Could anyone be kind enough to give me a snapshot of what it is like being a patent attorney on an average day? I'm particularly interested in what the work-life (or is it just work and more work?) balance is like for an IP attorney. If anyone had 2-3 years of experience in the PTO and now works in an IP firm, would you kindly help me compare your life style now with what you had before, in terms of free time and stress level?
Here's my situation: MS in ECE, some experience in the industry, close to 3 years in the PTO, making about 82k base salary at GS12 with 5 counts of production per 80 hours. I can get my work done in about 50-60, and if I'm not lazy I'll throw in some OT, and occasionally max out OT at 50 hrs/bi-week, but only end up spending around 80-90 hours every two weeks doing actual work. Yes I know a lot of examiners will not testify that they have similar schedules, especially those in TC2800 and those in mechanical areas, but that's how things been working out for me. So I've got a pretty relaxed life style by my standard (my wife and I enjoy outdoor activities 2-3 times a week and I barely ever get up before 9am
). I'm also working full time at home now since I'm a registered but inactivated patent agent.
The problem is I'm starting law school in 9 days and rumor has it the PTO will be cutting the reimbursement program soon, maybe starting Fall 2009. So my options are:
A) Forget law school, keep the status quo (not very likely even without anyone's advice, since it's my top choice school).
B) Pay tuition out of my pocket or get a loan when the program is cut, then decide what to do after graduation.
C) Get out of the PTO by Summer 2009, pay back the PTO 28K in tuition (my school charges $1410 per credit), hopefully landing an agent job or some kind of a student associate position with a firm that pays my tuition by the end of Spring 09.
What would be the best pick and how much would I regret working at a firm while attending school as compared to working at home for the PTO while going to school? I said regret because I'm already assuming I won't be just putting in a measly 50-60 hrs/BI-week at work, most likely it'll be 50-60/week (at least) from what I read on this forum. Of course, once I'm out of school I'll certainly opt for the IP attorney route, especially if it involves handling clienteles from across the Pacific since I'm familiar with Eastern Asian cultures and I'm fluent in Mandarin. The money is a plus too, but both my wife and I are low-maintenance and we are the type who know when to it's quitin' time and when it's playin' time. Some posts on a Chinese language IP law forum based in the US describe attorney's salaries as blood and sweat money and claim most IP attorneys are under-compensated for the amount of work they do. If the majority of the people here attest to that sweatshop analogy, then I've got some serious reconsideration to do.
One last some what related question, how many new applications does an average patent attorney handle every year? If we go by the PTO's number of more than 500k new application per year and only about 40000 registered agents/attorney actively working, that translates to about 12-13 new applications per registration number or one per month, does that sound about right to most members here?