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(Message started by: EE on Apr 13th, 2005, 1:54pm)

Title: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by EE on Apr 13th, 2005, 1:54pm
Hello,
I am a 38 year old electrical engineer with an MSEE. I am thinking about a career switch to patent attorney. I have hit the glass ceiling salary wise and am always concerned about layoffs. I would like a little more stability and job opportunity. More salary wouldn't hurt either ;)

If I entered law school in Jan 2006 (going at night) that would put me on track to graduate in 2009 at the age of 41-42. I had several questions:

1) Would my age be a detriment as a new patent attorney?
2) In the NYC/DC area what kind of salary could I command?
3) How rough is law school at night? I got my masters in EE at night but that was 10 years ago.
4) Is there anything I can do now job wise to prepare me for life as a patent attorney? Patent agent?
5) Are there any good resources for someone considering a career as a patent attorney?

Thanks for any help.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Jurjen on Apr 17th, 2005, 3:41am
Hi,

Check out this page:
http://www.payscale.com/salary-survey/vid-19197/fid-6886

Cheers

Jurjen

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by CDMA on Apr 21st, 2005, 10:39pm
I am facing the similar situation as you.  I plan to take the LSAT next year and get into law school in 2006 (hopefully). The whole SW/IC industry is outsourcing to India or China.  There isn't many choices left for our EE.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by EE patent lawyer on Apr 22nd, 2005, 4:07am
I am a 43 year old patent attorney that went to night law school 17 years ago, after spending 7 years as an EE.   I am now a partner in a small law firm.  I will try answering your question.

1) Age.  You aren't going to be a prime candidate for a job at a big prestigious law firm, unless you manage to go to a top 10 law school or are first in your class.  But many corporations and small firms will see your age and experience as an asset.

2)  Salary.  First year salaries range from $80k to $150k, depending on the size of the firm.  Government pays the least.  Big law firms pay the most but make you work much much harder.  

3) How rough is law school?  For me it was easy but hey I was a youngster with no family committments when I went at night.  You'll need the stamina for 8 hours on the job and then 4-5 hours every night at school or studying.  Do you have a wife? A growing family?  There won't be much time left for them..

4) Is there anything you can do now job wise?  You can take the patent agents exam any time you want to.   I suspect an entry level patent agent job will pay less than your current senior level EE job.  Otherwise, I'd hang on to my good paying job until I have a year or two of law school under my belt.

5) Are there any good career resources?  I cannot think of a single place-- you can alway do some google searching.  Better still, find your local patent bar association.  Go to a few of their meetings and talk to people who have already gone through what you are thinking about.  

6) Let me ask a few more questions.  How good are your writing skills?  Do you enjoy writing?  I mean, really, do you truly enjoy writing?   Are you able to quickly understand and appreciate how things work?  Because to be a successful patent lawyer, either as a prosecutor or a litigator, these skills are an absolute requirement.

Hope that helps and good luck!

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Shahid Khan on Apr 29th, 2005, 10:05am
Hi ,

I have a very similar question. I am 33 now and have admission at tulane . I have a bachelors in EE and worked for the last 10 years in IT.  I would like to find work at a large firm for at least a few years after i graduate. How realistic are my expectation ? Please help.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by mortikhi on Jun 1st, 2005, 10:10am

on 04/17/05 at 03:41:22, Jurjen wrote:
Hi,

Check out this page:
http://www.payscale.com/salary-survey/vid-19197/fid-6886

Cheers

Jurjen

I went to this site and it's not worth spit.  

The salary it said I should make came in at almost 1/2 of what I make and I'm around the low end of the payscale.

It said patent lawyers around 80-150k/year.  Im in that ballpark and have a BSCS doing web development.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Double Patent on Jun 3rd, 2005, 11:03am
That is quite insightful.  A BSCS, qualified with a job, gets you good money, reasonable hours (compared to law), less yelling and emotional and mental stress (compared to law), and often better pay.  Actually lawyers look up to people with your technical ability: you should be proud.  

Indeed, how much intelligence does it take to use a law library?  OK, that characterization might not be technically correct.  But reading code and writing algorithms at least seems more mysterious and skilled than parsing a case or a statute and writing a legal memo to the court, and it is respected.

Plus that thing about writing.  You must love to write, and fast, very fast.  Sometimes like dictation.  As a young lawyer I know litigation is like that, I assume patent prosecution is like that too.  And there is no gcc or lint to check it.

You could look into doing IT for a big law firm, instead of considering patent law if you are.  One big firm actually writes stuff in VB, others use large document management systems.  There is one called Summation that the DOJ used for the Microsoft case.  Personally I've been trying to do just that myself but have been unlucky so far, but I love being in a mathematical and scientific environment so I will try again.  Is the patent bar for you? for me? I don't know.

I guess my point is that the law field is as hard as the current state of IT, even if you don't buy -- and I don't -- Intel's Grove or Larry Summers' opinion of a brain drain.  I don't think that analysis is fair otherwise they would be hiring.  But then again fairness is why I went into law, and that is not unrealizable.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by IPDB on Jul 11th, 2005, 6:41pm
Be pleased you are holding onto that web development job making so much money with only a BSCS.   I have a BS Engineering Science, MS Biomedical Engineering with thesis and certificate in management from Wharton, have recently been downsized and can't find comparable pay in an IT job.   The market's too tight.   Maybe it's a matter of time but just how long?   It really makes me wonder if there is perceived value in experience and education anymore.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Victor on Oct 23rd, 2005, 10:54pm
Does anyone whose currently a patent lawyer have any comments regarding the $80-$150k salary range for an entry level patent lawyer quoted from payscale.com?

If this is true, why would any engineer want to become a patent lawyer?  I have a mere 5 years experience in EE and I'm easily in this range...
Have considered becoming a patent lawyer, with this information, I'm rather discouraged.  By the time I apply, finish law school, pass the bar and patent bar, I would be beyond $150k with my current job!  Not to mention all the debt I'd be in and the difficulty in finding an entry level patent attorney position.  (Job market doesn't seem too hot from the blogs...)

Someone tell me this isn't true...

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Bill on Oct 24th, 2005, 6:10pm
That salary range takes into consideration both corporations and law firms.  Law firms in large markets are starting at around $125K and corporations are around $100K.  That’s for EE.

Why would an engineer want to become a patent lawyer?  Substantial money can be made after working several years in a law firm, particularly if involved with litigation.  Also, I believe the patent law profession is more stable than that of the engineering/science professions.

However, you said something that I would like to comment on.  You said the patent job market doesn’t seem too hot.  I agree with that statement, although it seems to be picking up in the EE area somewhat.  So unless a person is desperate, I don’t know why that person would want to get into the patent field.  Since preparing patent applications and obtaining patents is directly dependent on the technology industry, it too is suffering.  

Maybe with the trend of obtaining patents or using existing patent to generate revenue (i.e. litigate) there is an increased need for patent litigators.  

Good questions…

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by EMastro on Nov 17th, 2005, 1:23am
Hi, I am a 21 year old EE/CPE (comp eng) double major at NC State with about a year left.  I currently have a co-op position (alternating full time work with full time school) at Intel as a Field Applications Engineer.  After I have completed my co-op, I will have worked for 12 months at Intel.  I have been considering  becoming a Patent Attoney for what I believe is all the wrong reasons.  After working directly with engineers and customers (IBM engineers), I have decided that **** engineering seems a bit dry to me.  Being an outgoing person, I figured that the business aspect of engineering (ie what I'm doing now) would suit me well, combining my technical skills with my personal/sales skills).  Wrong again.  The FAEs I work with seem to be stressed out all the time, especially if there is a hipcup in milestone achievement.  The overall notion seems to be that being a Patent Lawyer will provide a greater income (especially entry level) than will an EE or CPE, not to mention job security and outsourcing.

Basically my position is this, if I am going to pursue a career in EE or Patent Law, why not chose the job that pays better?

1.)  So this question is directed to all of you who have experienced an EE/CPE profession as well as a Patent Attorney profession...
Considering that I have a lot of technical experience, but writing is not my favorite thing to do, should I stick with EE/CPE or try Patent Law?  Which do you like better?  Should I go through law school anyway?

2.)  This question is directed to those considering the switch from EE to Patent Law...
What is it about your job that makes you want to switch?  I feel that I am in the same shoes as you at this point (minus the x years of experience) and am trying to figure out what to expect as an EE.

Any advice you can give would be truly appreciated as you all are an extremely valuable resource to me.  

Thanks in advance.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by kchida on Nov 22nd, 2005, 12:15am
I've been quite depressed and confused lately.  A couple years ago, I was a "gung ho" EE ready to debut into the exciting and dynamic engineering working world.  Well...it was not quite what I had expected (to say the least).  Now, I'm not even certain about pursuing my MSEE, even though my tution is 100% covered.  I just turned 25 a couple days ago and I've only been working for 2 years.  I've already seen people come and go (voluntary resignations and lay-offs), as expected in the aerospace industry.  My side projects at home are 10X more technical than what I do at work.  Ironically, pursuing a more technical position equates to future obsolesence and becoming pigeon-holed, neither of which appeal to me.  Engineering management (or management in general), does not appeal to me as well, so my next logical choice was patent law.  So I began to toy with the idea of changing my bearings towards law.  At first, the salaries got me very excited, as I am in SoCal and real estate costs an arm and a leg.  However, as my analytical hamster began to gather pace, I began to ponder just how many hours patent attorneys work.  I quickly realized that it's not about the bottom line or how much bacon I bring home to my loved ones; it's about the ratio of pay vs hours worked.  After doing a rough, algebraic sanity check, I've realized that patent law is somewhat of a lukewarm deal.  How many hours do typical attorneys put in every week? What are your annual vacations like? Do you all work weekends as well? Do the long hours persist well into one's career?   Crap....in retrospect, I should've pursued pharmacy instead.  Does anybody know how to turn back time?

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by NZ on Nov 22nd, 2005, 11:55am
I wish I was half as smart as you are now.

Consider yourself blessed, if I had your brains I would still be an engineer, now I got this massive LS debt and wish I was still an engineer. You turned back time for yourself. I'm gonna probably go back once I pay it all off.

People who enjoy the practice of patent law don't have passions for engineering. They're engineering majors who want to do something else. If you truly are a passionate engineer you won't like patent law.  People with side projects, are usually passionate about engineering.

I lived in So Cal for a long time, LA actually. There are a lot of good small engineering firms around. Small engineering firms tend to have more exciting projects from my experience.  Find them and stay away from big names, you'll enjoy your days alot more.

Or go academic. FYI, real life is never as exciting as it sounds from the outside, in any field.  You  


Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Hasan on Jan 14th, 2006, 2:43am
I'm a senior civil engineering student currently applying to law school. In regards to patent law, it seems like everybody is EE. Will i still be able to do patent law and how much $ can i expect to make, starting? Somebody told me patent lawyers make like 250k after a while. is this true?

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Tim Yearneau on Jan 25th, 2006, 3:21pm
I am a 46 year old person who has worked in IT, import/export, and now I am an instructor and a tech support person at a correctional facility.  I have had a facination with Patent Law for many years, ever since I took a trademark class for my Masters in Business Communications.  I teach an IP survey course for a local business college and love teaching it.  For years I was thinking about law school and never quite did it.  But I need more than being a tech person.  I have an EE degree and have worked as an engineer before, and done web stuff, but really don't like the technical stuff anymore.  I am at a point where I either have to go to law school or put it aside, another friend of mine is wrestling with the same thing.  Any thoughts on my prospects?  Also a patent attorney friend of mine suggests becoming a Patent Agent first to see if I like it enough.  Any thouights on that too?  Thanks.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by okp on Feb 7th, 2006, 3:36pm
:-/
I love the pessimism here.  It is music to my ears.  Has the boom crop of lawyers who went to law school during the optimistic years of the 80's and 90's saturated the market?  
Is this not the perfect time to go get a law degree?  Law schools nation wide are experiencing reduced applications. This is evident seeing how the cost of law school has slowed down below inflation.
I like to pick on mechanical engineers because of their current plight.  Its something like 40,000 of them graduate each year with most of them not have had a single “hands on” shop class.  Seeing how FEA is computerized now the number of people to compute stress and strain is reduced greatly.  The average starting salary of MEs from your average State U is often less than 40k!  
I am going to law school with my manufacturing engineering degree so I can become a process patent attorney.  I appreciate your expression of woe on this site.  It keeps me motivated!

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Conrad on Mar 26th, 2006, 1:28pm
I'm 32 years old and have been thinking about law school since 1997.  In '97, I had a chance to either attend law school or B-school.  One of my friends, an attorney, recommended that I go to B-school.  As an EE + MBA with ~ 10 years of industry experience, I make between $130,000 and $150,000 per year, depending on the size of the bonus.  For some reason, though, I still have a burning desire to learn more about the law as it applies to business and technology.  I've been considering going to law school either part-time or full-time.  Since I travel ~ 20% for my job, part-time study will be difficult or impossible to manage.  Does anyone have any knowledge about the salaries/career opportunities for patent agents?  If I were to take the patent bar and pass, what is the likelihood that a local law firm (or other company) might hire me and offer tuition reimbursement for law school?  Please advise.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Drew83 on Mar 30th, 2006, 6:00pm
I am hardly one to comment about this, however, from what I've read on this forum, being a patent agent would definitely drop your salary (search the forum, I think there is topic on this).  I've come across law firms that will pay for law school tuition.  You can do this by either being a patent agent, or possibly a tech specialist.  I think your pay would be based on your IP law experience.  

From my reseach and speaking with attorney's, I've heard that 1st year associate attorneys generally make about 90's.  This is depending on location, of course.  If you were in San Fransicso it would probably be ~120K.  I highly doubt it would surpass your current salary.  

I find your situation (back in '97) very interesting.   I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree last year and I've been going back and forth on getting an MBA or JD (I posted a topic on this forum seeking advice for this ).  My brother (currently in law school), says get the MBA, as does another attorney I spoke with.  If I go the MBA route, in 10 years I would probably be in your shoes ( I am 22 ).  

If you dont mind me asking, what kind of work do you do?  If I get the MBA, I definitely would leave engineering.  Do you have any regrets?  Advice?  Comments on getting an MBA?

You have a pretty good salary.  Just out of curiosity, do you see your salary rising much further in, say, 10 more years, or does it plateau??

Thanks!

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by andrewdd on Apr 24th, 2006, 7:33am
With regard to salary, a very simple economic analysis is involved with private patent prosecution practice.  The basic measure of how you are paid is by hours worked, and it is difficult to actually bill and collect much more than 1800 hours per year and still have a nice life.  

Figure a billing rate of $200 to start (which is probably generous for all but the biggest, most competitive markets or at the large firms), and that works out to $360,000 billed (assuming 100% collections, which is not reality).  Most small to mid-sized firms have a minimum overhead of 40%, and most are closer to 50%.  Thus, at those figures, there is an upper limit of probably about $150-$180k you can make.

However, you engineers can easily see that increases in either rate or hours increases the numbers.  Over the long haul, it is difficult to pack considerably more work hours in, so the obvious critical variable is the rate.  An EE with 5-7 years of experience can bill at $250-$350 in most markets.  Using my 1800 hour figure and the 50% overhead, that works out to a salary of between $250,000 and $315,000.  No engineer who works for any of my clients makes anywhere near that figure.  

And you can also see that, over time, the billing rate will further increase.  I started at a patent attorney 10 years ago billing $100/hr and now am at 2.5 times that (and work in a very small market).  That's a 15% per year average increase, which translates to a 7.5% per year salary increase.  I know of no engineering job where you can get that kind of annual bump with the same regularity.  

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Isaac on Apr 24th, 2006, 7:49am

on 04/24/06 at 07:33:18, andrewdd wrote:
However, you engineers can easily see that increases in either rate or hours increases the numbers.  Over the long haul, it is difficult to pack considerably more work hours in, so the obvious critical variable is the rate.  An EE with 5-7 years of experience can bill at $250-$350 in most markets.  Using my 1800 hour figure and the 50% overhead, that works out to a salary of between $250,000 and $315,000.  No engineer who works for any of my clients makes anywhere near that figure.  


Are you aware of attorneys doing prosecution making that kind of money billing only 1800 hours?   Partners may make that kind of money doing more than prosecution and also sharing some of the "overhead".


Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by byte on Apr 24th, 2006, 3:43pm

on 04/24/06 at 07:33:18, andrewdd wrote:
An EE with 5-7 years of experience can bill at $250-$350 in most markets.


As an engineer, I have serious doubts about the accuracy of this billing rate range for only 5-7 years of experience.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by KMN on May 11th, 2006, 10:14am

on 04/24/06 at 15:43:46, byte wrote:
As an engineer, I have serious doubts about the accuracy of this billing rate range for only 5-7 years of experience.


So do I! I would like to know what market these people are working in that they manage $130k + w/ an engineering degree alone. I have a BSME and an MBA and I only earn about $75k. I've not seen nor heard of any opportunities with higher compensation. (I'm in a large city in the Midwest).

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Isaac on May 11th, 2006, 11:43am
I earned significantly more than 75k as an BSEE in a medium sized market in the southeast.   I would like to think my boss's check at least approached 130k, but I never asked him what he made.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by PatGuy on May 11th, 2006, 12:32pm
Its just that American corporations love to pay for lawyers.  I do know lawyers who bill $700/hour.  At least in US, an ideat lawyer can make much more money than a smart engineer or scientist.  

Lawyers ask money and corporations pay!! Lawyers pass their risk to corporations.  Corporations pass the risk to shareholders.  Ultimate losers are shareholders!!
Who are these shareholders? Middle-class americans (including engineers) who work hard and pay for their 401K. Can you understand how this cycle works?

If you are an engineer, there is some level of job security! Getting a job is much easier than other professions.  There is no big downside.  However, in legal world, getting a job is hard and keeping that job is harder.  

As a patent attorney, you can keep your engineering background for downside (insurance!) and law backgound for upside (greed!).  After all, we all want to make money and live happy!  

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Guest on May 11th, 2006, 1:26pm

on 05/11/06 at 11:43:25, Isaac wrote:
I earned significantly more than 75k as an BSEE in a medium sized market in the southeast.   I would like to think my boss's check at least approached 130k, but I never asked him what he made.


75k is certainly reasonable, but my issue with engineering is the cap on salaries past ~$120k (neglecting management).  Also, in relation to andrewdd's estimated billing rate of $250-$300/hr, from my own knowledge, good senior engineers don't usually bill more than $100/hr or so.  I think the salary cap is caused at least in part by more junior engineers being able to do the work at a cost and speed which does not justify paying senior engineers more than a certain amount for an equivalent product.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by guest on May 21st, 2006, 7:17pm
"However, in legal world, getting a job is hard and keeping that job is harder."

Nope.  It's not.  It's pretty easy to find a job and, as long as the attorney has some grasp of how to behave in an office, it's easy to keep the job.  That is assuming the attorney graduated from one of the top 50 or 100 law schools or so and lives in or near a big city.   If you've got the science background and have passed the patent bar, it's even easier.

I constantly hear the above quote.  I can't for the life of me figure out why.  Maybe unemployed attorneys complain a lot?  Maybe people going into the legal profession are pessimists?

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Guest on Jun 12th, 2006, 9:13pm
I must say, I'm rather taken aback by the comments on this forum. I'm a 23 year old electrical engineer, who graduated in December 2005 and now works for a mid-size engineering firm in the midwest, making somewhere around, say $65K. A law school, one ranked in the top 50-100 schools offered me a scholarship (first year free) to go to school from this fall. Hence, I have decided to quit my job (which would pay for a Masters and MBA but not law) and go to law school, primarily on the premise that patent lawyers make much more money than electrical engineers. Now I'm hearing that even this $120k figure is doubtful. I still haven't told people at my work yet, but I have to decide within the next 2-3 weeks. I hear a lot of people saying that they wished they could turn back time. Well, I am at that time now. Could the people that either are, or went through similar situations guide me as to what they think is the best way to go. They could e-mail me too at kansean_2001@Hotmail.com. Any insight would be appreciated. Again, I'm an EE who has the opportunity to go to law school (I'll probably go for patent law so as to not waste my engineering), and want to know if the patent lawyers here think its worth it.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by A Patent Lawyer on Jun 13th, 2006, 3:22am
"A law school, one ranked in the top 50-100 schools offered me a scholarship (first year free) to go to school from this fall. Hence, I have decided to quit my job (which would pay for a Masters and MBA but not law) and go to law school, primarily on the premise that patent lawyers make much more money than electrical engineers."

How much you make will depend on how high your law school is ranked, how well you do in law school, and where you end up practicing.

If you end up in St. Louis or Kansas City, it looks like starting salaries are around $95K to $105K with very small raises each year.  You can check out St. Louis and Kansas City salary charts here:

http://www.infirmation.com/shared/insider/payscale.tcl?state=MO

If you end up in Chicago, you can make up to $135K, but that will require you to put in at least 2000 billable hours per year.  2000 billable hours is 40 billable hours per week for 50 weeks.  To get 40 billable hours per week, figure on at least 50 hours worked and it will probably be more like 55 hours worked.  Chicago salary charts can be found here:

http://www.infirmation.com/shared/insider/payscale.tcl?state=IL

The competition for the $135K/year jobs is intense.  At a 50-100 school, you will need to finish in at least the top 25% and may need to be in the top 10% to get one of those jobs.  To finish that high in law school, you will need to put in a lot of hours studying because law school is as much about memorization as it is about raw intelligence.

If possible, try to get in touch with some third-year law students with BSEEs at the school you plan to attend.  Ask them how their job search is going.  This will give you a good idea of how your job search is likely to go.

Another thing to keep in mind is that very few people end up making partner.  Even if you get a $135K/yr job, after four years or so, you may get tired of the hours or may be asked to leave.  At that time, you would probably be making $180K-$200K, but probably your only option would be to go in house.  Most of these jobs will pay between $130K and $150K, so you will have to take a pay cut.

It is very likely that you will make more as a patent attorney than you would have as an electrical engineer.  However, when you figure in the lost salary during law school and the extra hours patent attorneys have to put in, you would probably be better off sticking with your engineering job and using those extra hours to work on developing your own business or doing consulting work.

Good luck with your decision.  One thing you could do is to take the free first year of law school and see if you can get a summer job at a patent law firm.  If you aren't able to get a job and/or you do poorly in law school, then you can go back to engineering without having lost much in terms of time or money.  Try not to burn any bridges if you quit your job because you may want to go back and your current employer could end up as a client someday.    

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by RMissimer on Jun 13th, 2006, 6:36am
I agree completely.

If I had a dollar for every engineering Law Student I know that has complained about the "better salary in Law" and said they "wish they knew before they started."; I could pay for law school.

But as of late,  I have heard more complaints about not being able to go back to EE after working in patents.  I also do contract work,  and I find that including my Law degree on the resume kills interviews.  So, I have an Engineering resume,  and an Engineering Resume (w/ JD).  So, I have personal experience to that side of the complaint.

As for high paying jobs, there were maybe 3-4 openings for our spring class.  Everybody else had to fend for themselves.  When that occurs the prices fall quickly.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Isaac on Jun 13th, 2006, 6:57am

on 06/13/06 at 06:36:40, RMissimer wrote:
As for high paying jobs, there were maybe 3-4 openings for our spring class.  Everybody else had to fend for themselves.  When that occurs the prices fall quickly.


When you refer to 3-4 openings for your class, are you counting offers made via on campus interviews?



Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Drew83 on Jun 13th, 2006, 7:43pm
I'm sure that several people go to law school just to make the "big bucks."  I've been warned "Do not go to law school for money" and I agree.  

Considering the 3 years lost salary, and the debt of law school (all contributing to lost opportunity costs), I would think that getting an MBA is the way to go if you want to make the "big bucks."  One alternative is to work for 2-3 years and save up for law school.  That way you rule out the law school debt.

I'm in a similar situation, however, with an ME degree.  After working in engineering for about a year, I've realized that it's not so fun.  I'm looking at my other options -- MBA or JD.  The key thing is that I am looking at what career I would enjoy, rather than what pays more.  Of course salary is a factor, however, I dont think it should be the ONLY factor, at least not for me.

I find Patent law interesting and it may be something I would enjoy.  However, I need to decide if my interest is great enough to lose 3 years of salary, law school debt, with the result being a job with long hours (not to forget, the horror of 1L).

I'm sure if you take the hourly rate from the salary of an engineer w/MBA and multiply that hourly rate by the actual hours worked by a patent attorney, it will probably be the same or more than the yearly salary of an attorney (not partner of course).

"A Patent Lawyer" brings up a very good point about using those extra hours worked opening up a business or doing consulting work.    Does anyone have any comments about this?  On average, do patent attorneys have time to do side work -- i.e. opening up a business, consulting, investing, etc...

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by JAYC on Jun 14th, 2006, 1:07pm
I also have tackled the issue of an MBA vs. JD.  I am an EE as well, starting law school this fall, and have worked 2 years as an EE.  I work at a large defense company right now, and quite honestly the work that managers do here is downright boring.  Salary wise they will top out at about 130k, but they are busy setting up schedules and working on timecards instead of using their minds.  

The reasons why I chose a JD instead of an MBA is not because of the money aspect, but because the education and analytical skills developed while in law school is unlike anything you can get with an MBA and is more useful in my opinion.  It will be possible to apply those skills to law AND business.  While having an MBA you will only be useful in business.  Lawyers run the world, not MBAs.  Lawyers understand how the world works more so than MBAs.  That skill and knowledge is worth the law school tuition.  What you do with those lawyer skills after school is up to you, but you can still start your own business or you can work full time as a lawyer.

Big bucks can be earned with an MBA or a JD, it just depends on how you will use your skills to make those big bucks.  Work as a lawyer, start your own business, or i'm sure many many other ways that I don't see right now.

I have a few MBAs in my family who are earning "big bucks", but trust me, they are working near 60 hours a week right now.  

I agree that engineering is pretty boring, unless you have a Phd and are doing cutting edge research.  

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by alexcd on Jun 19th, 2006, 9:17am
I am a 24yr old BSEE grad making a measly $60k around the Boston area.  $130k in just a few yaers sounds pretty good from my standpoint.  I am pretty smart and may be able to get into a good school, maybe Harvard.  I'm not an incredibly fast writer since the majority of my papers have been lab write-ups.  A $30k raise (up to 90k) sounds pretty good.  I would make my money back in 5 years max.

Here are my questions

1) What is a typical day for a patent lawer?

2) What responsibilities are there for a beginner with a law degree?

3)  Would it be better to become a patent agent and take night classes to become a lawyer or take the necessary years off to complete the JD at once?

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by JustSurfing on Jun 25th, 2006, 11:01pm
I am EE with a MSEE and have 10 years experience.  I have tried doing the consulting or business on the side route and believe me it's not worth it.  You have to sacrifice an ungodly amount in terms of capital investment and time.  It also requires some market savvy and who likes cold calling?  Looking back, I wish I would have invested the time and money into law school instead.  I find law interesting because it takes all the technical knowledge that I have accumulated to a new level.   I am that same fork in the road as a lot you other guys, and am seriously considering law at this point.  

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by john di on Jul 3rd, 2006, 12:37pm

on 06/25/06 at 23:01:15, JustSurfing wrote:
I am EE with a MSEE and have 10 years experience.  I have tried doing the consulting or business on the side route and believe me it's not worth it.  You have to sacrifice an ungodly amount in terms of capital investment and time.  It also requires some market savvy and who likes cold calling?  Looking back, I wish I would have invested the time and money into law school instead.  I find law interesting because it takes all the technical knowledge that I have accumulated to a new level.   I am that same fork in the road as a lot you other guys, and am seriously considering law at this point.  


The thing about consulting is, you have to have decades of experience.  We use Experts in our cases which range from $400-$700 an hour.  It's possibly one of the best gigs if you can get it.  No overhead, so you keep all the money.

As for myself, I'm very happy that I went to law school instead of practicing as a EE.  I believe i wouldn't have liked EE at all.  I work a firm specializing in litigation and I've been out of law school for 2 years.  This year, with bonuses I stand to make about $170-180k.

However, if you go to law school, it's ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL that you go to a top tier law school.  I went to a top 15 school but wish I went to a top 5.
It also makes this conversation easier when people ask you "what law school you went to"
you responding "so and so law school" and them replying with.
"oh that's a good school" or
"oh, why did you decide to go there"
and always having to justify that your school was good in some area.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by CollegeKid on Jul 7th, 2006, 8:09pm
Hey I was wondering if a mechanical engineer can become a patent lawyer or only EE (i see mostly EEs here)

also, does anyone have any info on a typical day for an engineering manager (MBA) vs. patent prosecutor (JD)

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by dubious Ru on Jul 7th, 2006, 10:24pm

on 07/03/06 at 12:37:46, john di wrote:
The thing about consulting is, you have to have decades of experience.  We use Experts in our cases which range from $400-$700 an hour.  It's possibly one of the best gigs if you can get it.  No overhead, so you keep all the money.

As for myself, I'm very happy that I went to law school instead of practicing as a EE.  I believe i wouldn't have liked EE at all.  I work a firm specializing in litigation and I've been out of law school for 2 years.  This year, with bonuses I stand to make about $170-180k.

However, if you go to law school, it's ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL that you go to a top tier law school.  I went to a top 15 school but wish I went to a top 5.
It also makes this conversation easier when people ask you "what law school you went to"
you responding "so and so law school" and them replying with.
"oh that's a good school" or
"oh, why did you decide to go there"
and always having to justify that your school was good in some area.



Amazing how you have time to post.   I am sure you are also working 40hours a week right?

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Isaac on Jul 8th, 2006, 5:46pm

on 07/03/06 at 12:37:46, john di wrote:
However, if you go to law school, it's ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL that you go to a top tier law school.  I went to a top 15 school but wish I went to a top 5.
It also makes this conversation easier when people ask you "what law school you went to"
you responding "so and so law school" and them replying with.
"oh that's a good school" or
"oh, why did you decide to go there"
and always having to justify that your school was good in some area.


My experience is that while going to a top law school is highly recommended, it's not so unusual to find attorneys doing prosecution from schools well out of the top 14 even at large firms.  I cannot imagine the attorneys I work with asking someone who graduated from Georgetown or UCLA to explain their choice of law schools.  Quite frankly, I'd find that type of inquiry a bit humorous.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by carlos cooper on Jul 12th, 2006, 7:35pm
Does anyone know if the pay is different depending on one's technical background? Could a person with a PhD in life sciences or even an M.D. expect to make more (or less or similar amount) than the numbers that posters have been quoting for those with an EE background?
Thanks

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by RealPatentLawyer on Aug 23rd, 2006, 9:42am
Been an BSEE/MSEE for 15 years then patent attorney for 10 years. Definitely felt more like a comodity/drone as an EE. Now folks call me "sir". Maybe the fact that I am the only patent /IP attorney in my organization helps - but there is certainly a feeling of distinction that this still rare legal expertise brings with it.

Unless you are a lab rat EE, your marketable EE skills will wither and die in time. If you are pursuaded to take the management track at your company as the only hope of upward mobility - kiss any hope of returning to being a practicing EE ever again, goodbye!  

My opinion of the predicament engineers in general now find themselves in is that they never held out as "professionals". They conformed to the same "employee" status as the guy working in the mill. Your employer calls all the shots - you get a paycheck if you can accept those terms. The notion of a private practice EE is pretty non-existent. Not so for lawyers as they can work in-house or in private practice. Do you see where I am going with this yet??  More options in law than in engineering. That's very impoortant when confronted with both outsourcing of engineering jobs and the hot/cold nature of technology.  Guess what else? When you get your license to practice law, you can practice any area of law in which you gain competency. Now how's that for job security???

Good luck to all in these uncertain times.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by paul1234 on Aug 25th, 2006, 7:49am
i got into howard law school in washington DC and i have exeptance in USPTO office.
is Howard law school a terriable school  i have a law gpa but a good lsat i have a 2.7 ugpa and 168LSAT.
can you recomend me any thing.
I also have a GMAT of 700 so i am at a cross roads. What would you recomend stay with my company that would pay me for the MBA and become a manager in indiana or move to Alexandira to USPTO go to law school and become a patent lawyer.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Pagent on Sep 2nd, 2006, 1:52pm
I would take the patent bar and start working as a patent agent while in law school. then when graduated from Law School already have 3 years of experience which would be an excellent start as patent lawyer. ::)

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by IE Major on Jan 22nd, 2007, 10:18pm
Hi,

I have a BSE with Industrial Engineering specialty.  I have some technical work experience, but most of it has been technical sales.  Does anybody know whether an Industrial Engineering background would befit a career in patent law?  Also, how heavily does your undergraduate GPA factor in law school acceptance?

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Matthew on Feb 23rd, 2007, 8:49am

on 07/07/06 at 20:09:37, CollegeKid wrote:
Hey I was wondering if a mechanical engineer can become a patent lawyer or only EE (i see mostly EEs here)

also, does anyone have any info on a typical day for an engineering manager (MBA) vs. patent prosecutor (JD)


Yes it is possible, but the market is very small.

Generally, there are two ways to firm-based patent law or in-house patent law. You either have to have an EE degree or you have to have a Ph.D. in chemistry or biochemistry. This is because nearly all of the patent work done in the U.S.A. is on electrical devices or drugs/pharmaceuticals.

I have heard the breakdown is like this:
50% EE
48% Ph.D. chem/biochem
2% ME and other engineering/science

In my opinion, ME is a bad degree. Go back and get a master's in EE.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Matthew on Feb 23rd, 2007, 9:13am

on 01/22/07 at 22:18:04, IE Major wrote:
Hi,

I have a BSE with Industrial Engineering specialty.  I have some technical work experience, but most of it has been technical sales.  Does anybody know whether an Industrial Engineering background would befit a career in patent law?  Also, how heavily does your undergraduate GPA factor in law school acceptance?


EE is the best degree for patent law. GPA is a major factor in law school acceptance. ANYBODY can go to law school. Not anybody can go to a GOOD law school. There are two factors in law school acceptance: LSAT score and GPA. LSAT score is about twice as important as GPA. To a very small extent, letters of recommendation and personal statements can make a difference, but it is nearly all LSAT and GPA. Also, if you are a minority (specifically african-american), you can get in with significantly lower scores and grades.

The law school breakdown goes like this (it's all by rankings from USNEWS):

Top 5 schools: These are the best schools and job opportunities will be almost identical for any of them. The schools place in the highest paying big law firms and in academia. To get in, you need a GPA around 3.9 and an LSAT score greater than 170. Yale and Harvard are the most highly respected.

Schools 6-14: These schools place most graudates in big firms, but not as well the top 5. Academia is tougher to get into from these, but still possible. These are national schools are you can be hired by a big firm in any part of the country. LSAT scores of 165 and GPA of 3.7 are the absolute minimum for these schools.

Schools 15-20: Regional schools. These schools place in big firms regionally. More difficult to get a job out of region. Min LSAT/GPA: 165/3.7

Schools 20-50: These round out the 'first tier' schools. The lower the ranking, the easier to get in. Job opportunities largely depend on class rank on graduation. Big firms are still possible if you are top 10% of graduating class. LSAT/GPA of 162/3.4 or so should get you into to at least 1.

Schools 50-100: 'Second tier' schools. Generally regarded as good schools with well-established track records. These schools place graduates well locally. It is very difficult to break into big-law in a big city market. LSATs can drop into the 150s and a GPA above 3.0 should get you accepted somewhere. Do not expect to make much money starting out from one of these schools.

Third Tier Schools: These schools are unranked and grouped together. They essentially are all the same. If you are considering one of these, take the one that will be the cheapest for you to go to. Generally, most people will advise you not to go to law school if these are the best schools you can get into. LSATs above 150 are generally required. GPA can be in the <3.0 range.

Fourth Tier Schools: Also unranked. These are the worst law schools in the country. Generally they are small, recent, independent start-ups and are profit-driven. Competition in the schools is fierce as many students will fail out. It is very difficult to get a job on graduation, and because of the subpar education, many graduates are unable to pass the bar. A successful career in law (namily personal injury law) is still possible from one of these schools, but connections and personal wealth are generally needed. GPA and LSAT score don't really matter, you just need to have one of both.

Unaccredited law schools: These law schools are yet to be accredited by the ABA. You cannot sit for the bar until the school becomes accredited. Most of these schools are scams. A small few are legitimate as a respected university is beginning to open a brand new law school.


The general advice is that law school is only worth taking out loans for if you get into a tier 1 school (top 50) and really want to be a lawyer. If you want to be a big firm lawyer, go to the highest ranked tier 1 you get into. A full ride to a tier-2 may be worth considering. Don't bother with tier 3 and lower.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Isaac on Feb 24th, 2007, 9:04pm

on 02/23/07 at 09:13:41, Matthew wrote:
The general advice is that law school is only worth taking out loans for if you get into a tier 1 school (top 50) and really want to be a lawyer. If you want to be a big firm lawyer, go to the highest ranked tier 1 you get into. A full ride to a tier-2 may be worth considering. Don't bother with tier 3 and lower.


I've heard this advice before, and while I think there is some value to it, the advice really overstates things.   In particular, I think the trashing of lower ranked schools is unwarranted and off base.   Some tier 3-4 schools are older, well established law schools that offer first rate educations and whose primary failing is not being very exclusive in who they admit.  Others tier 3 and 4 schools of course are just plain lousy.

I'd certainly recommend going to a top 14 or top 20 school if possible, and I wouldn't recommend taking on 150K in debt to go to a bad school, but the idea that tier 4 grads will be stuck doing personal injury law sounds like scuttlebutt best left on JDJive.


Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by plex on Feb 25th, 2007, 12:10am
Double post from another thread, weird  :o

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by Matthew on Feb 27th, 2007, 9:14am

on 02/24/07 at 21:04:35, Isaac wrote:
I've heard this advice before, and while I think there is some value to it, the advice really overstates things.   In particular, I think the trashing of lower ranked schools is unwarranted and off base.   Some tier 3-4 schools are older, well established law schools that offer first rate educations and whose primary failing is not being very exclusive in who they admit.  Others tier 3 and 4 schools of course are just plain lousy.

I'd certainly recommend going to a top 14 or top 20 school if possible, and I wouldn't recommend taking on 150K in debt to go to a bad school, but the idea that tier 4 grads will be stuck doing personal injury law sounds like scuttlebutt best left on JDJive.


As someone who has spent the past 18 months researching law schools and legal education, I can say emphatically and without a doubt that going to a tier-4 schools is a horrible idea for 99% of most law school applicants. The only people that could possibly benefit from these schools are those that are doing the degree as part of career enhancement, have considerable work experience already, and are getting the degree paid for in some way. The only others who could benefit are those who have significant family connections and will have a great job lined up no matter where they go, just as long as they pass the bar.

With that said, you are right, there are a small handful of tier 3/4 schools that are well respected locally and provide a solid education (evidenced by high bar pass rates). I won't name these.

Do not go in debt for anything below tier2 is the correct advice. Spend that money on LSAT prep instead.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by plex on Feb 27th, 2007, 4:01pm
/shrug, I have gotten interviews for almost all of the firms I applied to in my area, and I am not even a 1L yet, but they knew I would not be going into anything better than a 3tier or 4tier, at least until I get into law school and show what the heck was keeping up my GPA when I was barely passing some of my engineering courses.

I will make a caveat that I do have a EE degree, with a decent GPA  from a very good school and 3 years of experience I picked up while in school. Obviously, I didn't do well on the LSAT, despite taking classes for it, I don't see my prospects shrinking much. I have no connections either, though I am fairly good at making connections, since my undergrad school will kick you out if you do not get a certain amount of work experience before graduating, you have to learn to network there, if not with businesses, at least with the schools career services.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by ND_EE on Mar 6th, 2007, 5:49pm
Hi all.

I never really considered Patent Law until the beginning of this year. I am currently an EE major at the U. of Notre Dame. My current GPA is a 3.2...  What would it take (LSATs, etc) for me to get into a 2nd Tier Law School with my GPA? Do Law schools take the school you attended in undergrad into consideration?

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by plex on Mar 6th, 2007, 6:54pm
Law schools don't give any weight, at all, to what degree you took, no matter how difficult it was, or how insanely easy. However, you can take comfort in knowing IP firms DO care, a lot, they strongly appreciate how certain degrees are more difficult to attain than others, and are really only looking for people with degrees related to the types of patents that are commonly examined at present, which is mostly electrical, some Bio/chem and a little mechanical. IP firms use different metrics from general law firms, relying on "general law student statistics" will throw you off, since only 2-3% of law students can even go into IP law.

To find out what LSAT you will need with your GPA, check out LSAC's website, and find the accredited school GPA/LSAT calculator. You will be able to plug in your GPA and then various LSAT's to see what you need for the school you want to get into. If it is below 25%, it is very unlikely for that school, and above 60%+ is very likely.

Perhaps, someday, some of the more difficult engineering degrees and pre-med GPAs will be given some weight, but for now, what you see from that calculator is pretty accurate.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by SomethingOriginal on Mar 23rd, 2007, 1:48pm
I disagree with plex's statement about how law schools don't give ANY weight to your undergraduate major.  To the extent that law schools crave diversity, they seek to admit engineers and scientists (vs. the history/english/philosophy/econ majors they always get).  In doing so, they are certain to recognize that a 3.8 in EE is far more of an accomplishment than a 3.8 in English.  

I had just under a 3.5 GPA but still got accepted (and matriculated) to a top 5 school.  (I did, however, show improved grades over the last couple of years in undergrad--which, I'm told, helps you out.)  Despite a great LSAT score, I can't see how my school accepted me without giving special preference to my EE degree.

I definitely recommend going to the best school you can.  It makes getting a job + paying off loans far easier.  (One the other hand, if you have no intention of going into academics or working at a big firm making big bucks, it probably doesn't matter....)

In addition to the LSAC GPA/LSAT calculator, check out lawschoolnumbers*DOT*com


Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by plex on Mar 23rd, 2007, 4:20pm
I did get into a school I wasn't expecting too, it was the best school I applied to, much higher requirements than the other schools, that denied me. So, in that one schools case, I am willing to retract my statement. The other six schools were a great example of schools that don't look beyond computing your GPA/LSAT into a number and then deciding yes/no from it, I was not amused by the way the whole process worked out.

I can't even describe to you the gulf in difference in rankings between the two schools I got accepted too, its just embarrassing, both for me and the system  :-/.

Checked out the rankings on that website, somewhat close, but I would check out lsac's abet accredited gpa/lsat calculator as well. The numbers are pretty off in the other site if they don't have a lot of entries (look at Cooley for example, you should be able to tell from that its pretty inaccurate sometimes with only 50 entries, way too high)

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by JAYC on Mar 23rd, 2007, 10:33pm

on 03/06/07 at 17:49:02, ND_EE wrote:
Hi all.

I never really considered Patent Law until the beginning of this year. I am currently an EE major at the U. of Notre Dame. My current GPA is a 3.2...  What would it take (LSATs, etc) for me to get into a 2nd Tier Law School with my GPA? Do Law schools take the school you attended in undergrad into consideration?


Hey ND_EE

I am an EE as well, currently in my first year of law school at a tier 2.  To get into a tier 2 school, you probably need at least a 160 and up (with your GPA, which is good for engineering i might add).  From my experience in applying, I do not think schools in general consider your undergraduate major/institution when making their decision (unless you went to Harvard). I went to a top 5 engineering undergrad, but was suprisingly rejected from most "upper tier 2, lower tier 1" kinds of schools.  I was lucky I think to get into my law school, a higher tier 2.  I think they accepted me because the school has a strong IP focus to begin with.  So, I guess the lesson is kick ass on the LSAT, there is a big difference between a 160 and a 161.  Every point you can add to that stupid test will open up more schools to you.  If you want to get into notre dame, you probably need a 165 or higher.  Keep in mind that on the LSAT, the difference between a 160 and a 165 is getting like 7-8 more questions right out of 101.  


Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by plex on Mar 24th, 2007, 6:22am
Yes, from what I can see, the one way you are going to get extra points at a school beyond GPA/LSAT and you are an EE, it is going to be a school really pushing their IP program, if you see that IP is their highest ranked program, that would probably be a good indication. I would imagine other degrees would have much less of a chance at getting consideration, the schools tend to give some points if they really want to improve their IP program to students they know will be marketable coming out of school in IP.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by JB on Jul 10th, 2007, 8:35am
Like many of you I am also considering going to law school.  I am an African American female, BSEE, MS Eng Mgt, with 23 years of experience in aerospace engineering.  I did quite well as an EE, although like many have mentioned to excel I chose the Eng Mgt track.  I currently manage a several $M technology development program and plan to retire in 7 years.  So, I’m at the crossroads of what to do when I retire and my salary changes to a more modest pension.  I've decided that I don't want to stay in the government because I really can't think of anything else that I want to do; I will also top out in salary soon.  So, I'm ready for something new and have been seriously considering utilizing my experience as a patent lawyer.   I don't mind a small local firm and don't really care about making partner.  I’m just looking for interesting work that utilizes my skill mix and pays well.  Do you think patent law is a good choice for me?  Is it worth my time (night school) and money?  I welcome you thoughts.

Title: Re: Career Change from EE to Patent Lawyer?
Post by plex on Jul 10th, 2007, 9:19am
Unless a firm would start you off at a higher rate, based on your experience, it would likely take you at the very least most or all of those seven years to recover your costs as compared to your likely fairly high income. If you plan on working longer, then it would be a more viable option.

What you may want to consider doing is being a technical adviser at a firm, which would be very possible with your experience, you would have to check and see if the pay is comparable to what you are making now.



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