractive or not.  It might at some level, but the lack of, for example, actual drafting experience may be a minus.
P.S.  We really need all the quality patent examiners we can get.  Don't bolt too quickly!
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William B. Richards, P.E.
The Richards Law Firm
Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights
614/939-1488
same as above
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Re: Being a happy, healthy, and ethical lawyer
« Reply #2 on: Jun 4th, 2007, 11:30pm »
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Thank you for your response. This law school application process has been long. (I only applied to one school for this year and am now waitlisted.)
 
The reason I want to look elsewhere is because a future at the patent office requires fully double the production per biweek that I do now. I spend large amounts of time searching and think that I'd rather do something that does not depend on my searching for needles in haystacks with decreasing amounts of allotted time.  Plus the haystack is becoming bigger by >400k apps per year.  
 
I've done the math: 400k divided  by (8231 active agents and 26086 active attorneys) is a fairly high number and thus I think that there will be plenty of demand for someone experienced in EE/CS with a law degree, both inside and outside the patent office.
 
I am well-aware that the office needs good examiners as it's losing a lot of experienced examiners while not quickly replacing them. I once registered my frustration at the way the office works with a very high-up manager. I said I didn't think it was fair either to applicants or to the office employees that the system is build to encourage allowance and discourage rejection. I write a LOT of rejections and spend a lot of time on them in order to make accurate and easy to understand rejections. We have to dispose of cases as fast as possible so a worse examiner (ie one that does an inadequate search or one that won't justify a rejection) will do better  than one who spends lots of time on his/her cases. The response from the manager was (direct quote) "We're the patent office, not the rejection office."
 
While the patent office is overall a good place to work, I wish the quality of my work was better recognized. I think that recognition could be better had on the outside. As for salary, I get along quite well on less than 6 figures but want to stay in the DC area long term and that will probably mean buying an overpriced condo. I think I could probably afford something now because of my aggressive saving, so anything more is just a bonus to me.
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Examiner
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Re: Being a happy, healthy, and ethical lawyer
« Reply #3 on: Jun 13th, 2007, 5:16pm »
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I'm also an examiner.  I've been accepted to every law school in the DC area, but decided to think it over before possibly enrolling next year.  However, the more I think about it, the more law school appears to be a waste of time for me (and many other examiners) because of the promotion potential here at the USPTO.
 
I've been told that I'm being considered for the SPE positions that keep opening up.  SPEs make 121-145k base salary.  I know several that max out at 145k by working "overtime from home."  They also get a 15k bonus.  To top it off, they get a pension that is worth at *least* another 10k/year.  So, here is a stable, 9-5 job that effectively pays 170k/year.
 
How does the SPE position compary to the private sector?  Would I necessarily need to make partner for law school not to be a waste of time and money?
 
I appreciate any comments.
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Isaac
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Re: Being a happy, healthy, and ethical lawyer
« Reply #4 on: Jun 14th, 2007, 7:05am »
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on Jun 13th, 2007, 5:16pm, Examiner wrote:
How does the SPE position compary to the private sector?  Would I necessarily need to make partner for law school not to be a waste of time and money?

 
You can make substantially more money in the private sector even without making partner, but if your priority is working 9-5 over making more money, you'll probably want to be a SPE rather than an associate.
 
First year associates can make 145-160k starting salaries at the larger DC firms.  
 
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Isaac
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