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Author Topic: Trying to become a Patent Agent  (Read 1201 times)

mysoybean

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Trying to become a Patent Agent
« on: 01-16-19 at 12:18 pm »

Hello,

I was just wondering if I could ask for some advice..
I passed the Patent Bar last June and have a registration number.
Also have a Bachelor in EE and PhD in Biomedical Engineering, but have been staying at home with my children for the past few years and we currently live in the DC metro area.

I've been looking for Patent Agent positions and have also applied to the PTO but didn't get an offer.
I've noticed that many Patent Agent positions require experience while I don't have any, and I am more than willing to start on a lower level if need be but still haven't heard anything back regarding interviews or potential hiring.
After reading many posts and comments here, it seems like working with a legal recruiter might help?
Does anyone have recommendations for a recruiter in the DC area?
Would it be a good idea to try to start with a position like an IP paralegal and work my way up? or keep trying for a Patent Agent position until something works out?

Just trying to get my foot in the door but it feels like I just can't get over the hurdle of not having any experience even with a Registration number.  :-\
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midwestengineer

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Re: Trying to become a Patent Agent
« Reply #1 on: 01-16-19 at 02:28 pm »

Hello,

I was just wondering if I could ask for some advice..
I passed the Patent Bar last June and have a registration number.
Also have a Bachelor in EE and PhD in Biomedical Engineering, but have been staying at home with my children for the past few years and we currently live in the DC metro area.

I've been looking for Patent Agent positions and have also applied to the PTO but didn't get an offer.
I've noticed that many Patent Agent positions require experience while I don't have any, and I am more than willing to start on a lower level if need be but still haven't heard anything back regarding interviews or potential hiring.
After reading many posts and comments here, it seems like working with a legal recruiter might help?
Does anyone have recommendations for a recruiter in the DC area?
Would it be a good idea to try to start with a position like an IP paralegal and work my way up? or keep trying for a Patent Agent position until something works out?

Just trying to get my foot in the door but it feels like I just can't get over the hurdle of not having any experience even with a Registration number.  :-\

So, in contrast to many other professions, hiring a brand new patent agent with no experience is an incredibly risky proposition.  The amount of training required to do the job is vastly more than other positions.  So, if a new hire doesn't work out the sunk cost is astronomical.  Consequently, very few firms are willing to take the risk of brand new to the industry hires.  The few firms that are willing to take the risk demand very high credentials to try to mitigate the risk.  For example, several firms that I know commonly take on 10-20 summer interns and only offer full time positions to 1-2 of the interns each year.  Because you have not been in the labor force or used your degree for sometime, your resume is well outside of the norm greatly increasing the difficulty of obtaining a patent agent position.  You will need to offer something to offset the risk of your abnormal resume.  This is a buyers market for you (but things change after you have 2-years worth of experience, then it's a seller's market).

I do not recommend trying to go the IP paralegal track.  It is completely separate from the patent agent track.  Generally, IP paralegals do not advance to patent agent roles (typically IP paralegals do not meet the technical requirements to become a patent agent).

You should consider focusing on networking to obtain a patent agent position.  It is one of the few ways to short circuit the recruiting blackhole in which you appear to have fallen.  Make a list of all the firms that you would like to work for in your area.  Go to their website and figure out who the partners are in the practice area that you would like to join.  Send straight forward, concise emails asking if you could meet them for coffee to discuss their practice area and get advice for a new patent agent.  Do not ask for a job directly.  Network.  Find professional groups in your area (probably something like DC area IP professional groups) and go to their happy hours/other events.  Do not ask for a job.  Network.
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ConfusedIP

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Re: Trying to become a Patent Agent
« Reply #2 on: 01-16-19 at 03:12 pm »

As midwestengineer pointed out, you'll need to network or get lucky with a firm that might need someone with your specific experience.  Know any alums/classmates who work in the patent field? Hit them up.  Search USPTO patent database for firms that file a lot of applications in you technical area and approach them, trying to emphasize your particular knowledge that would be beneficial to their clients.

Finding a job as a newbie patent agent without any experience is not easy. Having a reg number is almost meaningless without practical experience.  The problem is that law firms will need to invest heavily in your training but they also they don't know whether you are actually committed to the IP field - you might flake out and hate patent prosecution, since the patent bar doesn't really prepare you for it.   So they'd prefer someone with some exposure to the field, so there is less risk that the trainee will walk out of the profession after a year.
« Last Edit: 01-20-19 at 07:45 pm by ConfusedIP »
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Toot Aps Esroh

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Re: Trying to become a Patent Agent
« Reply #3 on: 01-18-19 at 02:56 pm »

I do not recommend trying to go the IP paralegal track.  It is completely separate from the patent agent track.  Generally, IP paralegals do not advance to patent agent roles (typically IP paralegals do not meet the technical requirements to become a patent agent).



Also (and I am not trying to be rude), you have even less qualification for being an IP paralegal.  Most start as legal assistants or docketing trainees and work their way into patent paralegal positions. 


Agree with all the advice above (even trying for PTO again if they start hiring again - just because you were not selected once does not mean you won't be at some later point).


How far out in time are you from your BS, and from your PhD (if they weren't essentially concurrent)?
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I got nothing to say here.  Y'alls all already know all this.


Le tigre n'a pas mangé la pellicule de plastique.

mysoybean

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Re: Trying to become a Patent Agent
« Reply #4 on: 01-18-19 at 05:19 pm »

Wow.. I guess it's just very frustrating that it seems you need experience to get experience.
And to also hear that I might be under qualified for a paralegal position as well is pretty disheartening.

Hopefully with more networking I'll be able to get out of this black hole some time soon.
Thanks for the advice!
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smgsmc

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Re: Trying to become a Patent Agent
« Reply #5 on: 01-19-19 at 11:43 am »

(1) Under no circumstances should you apply for a position as a paralegal.

-  As TAE mentioned, it’s somewhat of a moot point anyway.  Most law firms want paralegals with experience; openings for paralegals with no experience are hard to come by.  Many law firms, furthermore, want paralegals with a paralegal certificate.  So, in these respects, you’re not qualified.

Even if, by some outside chance, some firm were to offer you a position as a paralegal trainee, I would not recommend accepting it:

(a) It would be a red flag on your resume.  It’s analogous to a PhD engineer working as a lab tech; something is amiss. 

(b) The experience you would gain would be of limited value.  Sure, you’ll learn how to fill out and file the proper forms, pay the proper fees, and maintain a docket; but you won’t be involved with actual drafting and prosecution of applications.

(c) Law firms tend to be awfully hierarchical.  Once a firm has decided not to hire you as a patent agent, but has decided to place you in the paralegal bin, it’s not likely to offer you a migration path out.  If you try to flee to a patent agent position in another firm, you will have the red flag on your resume.

(2) You will likely not find direct help from a recruiter.  Remember, for a legit recruiter, the recruiter’s fees are paid by the employer that ultimately hires the candidate, not by the candidate.  If a recruiter asks you to pay a fee for his services, hang up.  Generally, law firms don’t need to pay a recruiter to hire a newbie:  there are plenty of newbies knocking on the door.  A few recruiters will give you some general advice, because they want to cultivate a relationship with you as a future prospect once you’ve gained several years' experience.  Other recruiters will also chat with you as a favor for established clients:  When I was making the transition from R&D scientist and engineer to patent agent, I asked in-house patent attorneys at my company for help.  They introduced me to patent attorneys in law firms and recruiters they did business with to get general tips (not specific job leads).  Once I gained several years' experience, I had recruiters reaching out to poach me.  I would sometimes ask the more decent ones to chat with newbies trying to break into the field (again, general tips, not specific job leads).

(3) In your instance, a lot depends on:

(a) How many years “the past few years” amount to;

(b) Any previous work experience you had;

(c) How well your background maps into clients’ needs; and

(d) How many other candidates (with more recent degrees or more recent experience) are applying.

(4) Firms that hire newbies are rare, but they do exist.  You might have a better chance with small boutiques, especially those that specialize in biomed.  Another advantage of a small boutique is that their hiring policies are more flexible than those at large firms.  At a small boutique, there probably is one head hauncho who calls the shots.  If you hit it off with the boss, he can hire you on the spot.  It’s a matter of you developing the proper rapport.  To mitigate the risk of a newbie, you could offer to work for a percentage of the client’s fees, rather than a fixed salary in return for a minimum number of billable hours.  At a large firm, you’ll need to hit it off with more people during interviews; and HR and the management committee set hiring policies and need to approve exceptions. 

(5) Personal networking and a lucky break are key to success in your instance.
« Last Edit: 01-19-19 at 12:33 pm by smgsmc »
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mysoybean

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Re: Trying to become a Patent Agent
« Reply #6 on: 01-20-19 at 04:24 pm »

Thanks for the detailed response.

As to some of your points,
(1) So trying to get any experience through the paralegal route is out. It makes more sense now that I couldn't get the needed experience even if an opportunity presented itself (which is probably unlikely to happen anyway)

(2) Yes, I have been talking to a recruiter but as you pointed out, he mostly helped me with my resume and advice for where to start looking (he did mention that I would have a better chance at smaller boutique law firms). And since I have heard that recruiters don't get paid with newbies I do understand that this is probably just the way it is.

(3) "the past few years" in my OP is actually around 6 years now. I have been a SAHM and now that my youngest is in school I just started to actively look to revive my career. I have been interested in the IP field for a while now and hoping that it might help when looking to go back to work, I took the exam last year and thankfully passed. I didn't think it would be easy to start working again but like I said earlier, it has been a bit frustrating to find a position open for a total newbie like me. And the fact that I have a huge gap probably doesn't help either.
I'll try to emphasize that I can do both EE and BME and hope to see if any small firms around me are looking for a specialty like mine.

It looks like the PTO is hiring now, so I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for that but for now it sounds like networking and more networking with patience is the only way to go for me. Of course with an extremely lucky break.
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smgsmc

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Re: Trying to become a Patent Agent
« Reply #7 on: 01-20-19 at 07:00 pm »

Thanks for the detailed response.
I sent you a private message via this forum's message system.  The message notification doesn't work reliably, so please check your Inbox.
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