Hunter A. Horton, Intellectual Property Attorney at Erise IP

Hunter A. HortonHunter is an Intellectual Property attorney. He clerked for two and a half years at Erise IP, P.A. during law school prior to starting full-time and is approaching the end of his third full year full-time. In total,  Hunter has spent approximately five and a half years in the IP law profession. The following is his Q & A interview.

How did you get into a career in IP law?

My inspiration for a career in IP law goes back to my sophomore year at the Missouri University of Science and Technology while seeking my Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. I was a new member of Omega Chi Epsilon, the Chemical Engineering Honor Society. This society focused on expanding its member’s networking opportunities and enlarging the scope of possibilities for future career paths.

In this vein, high-profile speakers were routinely brought in to share their career experiences and to answer questions on the transition from education to employment. A specific speaker that caught my attention was a patent attorney employed at a large law firm in St. Louis, Missouri. At that point, I had never considered law school as a potential path after engineering. The interconnection between the two seemed foreign to me, but I was intrigued.

The speaker detailed the facets of an IP career—including constant exposure to new innovation and cutting-edge disciplines and the ability to work the front lines of technological advancements, global brands, etc. By that point, I was hooked. After the presentation, I pulled the speaker aside to gauge the steps it would take to reach my new goal. Later that week, I began researching law schools and nearby cities with a spur of innovation (and thus a need for IP protection). I locked in Kansas City, Missouri, and St. Louis, Missouri as the two most viable nearby candidates and started working toward my goal.

Why did you think this would be a good career for you?

IP law represented the growth of intellectual advancement, which is at the core of any young engineer. I knew the constant evolution of creative ideas in a diverse range of industries would continue to keep me engaged in my endeavors. Additionally, I wanted to fully utilize the interpersonal skills developed during academia to counsel clients on high-technology matters and protect intellectual capital.

What are the top 3 things you really like about working in IP law?

The benefits of a career in intellectual property are many. The top three, in my personal experience, are as follows:

  1. On a day-to-day basis, analyzing a variety of technically complex projects to make each day new and exciting;
  2. On a project-by-project basis, diving deep into a single technology within a large, general field to become an “expert” on that invention; and
  3. The ability to do both of the above while maintaining, most of the time, a great work-life balance.

What is one thing you dislike (or that may stress you out) about the work?

The largest stressor, in my opinion, is the times when the scale of the work-life balance tips largely the other way. Every career involves what I like to term the “tax season,” where hours worked may dwarf leisure. However, these instances in IP are more infrequent than many other legal professions and, as discussed above, the time spent at work is fulfilling and rewarding.

Do you feel like there are advancement opportunities?

Yes, the legal profession provides clear and structured advancement opportunities. For example, as an associate, one goal is progression to partnership. However, advancement opportunities do not end there. As a partner, you are responsible for your own advancement. You control how to grow your practice and how to develop the firm as a whole. The dichotomy between self-advancement and firm-advancement provides endless opportunities to push forward.

Do you have any tips for people who are looking for their first job in the field?

A few of the most important things to keep in mind when looking for a first job in the IP field are to:

  1. Pick a firm with a diverse client roster. This allows you to move between the many sub-types of IP to find what calls to you;
  2. In line with the previous tip, try not to narrow your career scope too early. There will be plenty of time to specialize later after you have developed your skills at different areas of IP law; and
  3. Do not be afraid to make calls and ask questions before picking a firm. Take a practicing attorney to coffee to discuss the firm culture and what the day-to-day is like. You want to be sure your values match the values of where you will be. Remember, there are times where you will spend more time with your work family than your family at home. So, you want to be sure the environment suits what you are looking for in a career.

Please include any further comments you would like to share that may be helpful for an individual thinking about starting a career in IP law …

My final comment to anyone looking at a career in IP law would be to never stop improving your knowledge and skillset. IP law evolves quickly, and it is imperative to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the shifting market trends. Pay attention to how policy shapes the law and this will keep you at the forefront of your field.