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Author Topic: What type of openings do I apply for?  (Read 816 times)

someguy

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What type of openings do I apply for?
« on: 04-03-18 at 03:55 pm »

Hi, I need advice on how to start my legal career.

Some Background: I'm an EE with 13 years experience in a semiconductor company. I have a BSEE, MSEE, JD, am a registered patent agent, and now am waiting on CA Feb-2018 bar results. I graduated law school 7 years ago, but remained an engineer afterwards for a variety of reasons (burnt out from law school, got promoted at work, engineering work became more interesting). I'm now more interested in law than engineering and want to make the switch.

I'm not a traditional applicant right out of law school, so I feel like it's going to be tough for me to get my foot in the door. I've seen little to no entry-level associate openings. Do I apply to lateral positions even though I have no legal experience? Do I apply to summer positions? Do I apply to patent agent positions? Would networking with hiring partners serve me better than applying online?

I've limited my search to California so far, but I'm open to relocating almost anywhere as my kids aren't in school yet and my wife isn't working.

Thanks!
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Toot Aps Esroh

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Re: What type of openings do I apply for?
« Reply #1 on: 04-05-18 at 05:03 pm »

Hi, I need advice on how to start my legal career.

Some Background: I'm an EE with 13 years experience in a semiconductor company. I have a BSEE, MSEE, JD, am a registered patent agent, and now am waiting on CA Feb-2018 bar results. I graduated law school 7 years ago, but remained an engineer afterwards for a variety of reasons (burnt out from law school, got promoted at work, engineering work became more interesting). I'm now more interested in law than engineering and want to make the switch.

I'm not a traditional applicant right out of law school, so I feel like it's going to be tough for me to get my foot in the door. I've seen little to no entry-level associate openings. Do I apply to lateral positions even though I have no legal experience? Do I apply to summer positions? Do I apply to patent agent positions? Would networking with hiring partners serve me better than applying online?

I've limited my search to California so far, but I'm open to relocating almost anywhere as my kids aren't in school yet and my wife isn't working.

Thanks!



Bumping.  i don't really have any advice for OP but hoping someone might have thoughts.  As to one of the questions, I don't think he should apply to lateral positions, due to no experience.
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trustme

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Re: What type of openings do I apply for?
« Reply #2 on: 04-06-18 at 09:33 am »

You have a lot more options than I did, with your EE degree. I personally do not think you will have any problems finding a job, especially in CA.

You haven't said what you're interested in doing, but I assume some prep/pros work. I would check out the firms that do prosecution work in your area of expertise and apply to them. Maybe try for the firm that handles your companies patent filings. (I know a guy who did this at Motorola and he made partner very quickly.) Are there any options to go in-house with your current company? I would suspect not.

I would absolutely try to schedule some informational interviews with people at firms, especially with fellow alumni. You may need to enter with the nominal title of patent agent or technical advisor. But as long as you are groomed and do not have major social issues, I don't see how you're going to have a lot of issues. You're in a very good technical field.
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Robert K S

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Re: What type of openings do I apply for?
« Reply #3 on: 04-06-18 at 12:31 pm »

The patent prosecution labor market is screaming for people with your technical background but by switching careers you may find yourself making less money for quite a few years before you are making more.  Maybe as many as ten years, particularly if you switch firms during that time and end up effectively having to start over in terms of the trust afforded your work.  It takes a couple years to be competent in patent law and a decade to become really dangerous, so any firm that will hire you to do patent work with no previous experience in the field will be losing money as they train you.  Having the patent bar credential is helpful but it's not the same as a proven track record of drafting applications and Office action responses, being able to work with examiners on telephonic interviews to advance prosecution, appeal wins at the Board or CAFC, and all the writing samples that would go with it.  With that in mind--that you may be taking a pay cut along with the career change and possible relocation--you have to decide what's best for your family.  That said, if you're willing to relocate and work as bottom-rung associate, start sending out some resumes and cover letters.  You will get bites.
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This post is made in the context of professional discussion of general patent law issues and nothing contained herein may be construed as legal advice.

Toot Aps Esroh

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Re: What type of openings do I apply for?
« Reply #4 on: 04-06-18 at 02:51 pm »

When asked in interviews why you didn't jump straight into patent law following law school, focus on the "work as an engineer in the semiconductor industry had become really interesting and challenging and I couldn't see leaving it at the time" and don't mention the law burn out parts.

Trustme mentioned your company's IP department.  Assuming they do have in-house patent lawyers, it probably wouldn't hurt to see if you could get some informational interviews with them.  I also doubt they'd be willing to take you on (generally speaking in-house depts aren't set up to train noobs, but it also is not unheard of), so I wouldn't bring that up.  But it could be a way for you to get more direct info about the day-to-day job both in-house and at firms (assuming all of them worked in a firm before going in-house).  Unless you think doing so could jeopardize your current position, of course (e.g., get you tagged as a flight risk).
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still_learnin

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Re: What type of openings do I apply for?
« Reply #5 on: 04-06-18 at 04:00 pm »

It takes a couple years to be competent in patent law and a decade to become really dangerous, so any firm that will hire you to do patent work with no previous experience in the field will be losing money as they train you. 

I have to disagree on this part. From what I can tell, law firms rarely lose money on a new practitioner. Rather, the firm makes less profit on you than they make on someone who has completed the learning curve. And far less profit as compared to someone who has gone even further and has become quite efficient.
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The above is not legal advice, and my participation in discussions on this forum does not create an attorney-client relationship.

someguy

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Re: What type of openings do I apply for?
« Reply #6 on: 04-06-18 at 04:15 pm »

Thank you for all your feedback!

Yes, I'd like to do prep/pros. The informational interviews are a great idea. We have very a small IP dept. I know we've used Knobbe in the past, but am not sure who we use now - I'll look into this. I know we also won an infringement suit many years ago - I'll seek out who represented us for that as well.

From what I've read on this forum over the last few days, I believe I'm going to have a harsh reality check in terms of work difficulty & hours once I'm an attorney. When I was single and in my 20s I wouldn't have minded this, but I have a family now and am in my 30s, so I'm sure it will be very hard giving up my comfortable engineering lifestyle. Who knows, I may be wrong - I know many of you love what you do and don't mind the mentally strenuous nature of your jobs, so perhaps that could be the case for me as well. Worst case, I can always go back to engineering if I find life as a patent attorney not working out.
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