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Author Topic: A day in the life of a patent attorney?  (Read 12729 times)

gux99

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A day in the life of a patent attorney?
« on: 08-09-08 at 02:07 pm »

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  ;D).  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?

Thanks!
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Wiscagent

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Re: A day in the life of a patent attorney?
« Reply #1 on: 08-10-08 at 06:52 am »

"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"

That arithmetic doesn't provide much insight, for one thing it's off by a factor of 10.  But more significantly, of the 40000 registered patent practitioners many of them draft few, if any, patent applications.  And may non-practitioners draft applications that are filed over a practitioner's signature.  Also most pro se applicants are not practitioners.

My estimate for a patent practitioner that focuses on "prep. and pros." is about one new application per week + responding to office actions.  One variable is how much support is available; a guy who runs a solo shop has to spend time on important tasks like adding ink to the fax machine, hopefully at a large firm someone at a lower pay scale takes care of that.  Also many practitioners, especially attorneys, spend a large fraction of their time doing tasks other than preparation and prosecution of patent applications.
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Richard Tanzer
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plex

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Re: A day in the life of a patent attorney?
« Reply #2 on: 08-10-08 at 09:40 am »

There are essentially a huge number of applications that are drafted by those who are not patent agents/attorneys. These are people who have a good technical background, but haven't taken either bars yet. They are usually coached by a patent attorney/agent though, at least during the beginning. The agent/attorney then reviews the work and if it is good enough, signs it and has staff submit it. The signing agent/attorney is responsible for whatever is produced though, so they will generally be pretty careful to make sure the application is good enough.
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gux99

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Re: A day in the life of a patent attorney?
« Reply #3 on: 08-10-08 at 11:04 am »

Yes I know that number doesn't look right, that's why I asked so I can get more insight on what goes on in a patent attorney's office on a daily basis and what the work load is like.  I've dealt with one attorney who filed at least 30 patents with the same filing date based on the same 150+ page spec and some 20-30 continuation/divisions 1 or 2 years later, so from that alone I know an attorney does not only handle 12-13 new applications a year.  But if the average is about 1 new app per week for a practitioner focusing on "prep. and pros.", then my arithmetic is only off by a factor of 4, not 10  ;)
So what tasks other than preparation and prosecution of patent applications take up a large portion of the attorney's time?  Are they related or unrelated to patent applications?  One new app per week (according to Wiscagent) doesn't sound too bad, especially if the application is drafted by someone else (but who drafts the claims, those who passed the bar or those who have not?).  Does the same scenario apply to an entry level practitioner in a firm, or is he also sent down to do the drafting work while being coached by a more senior member of the firm?

About my concern for the PTO cutting tuition funding, I've come up with another solution: continue working at the PTO for about 4-6 months after the funding is cut after my first two semesters to fulfill my obligation to the PTO so I don't need to cough up 28k in cash if and when I quit (the deal is PTO gets 1 month of work for every 3 credit hours paid for by them), get a loan for the semester during which I'm still working at the PTO, then go work for a firm that pays my tuition in full, assuming I can get a job with one.  That way I've got a 14k debt as opposed to down 28k in cash.  Did anyone do something similar to this when they cut the tuition funding back in 02?

Thanks.
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CHRISTINEACOSTA

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Re: A day in the life of a patent attorney?
« Reply #4 on: 08-25-08 at 05:16 am »


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  ;D).  I'm also working full time at home now since I'm a registered but inactivated patent agent.



Mesothelioma Lawyer
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IPgal

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Re: A day in the life of a patent attorney?
« Reply #5 on: 10-28-08 at 04:53 pm »

I am not a patent attorney but found this on the web. Thought this might be helpful to people like you and me,:)

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080616071524AA18PsS
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nicole18

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Re: A day in the life of a patent attorney?
« Reply #6 on: 06-17-09 at 02:20 am »

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  ;D).  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?

Thanks!


If you really want to know how many new applications does an average patent attorney handle every year, then ask the attorneys of California Orange County Lawyer. They all know about that.
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UVAgal4

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Re: A day in the life of a patent attorney?
« Reply #7 on: 06-18-09 at 12:27 am »

I think I would try to continue working at the USPTO part-time and go to school part-time, either getting a loan, paying the tuition with any savings you have, or using the tuition-reimbursement program.
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