Skills to Help Manage Conflict as a Patent Practitioner

After working hard to get your new job as a patent attorney or attorney, the struggle doesn’t stop there.

There is going to come a time in every employee’s life where they disagree with a co-worker. Top CEOs can’t escape it, neither can patent practitioners.

When conflict arises with team members at any law firm, though, don’t be caught off-guard. You can cultivate certain skills to help smooth over even the most tumultuous patent attorney coworker issues through conflict management and conflict resolution.

Understand what can cause conflict

As our good friend, Benjamin Franklin, once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best way to manage conflicts is to prevent them from happening in the first place by seeing where they can arise and nipping them in the bud.

Experts offer a number of causes of workplace conflict, including:

  • Personality differences.
  • Workplace behaviors regarded by some co-workers as irritating.
  • Unmet needs in the workplace.
  • Perceived inequities of resources.
  • Unclarified roles in the workplace.
  • Competing for job duties or poor implementation of a job description—for example, placing a non-supervisory employee in an unofficial position of “supervising” a new employee.
  • Systemic circumstances such as a workforce slowdown, a merger or acquisition, or a reduction in force.
  • Mismanagement of organizational change and transition.
  • Poor communication, including misunderstood remarks and comment taken out of context.
  • Differences over work methods or goals or differences in perspectives attributable to age, sex or upbringing.

For example, your coworker feels their needs aren’t being met in the workplace. Because of their personality, they decide to employ snarky, passive-aggressive remarks concerning the boss rather than going to their boss directly. Because of this, the disgruntled individual not only doesn’t get what they want but now adds negativity into the office. It can bother you, the humble Joe or Jane-Doe just trying to do your job.

There are millions of ways conflict can arise. But that doesn’t mean they’re all bad. When faced with any issue, your attitude towards it can determine the efficacy of your response.

Recognize the Benefits of Conflict

Conflict facilitates change and restructuring. When it comes to two ideological viewpoints, it sometimes requires you to change your viewpoint. It’s about growth. If we didn’t have conflict, we wouldn’t grow.

Whether in the patent, law, business, or any professional field, conflict exposes workers to new ideas, teaches flexibility, leads to problem-solving behavior and a host of other positives. It’s a learning period for both parties involved.

But also understand the danger of conflict

While inherently edifying when seen from the right angle, unchecked conflict can lead to disastrous professional effects between you and your colleagues.

According to PM Study Circle, if you have unresolved coworker conflicts you face:

  • Low team morale
  • Impact on the authority of the project manager
  • More personal clashes
  • Low productivity and efficiency
  • Low quality work

Don’t let conflict ruin your career as a patent practitioner. Below are some tips to keep problems from getting out of hand.

Avoid behaviors that prolong conflict

A common one is a triangulation, which is talking to someone other than the person you have a problem with. Essentially, it’s venting your frustrations to someone who can’t change the situation.

While this gives you immediate relief, it does nothing to solve the conflict at hand. Unless you’re going directly to a higher-up for conflict mitigation for something serious like workplace harassment, then triangulation only continues the conflict you already have.

Just bite the bullet and sit the person down in an area where both of you can talk freely. But not too freely.

Keep it professional

This should be obvious, but it’s worth the mention. Don’t mention blatantly unrelated events your coworker did outside of work. Keep it business-oriented, keep it within the professional arena.

Understand all parties fully

Always make sure you and your colleague are on the right page. Sometimes it’s hard to get to the bottom of the issue but dig as deeply as you need to. The only thing worse than taking forever to solve a conflict is to prolong the conflict because of miscommunication.

Ask your coworker to explain their situation fully. Once they’re done, summarize key points they just mentioned and ask, “Did I get it all?” If yes, you may proceed to solving the issue at hand. If not, ask the question as many times as necessary.

Practice Assertive Empathy

You know where your coworker is coming from. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them about the issue you have with them, nor attempt to change their behavior to one that works for both of you.

Therefore, employ phrases such as the following:

  • “I understand you, BUT here are some things I wish you’d do differently…”
  • “I empathize with that. It’s still impacting our clients, though.”

By adding the preface of understanding or empathizing, conversation shifts from “me-versus-you,” to “us-versus-issue.” The most effective conflict management approach is the most collaborative.

Be humble

While it’s good to be assertive, understand when to give up a little bit and negotiate. This doesn’t have to relate to professional negotiations only; admitting the limitations of your personality can be helpful and even necessary (note that the first two causes of conflict in the PM Study Circle analysis are personality differences and irritating workplace behaviors). No one is perfect, but everyone should be open to constructive criticism.

Other tips to solve conflict:

  • Always speak face-to-face with the person you have a conflict While text communication allows both parties to think through what they have to say, it also lends itself to miscommunication. Humans rely on tonality and vocal pitch to receive messages, which you don’t get through text. Try to set up in-person meetings or at the very least video conferences to manage conflict.
  • Address conflicts quickly and efficiently. Unchecked issues quickly become workplace hydras.
  • Find ways for both yourself and your coworker to be held accountable for changes. It would have been a wasted effort if both of you go back to your old habits after addressing a conflict.
  • At the end of the day, if you and your colleague still have issues with each other, it might be best to hire a professional workplace mediator. It’s their job to handle such conflicts and make sure everyone goes home happy.

Patent Practitioner Salary Negotiation Tips

Here’s what you need to know to negotiate your next salary.

If you’re new to a position:

Negotiate with the right mindset

You never have more leverage over negotiating your salary than when a firm first hires you. Use this to your advantage and use the opportunity to negotiate your salary.

Often, new patent practitioners or patent attorneys are so happy to have a job offer that they accept whatever salary their employer offers them. Typically, employers of law firms pitch a lower salary because they expect you to ask for more money. So, failing to negotiate a higher salary leaves you with money you could have easily acquired if you simply asked for it.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. The firm hired you for a reason and you both want to be financially happy for effective long-term employment.

Know how much you’re worth

In order to negotiate efficiently, you have to know what you’re actually worth before you accept a job offer. Take stock of your skills and experience and see what they’re worth in the marketplace. If you don’t know what you’re worth, then you don’t know what salary to ask for (and thus the salary you won’t get). Google is your friend, revealing the salaries of other patent practitioners with your credentials. Just know that you’ll usually get averages on these websites, but you’ll at least know what general range to be in depending on your own situation.

Do your research

Always know the range of salaries for a patent agent or attorney in your area well before the interview takes place. That way, you know whether the salary your employer offers you will be right for you.

Conversely, if your employer asks you for an amount, you want to offer one that’s not too large or small. A little research goes a long way in finding the right salary for you.

For example, a patent attorney salary in Ohio ranges from $81,000–$89,000, whereas in New Mexico it’s slightly lower from $77,000–$84,000. Salaries will range depending on what city and country you’re in.

Let the employer offer the number

Imagine you’re at a flea market and spot a nice antique fountain pen (or something else you like). You go to the booth owner and offer a price. They’re ecstatic and immediately ring up your purchase. What you don’t know is that, after researching the pen’s price, you just offered a significantly higher number than what the booth owner probably would have asked for.

This is why you should never be the first to suggest a salary that law firms may offer you. Even if your research suggests that someone with your qualifications should get $70,000, your employer might like you so much that they’ll offer a significantly higher salary. You never know, so don’t blow your chances of the highest possible salary you can get.

Be prepared for an insufficient offer

Your employer may not offer a salary that fits in your ideal range but above what you need to survive. This puts you in a tough spot: do you accept the position even though you’re not completely happy with the salary? What if there’s no room for growth?

Consider any other job offers you’ve received or other opportunities in your midst. You don’t have to accept a job just because it’s in front of you. If anything, saying no to a position might make the company more inclined to offer better financial packages to make you say yes. At the end of the day, though, do what is best for your situation.

Let them sweat a little bit

Let’s say your employer offered you the perfect salary in the negotiation. Instead of jumping for joy and kissing their feet, calmly tell them you will consider their offer and get back to them within a certain amount of time. This shows you take yourself seriously and value your skills and experience. Besides, taking a few days to accept their offer may prompt the employer to throw in a few more financial packages your way.

If you want to negotiate your salary in your current position:

Ask for a performance review

That is, of course, if you don’t already have yearly reviews. Ask your boss to meet with you, not about a raise, but about how well you’ve been doing. If you can prove you’ve been a diligent worker who’s been improving the company, your boss may agree to some of your requests. Just make sure you and your employer agree that you do, in fact, deserve a raise.

Have patience

If your boss agrees, then they’ll probably have to take the new salary request up to someone with more authority. You’ll have to wait a few weeks, but this time period is crucial. Don’t let your performance slip just because you’ve finally gotten the raise you’ve been wanting.

Just know that a raise may not necessarily come with a higher salary. Your firm may offer you more paid vacations or schedule flexibility rather than more money. In any case, be sure to find a compromise with your employer, using phrases like “finding solutions that work for both of us.” It’s a synergistic process.

Be prepared for rejection

If your requests for a better financial package are denied, there are still non-monetary amenities to ask for. Your employer may be able to give you a better parking space or a new computer, or something else that improves your comfort in the company.

In any case:

Be reasonable

The company isn’t entitled to give you everything you ask for and, no matter how much experience you have as a patent practitioner, you can’t ask for everything you want. There will always be something off the table and you must respect that. Perhaps with enough hard work put in, you can achieve a better financial package in the future.

Place the highest value on the job

Yes, you’re getting paid, but what else are you getting? Improved skills, broadened network, resume building, all these things don’t come with price tags. After looking at the big picture and seeing everything you’re getting with a job, you may decide that a lower salary may be worth it.

How to Increase Your Skills as a Writer

The most effective patent agents and patent attorneys appreciate how important great legal drafting is. Instead of gimmicks and tricks, they heed the fundamentals of legal writing. Legal preparation is about the recipient, not the drafter.

That concept should be the starting point of all documents produced. The best advocates possess the talent of expressing a complex subject in simple terms. Appreciating a subtle message one word sends over another is also a skill owned by those who write quality legal documents.

In the legal profession, writing skills are among the most significant attributes. Words are used to instruct, persuade, inform, and advocate. Mastering the art requires time and patience. Writing well is necessary for your success. Therefore, spending a little time to improve your writing skills is well worth the time. Here are some tips to use to hone legal writing skills.

Keep the Audience in Mind

Every word should be tailored to the reader’s interest. The same message and research can vary significantly in tone and content in a document for two different readers. Court-submitted papers persuade and advocate toward an outcome.

A memorandum sent to a client analyzes the issues, reports the status of the law, and recommends appropriate action to be taken. Always keep the audience in mind when drafting a written document.

Journal readers, opponents, colleagues, clients, and judges have different knowledge, perspectives, and experiences. The more understanding you have of the specific audience, the easier it is to write. Sometimes, you have to cater to more than one audience.

Organization

Even short documents require good structure. The framework dramatically impacts the effect. A meaningful and deliberate structure must be considered. Successful legal writing must be organized.

Visual clues create a road-map that guides the reader. Traditional phrases such as ‘in addition,’ ‘however,’ ‘furthermore, and ‘moreover’ at the beginning of a paragraph introduce a subject. The use of headings and subheadings followed by an introductory sentence breaks the text into blocks.

Each paragraph should focus on one topic. A concluding paragraph or sentence sums up the message. Complex documents may have multiple points. Young lawyers tend to graduate with a talent for stringing concepts together.

Three or more ideas are found within a single sentence. When a point needs making, make it. Make the next point separate from the first. An organized document leads the reader through the text and promotes readability.

Young lawyers, in particular, find getting a product such as a submission, a brief to a barrister, pleading, or letter signed off by a supervisor to be a burden. The frustration lies not in the conclusions reached or legal points but requests for changes in form.

Generally, the look and feel of court documents are set. The content still requires important consideration. Use feedback to avoid future mistakes. Keep in mind what a supervisor finds unclear and the questions that are asked.

Do clients call confused after receiving a letter? The solution may be changing your writing style. Ask yourself what matters more, getting signed off on a product or maintaining your style. Long-winded, waffling legal letters are the worst drafting style.

That style lacks a discernible point. The many delightful and eloquent words used fail to establish the position. It is lost in an unnecessary maze of ink. The writer must know the point of the document in advance. It assures drafting is refined and targeted to an end.

Avoid Legal Jargon and Phrases

Legalese makes a document archaic, stilted, and abstract. Examples include ‘wherein,’ ‘heretofore,’ ‘herewith,’ and ‘aforementioned.’ Use clear and simple terms instead of jargon and legalese.

In the interest of clarity, read the document to a colleague or substitute simple, concrete terms for abstract words. ‘Received the letter’ is more succinct than ‘receipt of correspondence.’ An attempt is being made to explain why an approach to a set of facts should be accepted when applying the law.

All parties know the law and will know the asserted facts. The submission will be materially different. A writer of a court document is charged with making a side of an argument persuasive while ensuring compliance with the duties of honesty and frankness. The job of the writer is to persuade rather than to advise.

Be Concise

Every word needs to contribute to the message. Keep it simple. Eliminate redundancies, shorten complex sentences, and omit extraneous words. Deleting unnecessary words add impact and clarify the meaning of phrases.

Concise use of language and simplicity of expression is essential. Simplicity is more powerful than complexity. The authenticity of expression is a critical component in developing relationships. Unless called for, phrases such as ‘court submissions’ and ‘pleadings’ should be avoided. The writing style should be as authentic as possible. Clients appreciate it.

Make Use of Action Verbs

Action verbs make legal prose vivid, dynamic, and compelling. They add punch to the writing. Verbs bring prose to life. Saying a client lied is better than saying he was untruthful. “Bolted’ is better than ’came quickly.’ ‘Enraged’ is a stronger usage than ’very angry.’

Do not use passive voice. Passive voice uses two-word verb phrases. The usage eliminates the verb’s subject. Active voice lets the reader know who commits the act and clarifies a message. As an example, substitute ‘counsel missed the deadline’ for ‘the deadline was missed’ or ‘the defendant committed a crime’ for ‘a crime was committed.’

Legal writing contains a call to action. The writer may want the judge to issue particular orders, the other party to accept demands, or a client to give specific instructions. A critical element is missing if at the end of the document precisely what should happen is not clear.

Proofread and Edit

Whether you are looking at academic writing, business writing, writing a short story, or, of course, writing legal documents, another way to improve your writing skills is to edit the work ruthlessly. Omit unnecessary words and rewrite for clarity and you will become a good writer soon enough. Proofreading is especially crucial in writing legal documents. Grammar errors, punctuation, and spelling errors in submitted court documents undermine credibility as a professional.

Parts of a document that receive the least attention often contain the most errors. Components include the footer, reference parts, subject line, and address block. Check for missing words, plurals, and apostrophes. Forgetting the word ‘not’ can be catastrophic. Attention to these details polishes the final product and is the first step to improving your writing skills.

Tips for Networking in Law School

As most law students know, it’s never too early to start networking and building connections as it can only help you as you advance in your career. Here are some tips to follow to make sure you get the most out of the opportunities presented to you in law school.

Understand That It’s Not all about Employment

Networking, whether it’s face-to-face at networking events, social networking, or even meeting attorneys from a law firm during on-campus recruiting, isn’t about the short-term goal of employment. It’s meant to be a way to build lasting connections that may help you in the trajectory of your career. Aim yourself toward people who have had the sort of career that you’re hoping for and reach out when and where you can.

Sometimes, you might make contact with someone for the first time while searching for employment but it might not be in the way you think. For example, if you inquire about a position at one of the many networking events and are told there are no openings, ask the attorneys of the law firms if you can come in to learn more about the company’s mission or if they’d be willing to let you come in and shadow as a supplemental activity to your studies. The worst they can say is no but if they say yes, you still get your foot in the door long enough to make an impression.

Take Advantage of Resources on Campus

One of the best ways to network on campus is with professors. The problem is that you can’t expect every professor you have to be willing to help you out. If you had a particular bond with one or if you worked closely on a project together, it’s likely they’ll be willing to help you out in the future if they liked your work. Remember, most professors have taught a lot of graduates before your class came along and know a lot of people in the field. You never know when this can come in handy in the future.

Another way to network on campus is by joining student organizations. Not only will you get to know the classmates who will be working in the same field as you in the future, you might also gain exposure to more events.

If there are any speakers or workshops happening on campus where professionals from your field are likely to be, make sure to attend. Even if you’re just sitting through a lecture, you never know who will be in the audience or at the reception afterward.

Make the Most of Your Interactions with Alumni

This is one of the easiest ways to begin building a professional network. Why? Because you have a shared experience that you can draw upon.

Some law schools offer programs that pair students with alumni as a sort of mentoring program. If you are lucky enough to attend a school with such an opportunity, take advantage of it! There are also events and lectures where alumni return to share their knowledge or just spend time on campus. If students are welcome at such events, it’s the perfect place to try to start up a conversation.

While it might be a little overwhelming to approach someone that’s established in your field, it’s best to push any nervousness aside and jump right in. You’d be surprised what a simple “hello” and introduction can turn into. Remember, they were once in your shoes and know that you’re looking for guidance and career advice. It’s likely they’ll take the lead in the conversation but that can’t happen if you don’t have the nerve to offer an introduction and a handshake.

That said, it’s important not to imply that you’re only looking for an employment opportunity. That’s an easy way to make everyone feel uncomfortable and puts alumni in a tough spot. Instead, ask for advice. Talk about a professor you may have had in common or a class that you particularly liked. If you feel the conversation went well, it’s okay to ask for a referral or exchange emails in the hopes that a career opportunity could appear in the future. Just don’t make them feel like the whole conversation has been about them giving you a job.

Don’t Get Discouraged

If you only have a few people on your list, don’t give up. Networking takes time and the further you get into your career, the more exposure you’ll have to other professionals and your connections will begin to multiply.

How to Start

Once you’ve made contact with people, you might not know what to do next. Here are some ideas.

  • Email your contacts and ask for a meeting, but make sure they know you’re not asking for a job interview. It’s best to say that you were hoping to meet to get some advice, constructive criticism, or feedback on your resume.
  • If they agree to a meeting, come prepared. Know what you want to discuss and the questions you want to ask before you get there so as not to waste anyone’s time.
  • Ask your contact if they can refer you to anyone else who may be willing to sit down and talk with you in the same manner.
  • Keep it short. Aim for about 30 minutes, then try to wind it up. If your contact wants to talk more, they will invite you to stay. Be respectful of their time.
  • Send a thank you email within 24 hours. If they respond in a manner in a way to keep the conversation going, it’s fine to continue emailing back and forth but let them be the one to make that call. If you get a terse response that doesn’t warrant a reply, it’s still acceptable to send a follow-up email with updates about your employment. Thank them again and let them know that their advice helped you find a position.

It’s Never Too Early to Start

Law school is about more than just your studies. It’s also the perfect time and place to begin building a network that can help you further along in your career. The truth is, there are opportunities in law school that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s important to make the most of your time by putting yourself out there and making connections.

How to Connect with Your Patent Law Clients

As patent attorneys of all law firms know, it’s vitally important to get to know your client and their intellectual property professionally. In addition a strong personal connection goes a long way toward building a foundation of trust. A good attorney-client relationship is also a very effective way of turning your client into a repeat client and potentially get word-of-mouth advertising. Not sure where to start? Here are some easy things you can do to connect with patent clients and strengthen relationships.

Communicate

Every inventor wants to know where they stand in the patent application process. It’s an integral piece of the business or project that they’re trying to build. Communicating regularly through a good attorney-client relationship is key to helping them feel at ease with your work and let them know how things are progressing.

Email is a great option but try not to make all of your correspondence electronic. No one makes phone calls these days so taking the time out of your day to call and speak to them directly about the patent application process or even leave a voicemail is a nice personal touch. Even something as simple as letting them know when paperwork has been submitted lets them know that you’re on top of it and you care enough to keep them up to date.

Show Your Appreciation

Sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Sometimes, along with legal advice, a simple “thank you” goes a long way in building a relationship. Again, email is fine but think about the impact of a handwritten thank you note. Whether it’s after an initial meeting or when the patent is finally issued, letting a client know that you enjoyed working with them is a small thing that can make a big difference. If they ever need another patent, you’ll be the first person they call.

Listen to Feedback

By giving clients an opportunity to tell you exactly what made them happy and what didn’t, you’ll get a better understanding of what you’re doing right and where you need to improve. Obviously, this is important for all patent attorneys because it helps you make changes that can improve your business down the line, but consider this; inventors tend to socialize and work with like-minded people. They may even work for a large company or university that frequently seeks patents. By letting clients know that you not only value their opinion and their intellectual property but are also willing to make changes based on their feedback, you gain respect and strengthen your connection. This is a great way to make more connections and bring in even more clients.

Understand Different Perspectives

Trying to identify with your client’s perspective is really important. It can be hard to remember that they’re not seeing the process the same way that you are. You’re the patent agent or patent attorney. Filing for patents is literally your job and you do it all the time. In some cases, clients have been working years if not longer to get their idea to the point where they could patent it. They don’t care about your other clients or the work you’ve done before, they care about their invention and how capable you are of helping them secure their patent. For some of these clients, a lot is riding on a patent. While it may be just another day at the office for you, it’s not for them. By empathizing with them and communicating that you understand their point of view, you’ll strengthen your connection and make them feel heard and respected.

Have Conversations

This is as applicable in patent law as it is in any other part of life, professionally or personally. Don’t lecture your clients. Don’t talk at them and don’t hit them with too much technical information at once. Instead, try to be more conversational. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should fill meetings with idle chit-chat. You still have to get vital information across, but do make sure to pause occasionally and ask if they have any questions. Find out if they’re concerned about any part of the process or what they’re most anxious about. This is another way to help them feel like they’re being heard and that you respect them.

Be Genuine

No one wants to feel like they’re just another client in your address book. Sometimes, it’s better to just be genuine and forget about networking. By making real connections with clients, you stand out. Take the time to ask them questions and get to know them. Show them that there is real value to working with you, not just because you are a patent attorney and they are seeking a patent, but because you’re you. It’s a cliché, but it’s true that you have something to offer that no one else does. Don’t worry about trying to get more clients or networking. Instead, focus on giving your clients the best possible experience they can have. Believe it or not, making clients happy is one of the best ways to get more clients.

The Importance of Connecting

The truth is, if your client feels connected to you, the entire patent process will go much smoother for everyone involved. The more trust there is, the more you can do your job without worrying that the inventor will think what you’re doing is unnecessary. In the off-chance that there’s a glitch in the process, your client will know that you’ve done the best work you can which will take some of the pressure off.

From a business perspective, connecting with your patent law client is one of the easiest ways to grow your practice. As mentioned earlier, a lot of inventors work with other people who are working on new things and may even work for large think tanks or entities whose sole purpose is to come up with new ideas that need patents. If you make one client happy, there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll tell others how wonderful the experience was. If that’s the case, more and more potential clients will be reaching out.

There’s some truth to the idea of killing people with kindness. By listening, empathizing, and understanding, it’s much easier to make connections that benefit both you and your client.

Why Learn About Patents if You’re a Scientist?

Patent Law is a specialized legal niche that involves the protection of discoveries and new inventions. Because such inventions often involve medical breakthroughs or technologies that could propel us forward from an intellectual standpoint, only intellectuals with a scientific or engineering background are eligible to sit the patent bar exam. But why would you want to learn about patents as a scientist?

Perhaps the best way to address the topic is to learn about people who moved from a science background to a federal court. Loretta Weathers traded long days crunching data at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for high-stakes litigation. Loretta spent a few semesters at MIT in a prestigious doctoral program before abandoning the solitude of the lab to go to law school and prepare for a patent lawyer career.

Technology is a hot niche in law. As a lawyer-scientist, Ms. Weathers understood technology and could explain it to the jury. The cases are important and provide a sense of personal satisfaction, but also require a finer understanding when it comes to the bare-bones technology of it all.

In her first year as a patent lawyer, Weathers was involved in an insurance company copyright-infringement case that involved a verdict of almost $19 million. Using her math and science skills, she built a database of over 1,000 alleged infringement acts.

The Need for Patent Attorneys

An explosion of patent applications and the consequential need for lawyers to challenge new patents and protect old ones has created a demand for these specialists. Law professions are seeing a growing number of students with science and engineering backgrounds leaping into law.

Many times, recruiters may even target science alumni. And why shouldn’t they be interested? The promise of higher salaries provides a powerful lure for some students who might otherwise gravitate toward a career in science. A University of Pennsylvania law professor, R. Polk Wagner, is now seeing more people with technical backgrounds coming into law school or applying to sit the patent bar exam. Ms. Weathers was a protégé of his.

The prospect of scientists jumping into law may be intimidating, as the question of who will be making the scientific breakthroughs if all the scientists are caught up in the legality of trademarking arises. However, a Stanford University law student, Dan Knauss, has a doctorate in microbiology. He concluded that academia presents a path that is too narrow.

Knauss feels people who go into law after leaving technical fields want to be involved where science meets society, whereas simply pursuing a higher level of education in a very specific field offers fewer career options, although law may offer tedious litigation that is less rewarding for scientists than the innovation that can come from a career in medicine or lab studies.

Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford and a patent lawyer, sees changes in the legal landscape in his classroom. In addition to the usual law students having a liberal arts background, there is an increase in the number of science majors with various backgrounds and of varying ages. His course in Intellectual Property had 140 students. It was the largest law school class.

15 years ago, that kind of enrollment was inconceivable. Stanford is leading the pack as one of a few law schools offering joint degree programs in law and science. Dean of Stanford law school, Larry Kramer, sensed a need for the program as the legal landscape evolved.

Compared to an academic science career, the patent law field is lucrative. Recent grads who land a job with top law firms will earn in the neighborhood of $160,000. The salary of someone with a federal clerkship or postgraduate science degree could be more.

Weathers acknowledges more money is made by a patent lawyer than a scientist or researcher. The money was not her motivation. A native of Thailand, Ramon Tabtiang disagrees. After earning a biochemistry doctorate at the University of California, San Francisco, he spent two years doing postdoctoral work at MIT.

He studied for his law degree while a full-time employee at a Boston law firm, Fish & Richardson, as a technical specialist. Tabtiang felt future life science breakthroughs would be, at best, incremental.  Academia intellectual freedom comes at a price: a lower salary.

Mr. Tabtiang uses his scientific training for such things as helping a pharmaceutical firm seek a patent for a new drug or helping universities form startup companies. Stepping outside the lab made him realize science and law are alternate universes each with their flaws and attractions.

Biotechnology and Law

After working with a patent attorney in preparing a researched-based application for a doctorate, William J. Simmons learned peer reviews and scientific patent standards are different. Writing the two requires different approaches.

The analytical skills he gained from this scientific training applied to assessing the worthiness of a patent. Simmons realized a patent law career had practical advantages over an academic career.

The funds for researching academic science are insufficient. Funding requirements are exceptionally high. Qualified and capable scientists are not being funded. At the same time, there is a shortage of qualified people with science and law knowledge to work in patent law.

There is an increasing need for new patent expertise in the biotech industry. Making a transition into patent law does not require blazing a new path. Patent law is a well-established career conduit for scientists.

Nearly all examiners in the United States Patent and Trademark Office biotechnology group have conducted scientific research and have a Ph.D. Most biotechnology patent attorneys have Ph.D.s in science. Many have postdoctoral experience.

The frequent developments in bioscience make the work unpredictable and dynamic. Patent attorneys are exposed to discoveries before the general public. The career provides a glimpse into the future. The legal aspect is also dynamic. The courts and Congress are sorting out the legal biotech patent framework.

The tenuous decisions impact those depending on and working in patent law. The ownership and strength of gene patents affect the future of biotech companies. Potential revision of patent law makes biotechnology patent attorneys staying abreast of law development essential so they can appropriately advise clients.

Ultimately, scientists can benefit from having a second career option as the field of academia can lead them down a very specific career path and grants can be hard to come by. Additionally, when it comes to technological and medical advances, the people on the ground floor of decision makers should not only be equipped with the legal knowledge to win a case but also with the background to truly understand the repercussions of pushing a patent through or denying one on the world around them. Salaries aside, that seems a very good reason to explore the field of patent law if you are a scientist.

Patent Paralegal Resume Tips

Patent attorneys represent clients who are seeking patents and all legal matters that relate to obtaining a patent. Patent law is a great area of law for paralegals. It involves doing a lot of paperwork, preparing a lot of documentation, and performing a lot of research.

If you’re a paralegal and are thinking about pursuing a career in patent law, you might be wondering how to craft your resume to pique the interest of potential employers. Whether you’re new to the profession or you’ve been working as a paralegal for a while, here are some things you can do to make sure your resume stands out from the crowd.

General Tips

If you’re fresh out of college or out of a paralegal studies program, there’s a good chance that this is the first resume and cover letter you’re putting together so we’ll cover some of the basics first.

  • Your name, mailing address, phone number, and email address should appear at the top of your resume in a common, easy to read font. To make sure your name stands out, it can be larger than the rest of your contact information or written in bold.
  • Try to keep your resume to one page if you can. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of work experience, this shouldn’t be too difficult to do but it’s a good rule of thumb to remember as you advance in your career.
  • Remember to use action verbs whenever you can to describe your experience. Here are some great ones that are applicable to being a paralegal: assisted, attended, coordinated, collected, created, edited, maintained, gathered, reviewed, wrote, participated, and researched.

For Your Career Objective

This section is pretty common to every resume and cover letter. It’s important because it tells the employer exactly what you’re looking for and lets them know right away if they should continue reading your resume. One of the trickiest things about writing your career objective is that it should only be one sentence long. This is mostly to save space to stick to the one-page rule but also in part so that the person reading the resume can get a sense of what you’re looking for quickly. That means it has to be as specific as possible.

If you’re new to the paralegal profession, a good example of a career objective is as simple as, “Recent graduate in legal studies looking to secure an entry-level position as a patent paralegal.” If you have experience in other areas of law, you can allude to your experience in this statement by saying something like, “To secure a position as a patent paralegal in a supervisory position” or, “To secure a position as a patent paralegal with a law firm that has a position available for an experienced legal professional looking to expand into other areas of law.”

What to List under Education

For new graduates, this is the most important part of a resume because work and real-life experience will be somewhat limited. Make sure you list your school, the degree or certificate you obtained, your major, and when you graduated. You can also list the names of courses you took throughout your time in school that specifically dealt with patent law to show prospective employers that you do have some education about their particular field of law.

For patent law, skills like research and writing are much more important than trial related experience. You can also include things that show you have experience with these skills outside of the legal profession. For example, did you write for your college newspaper? Were you involved in any leadership activities? What duties did you have in these positions? Did you do research for any in-depth articles or put together a newsletter? Anything that shows initiative and leadership that makes you stand out should be included here.

If you’ve been working as a paralegal in any field, you should still include the basics about your education: the name of your school, type of degree, date of graduation, etc. Since your work experience is more important at this point in your career, you can stick to the basics and even put this section at the end of your resume if you prefer.

What about Experience?

If you’re fresh out of school and had any kind of internships during school, this is the place to include that information. Focus on your duties as well as what skills you learned while you were there. If you had more than one internship, they should be listed with the most recent one at the top of the list.

For experienced paralegals, this is the most important section of your resume. It’s where you really show prospective employers what you can do. Past jobs should be listed in reverse order with the most recent at the top. Include the company name, your position, and dates of employment. Then, list your responsibilities. If you worked in patent law in the past, finding relevant skills to list should not be a problem. If you’re coming from another field of law, emphasize the research, writing, and organizing you were responsible for.

The Right Skills

The skills section is where you highlight any technological experience you have. This is one section where new graduates might be a little ahead of the game since most education now relies on technology in a way it didn’t a decade or two ago. List any sort of technology that you feel truly comfortable with using, whether it’s basic things like Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint or those that directly relate to law, like CaseMap of Abacus Law.

This is also the place to mention any special skills. For example, if you’re fluent in a second language, you can mention that in the skills section.

Make sure you don’t exaggerate your skills. Moreover, be truthful in every section of your resume and honest when evaluating your own proficiency to make sure you’re starting out on the right foot with prospective employers.

Patent Agent and Patent Attorney Salary Guide

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a patent attorney and a patent agent? And how much you can make in this lucrative field under each title? With the rise in technology, patent attorneys and agents are in demand.

It takes different steps to become a patent attorney versus becoming a patent agent so the salaries will differ.

You can have a strong career as both an attorney and agent and make a consistent and great yearly salary. So, we’re going to discuss the differences in the positions as well as how much you can make as a patent attorney and a patent agent.

Patent Agent Salaries

What does it take to become a patent agent?

If you want to become a patent agent, the first requirement is to gain a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, or engineering. Your degree must be recognized by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as one that meets the requirements under Category A or you may be able to fit under Category B or C.

After receiving your undergraduate degree, you will need to register to take the patent bar exam.

You will need to study for this exam and focus on the laws and rules within the MPEP. You will need to know the patent process inside and out.

Both these requirements must be met to ensure a patent agent can understand scientific and engineering inventions as well as have knowledge of laws regarding patents.

Once you pass the patent bar exam, you will become a patent agent.

If you fail, you can, re-take the exam later on and still become a registered patent agent.

Both patent agents and patent attorneys are legally qualified to represent a client or inventor before the USPTO including helping them with the patent process.

Patent agents are more likely to do the dirty work of drafting of the patents with their knowledge of science and technology.

Many patent agents decide to expand their career (and their salary) by going to law school after many years of experience where they can become a patent attorney.

So, how much does a patent agent make?

The median patent agent salary is $92,942 a year. The range of a patent agent’s salary is between $80,082 to $112,223 a year. This is as of May 30, 2018.

Your specific salary will vary due to the state you live in and how much experience you have under your belt.

Patent Attorney Salaries

What does it take to become a patent attorney?

The steps to become a patent attorney differ only slightly for the criteria to become a patent agent.

First, much like a patent agent, a future patent attorney needs to have a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, or engineering. The degree must be recognized by the USPTO. This gives you a strong background in science or engineering so you can understand the complexities of inventions.

You will also need to take the patent bar exam. You can take this at any time once you have your Bachelor’s degree in the right field.

At some point after you receive your bachelor’s degree you have to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) while you’re applying to a law school. This test determines your analyzing skills and your logic skills. You have to pass this test to be accepted into any law school in the United States.

While you’re in law school, you should take courses specific to patent laws like intellectual property, patent, and trademarks. Some law schools offer a degree program that’s specific to patent law.

After you receive your law degree, you need to take and pass the bar exam. At this point, if you haven’t yet taken the patent bar exam, you’ll need to take and pass it. This gives a patent attorney extensive knowledge of the law as well as patent law.

Since they are equipped with more of an extensive knowledge, patent attorneys get paid more than patent agents to practice patent law.

Since a patent attorney has attended law school and passed the bar exam, they’re able to do certain things that patent agents aren’t qualified for.

For example, patent attorneys can give legal advice to clients involving the patent process and any infringements.

Not only can patent attorneys give legal advice to clients, they’re also able to draft contracts and other important documents like non-disclosure agreements.

Finally, law attorneys are the ones who go to court to represent a client for any legal proceedings. A patent agent is not able to do this for their clients.

So, how much do patent attorneys make?

The median patent attorney salary is $237,202 a year. The range of a patent attorney’s salary is between $199,119 to $273,288 a year. This is as of May 30, 2018.

Conclusion

Despite the differences in education and expertise, patent agents and patent attorneys are a great asset for inventors. They’re both viable in the world of patent law that’s always expanding.

You can (and will) have a great career with either title. Experience in the industry is what will make you truly stand out from other patent agents and patent attorneys, not to mention clients.

If you study the patent industry continuously, even after passing the patent bar, you will make a difference in inventor’s lives as well as make a great income.

10 Things You May Not Have Realized Were Invented in the 1990’s

So much technology invented in the 1990’s was critical to the advancement of technological innovation that got us to where we are today. Smartphones, the digital camera, targeted Internet searches and the World Wide Web itself, emojis, even SnapChat and Instagram are all built on the ideas that came about in the 1990’s. Read on to discover some of the best technological advances of the ’90s.

1. Adobe Photoshop

Let’s face it, nothing in advertising and photography was the same after Photoshop. It was released in 1990 and grew into quite possibly the most important photo editing tool of all time. Back then, it was a tool used primarily by professional photographers. Today, it’s available to anyone with a PC and has inspired many of the filters and features on the most popular smartphone photo apps. Photoshop creates images that are so convincing and realistic, it forced us to try to determine what’s real and what isn’t. It became so popular that its name is now synonymous with photo editing.

2. Text Messaging

Few things have shaped modern communication more than text messaging. The first text was sent in 1992 from a computer to a cell phone. It read, “Merry Christmas.” It’s a fitting message because text messaging became a gift to all of us. While you used to have to pay per text, it’s now become so popular that unlimited messaging is a basic part of most cell phone plans. It’s not surprising that the emoji followed soon after, in 1999, changing the game yet again.

3. DVDs

Digital video discs, more commonly known as DVDs, came along in 1995. This digital format can store software, data, software, and video files. They’re the same size as CDs but have a much high storage capacity. Most DVDs were used for pre-recorded material, like movies or television shows. The technology to mass produces these is pretty incredible. Data is physically stamped onto them, making them read-only. They can’t be recorded over or erased. The integrity and clearer picture from movies on DVDs made them far superior to their predecessor, the VHS tape. It wasn’t long before DVDs and the like completely took over the market and VHS tape stopped being produced.

4. Google

Believe it or not, Google began in 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were Ph.D. students at Stanford. Google revolutionized internet searching by using different criteria to get better, more relevant results. Early Internet searches simply looked for the number of times a word appeared on a page, but Google was different. They used PageRank, a new technology that determined the importance of pages using backlinks. Google continued to fine-tune their search process and quickly became the best search engine out there. That’s why today, the word “google” has come to be the general term for an Internet search.

5. Sony PlayStation

In the 1980s, Nintendo proved that video game consoles could compete with the growing popularity of PC gaming. When Sony unveiled the PlayStation in 1994, it upped the game again. Video game consoles were once thought to be primarily for children but with the PlayStation, a whole new market opened up for upscale gaming that adults would quickly grow to love. Because it uses a CD-ROM format, the games could be more realistic and in depth. It was a huge success and sold over 100 million units.

6. MP3 Players

A few years before Apple released the iPod, a small South Korean company developed the MP3 player in 1998. It had 64 MB of memory, which at the time was enough to hold 18 songs. This was the first device sold to ever approach music in this way. By the time the iPod was released in 2001, a musical revolution was already underway.

7. The Internet

You can’t have Google or later versions of the PlayStation without the Internet. The original proposal was published in 1990. Its title was “WorldWideWeb: Proposal for a HyperText Project.” It debuted to the public a year later and, in 1993, the Mosaic web browser made the Internet accessible to everyone. Some of the biggest internet companies followed in the next few years: Yahoo in 1994, Google in 1998, and Napster, the original file-sharing music platform, in 1999. To say the Internet changed the world is a drastic understatement. Literally nothing would ever be the same.

8. Game Boy Color

Nintendo has always been a groundbreaker in the gaming industry but they took portable gaming to the next level with the introduction of the Game Boy Color in 1998. It was the first handheld gaming system with a full color screen which put it miles ahead of its competitors. Even when its closest competition followed suit with the Sega Game Gear, Nintendo was so far ahead of the game that it outlasted all of its competition. It kept going strong until it was discontinued when the next generation, the Game Boy Advance, came out in 2003.

9. Nokia 1011

The Nokia 1011 was the first mass-produced cell phone and it hit the market in 1992. The monochrome LCD and extendable antenna were advanced for its time. It was able to hold 99 phone numbers, send and receive text messages, and, in 1994, adopted the characteristic Nokia ringtone. It was still pretty pricey but as mass production became the norm, prices started to fall so that they were affordable for the average person. In 1994, the 2010 and 2110 took its place in the market. Nokia went on to produce some of the most popular cell phones in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

10. PDAs/Palm Pilot

In a way, Palm Pilots were the earliest predecessor to smartphones. The first one was introduced in 1996. They were commonly referred to as PDAs, or personal digital assistants. One could argue that this was the earliest version of today’s digital assistants, like Siri or Alexa. This first model had a monochrome touch screen and a serial communications port. At the time, cell phones were only used for making calls so if you wanted a digital calendar and organizer, Palm Pilot was it.

So that’s a round-up of 10 interesting inventions of the 90’s. If you find inventions and new technology interesting, you may consider a career in patent law where you can help inventors patent the next big thing.

How to Become a Patent Paralegal

A patent paralegal, also often referred to as an intellectual property paralegal, is a career path you can choose to take if you’re interested in patent law, trademarks, copyrighting, and trade secrets.

Patent paralegals can’t legally perform law but they are a strong asset for patent lawyers and their clients. They’re beneficial in many of the steps it takes clients to receive a patent as well as helpful with disputes and keeping connected with clients.

Patent agents and attorneys now need more and more patent paralegals to assist them. So much so that it’s now considered a job in high demand with growing opportunities. This is mostly thanks to the boom in technology. And the best part? Patent law paralegals are one of the highest paid paralegals in the U.S.

Read on to find out a little more about what a patent paralegal does to make a patent attorney’s job (and his or her client’s life) run smoothly as well as the requirements you’ll need to become a patent paralegal.

What Exactly Does a Patent Paralegal Do?

Though patent paralegals can’t perform law, they possess several skills needed to help patent attorneys and clients. Their duties include:

  • Helping clients with the patent application process including letting patent attorneys/patent agents and their clients know of any application due dates.
  • Reviewing a client’s application for any mistakes that need correcting or any missing information that’s needed for a patent.
  • Electronically filing the patent application and other important forms and documents with the USPTO.
  • Making sure policies and procedures are being used correctly.
  • Helping to organize appointments with clients and keeping track of important court dates and impending deadlines.
  • Researching vast amounts of information needed for each individual client’s case including making sure the client’s intellectual property hasn’t been copyrighted by another person or company beforehand.
  • Helping with intellectual property litigation if someone infringes on a client’s copyrighted ideas and/or logos by drafting pleadings, conducting interviews, and preparing exhibits for court.
  • In many offices, they also help with basic office and administrative duties.
  • They’re often the point of contact between patent lawyers and clients and they maintain a healthy relationship with the client, which includes addressing any additional needs to the patent application process and addressing any questions or concerns a client may have.
  • Tracking billable time spent with clients.

Patent paralegal salaries differ from state to state and office to office. However, a new patent paralegal is usually paid between $40,000 and $50,000 a year. Those with a stronger education and more experience in patent law tend to make between $60,000 and $80,000 a year.

Patent Paralegal Education

To become a patent paralegal you need at least a two-year associate’s degree in a paralegal program. This is a bare minimum requirement for most patent law offices and for the U.S. Bureau of Law.

There are offices out there that may keep you in consideration for hiring if you don’t have the education but have plenty of experience in patent law.

Many students are getting their bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies instead of an associate’s degree. This is so they can stand out from other applicants applying for jobs at big offices, small offices, and even the government.

While in college, you will need to take classes that specialize in the patent process, trademarks, and intellectual law. Some colleges let you receive a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies that focus on patent law but this isn’t offered at many educational institutions.

If you’ve already spent 4 years studying in a different field but you want to start a career in patent law, there are certification programs you can take to become a patent paralegal.

If you take this route, you’ll want to make sure to take a certified program that’s approved by the American Bar Association. That will be one of the first things an office will look at when they see a certified program on your resume.

These certification programs will teach you the necessities on trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and copyright infringements among many other subjects pertaining to patent law. They also teach you to know your way around a patent application.

There are also advanced certification programs for those who have already received a degree in the patent paralegal field. These programs help you hone in on the skills you’ve learned so you can master them.

There are 2 major paralegal organizations that can certify paralegals: the National Association of Legal Assistants and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.

Patent Paralegal Experience

You need experience alongside your education to become a well-rounded patent paralegal that everyone wants to hire.

Some patent law offices may consider hiring you as an intern while you’re receiving an education in the patent field. The downside is that these are typically unpaid internships.

Though unpaid, these internships give you insight into the patent process. They can give you the hands-on experience of working in a patent office and with clients and companies. Working as an intern will give you the experience in this specialized field that no classroom ever can.

Internships also work as a great networking experience for bigger and better job opportunities after you graduate in the future. You will get to know people from different offices or the office you work for will want to hire you on as a paralegal after you graduate.

Conclusion

Becoming a patent paralegal doesn’t require an expensive Ph.D. or a monstrous plan. You can up your career and up your income with a few years of school and some experience behind you!