Tips to Advance Your Career in Patent Law

Key opening a door.

Becoming a patent agent or patent attorney is difficult, time-consuming and requires a lot of hard work. Many people seem to slow down and take the job very lightly once they get started. This article discusses some very helpful ways you can do well as a patent practitioner whether agent or attorney and advance in your patent law career.

Give it Your Best

Whether you’re new to the job or an experienced veteran, many patent practitioners fail to accomplish the tasks and assignments assigned to them. In order to succeed in your patent law career, ensure that you’re fulfilling all your duties and doing them to the best of your abilities. This will not only give you more exposure in the field, but also polish your skills.

Complete your assignments on time, do them well, and regularly volunteer to help with other assignments. Not only will this make you more noticeable, but you will also learn more and have more exposure to on job training.

Ask for Help When Needed

If you feel like you’re struggling with an assigned task or could use some help, don’t shy away from asking for it. It’s better to ask someone to help you than to do something wrong. Your seniors will typically be helpful and mentor you. Such situations will give you the opportunity to learn more and eventually you will have a better understating of the field.

Request Additional Work

Once you have successfully completed all the work assigned to you, ask for more. As soon as your employer and supervisors are aware of your regular outstanding performance, they will start entrusting you with additional responsibilities and extra work. This increased practice and exposure will enhance your skill set and improve your performance. The additional work is going to earn you both respect as well as recognition, increasing your chances of getting a promotion.

Hone your Interpersonal Abilities

Being a successful and efficient patent practitioner requires a certain skill set other than the necessary qualifications and experience. These are referred to as soft skills and include skills such as active listening, effective communication skills as well as strong oral and written skills. Other crucial and indispensable soft skills include proficient teamwork and collaboration, flexibility, resourcefulness, confidence, adaptability, diplomacy, and the ability to take initiative. Honing these skills and abilities will help you demonstrate your strong understanding of the legal profession and give an upper hand over your colleagues, allowing you to progress in your career easily and rapidly.

Educate Yourself

One of the most important factors in doing well in your patent law career is educating yourself continuously. Keeping yourself updated with all legal reforms, modifications, and updates will help you have an edge above your coworkers. Additional certifications and qualifications will increase your chances of employability as well as help you progress in your career more smoothly and efficiently.

We hope these tips help you achieve success and progress in your patent law career!

Leaping in Life: Jumping into Patent Law as a Career Field

A person jumping across a void.

Choosing a career is a life defining moment. It requires a lot of thinking and decisiveness to ensure that you’re choosing a profession that is best for you. If you have an itch for the legal industry and are considering jumping into patent law as your career, read this article to find more about what you must do to become a patent lawyer.

Attain a Degree in Science or Engineering

In order to be eligible for a patent law license, you must have a degree in a science or an engineering program.

Your accredited degree can be in any one of the following common science and engineering programs:

  • Biochemistry, Biology, Microbiology, Pharmacology, Molecular Biology or Botany
  • Computer Science, Electronics Technology, Marine Technology, Textile Technology or Food Technology
  • General Chemistry Organic Chemistry
  • Physics or Engineering Physics
  • Engineering (including general, agricultural, aeronautical, biomedical, civil, ceramic, chemical, computer, electrical, electrochemical, geological, industrial, mechanical, metallurgical, mining, nuclear, petroleum etc.)

If you do not already have a degree in a science or engineering program, you may pass the FE test (Fundamentals of Engineering). It is very common for people from other professions and fields to want to choose a different profession in the later stages of their lives and patent law is a popular choice among them. They sit for the FE exam to become eligible for the patent law registration.

Sit for the Patent Bar Exam

Once you have met the science or engineering requirements, you will need to sit for and pass the patent bar exam.

With patent law you can become a registered patent agent by passing this exam. If you have completed a law degree and are in good standing upon passing the exam, you will become a registered patent attorney.

Since having a law degree is not one of the requirements to sit for the patent bar exam, you may go to law school before or after taking the exam. Again, many people never go to law school and become patent agents while others do spend the time and money in law school to become patent attorneys. You can choose to complete law school before or after taking the patent bar exam and there are good reasons for going about it either way.

 

Women in Science and Engineering

Two scientists working in the lab with stylized graphics.

As in the wise words of Brigham Young “You educate a woman; you educate a generation,” it is clearly evident that women play an important part in the nurturing and development of a civilization and a nation. In order for a country to succeed, it very crucial for the women of that country to be educated and also able to actively participate in the country’s growth and development.

Women have long been an important pillar in the fields of science and engineering. From Marie Curie redefining the disciplines of physics and chemistry to Elizabeth Bragg becoming the first graduate civil engineer, women have reshaped these fields countless times. However, it was never easy for them to enter these areas of study and prove their worth. If anything, they had to strive harder than their male counterparts did.

Challenges Faced by Females in Science and Engineering

Women have always managed to demonstrate their talents, skills, and intellectual abilities. However, there are still certain challenges that women face in the fields of science and engineering.

From having to work harder to prove their abilities to being paid less, women have been subject to unjust treatment for centuries. This is particularly true in science and engineering. Women are rarely made in charge regardless of their higher merit, better skill sets and higher qualifications.

Women are also faced with unconscious bias and prejudice especially when it comes to their research being published. Although progress has been made, it often takes more to get their work acknowledged and appreciated. These are only some of the challenges women in these fields face regularly. However, there are ways in which they can be empowered.

Empowering Women in Science and Engineering

In spite of the significant advancements women have witnessed in recent years by having access to more opportunities, they are still insufficiently represented in STEM fields.

It is important to encourage and appreciate women, especially when they are involved in the difficult fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It is crucial to give them credit where credit is due and this can be done by taking a few simple steps.

To empower and appreciate women, it is first important to recognize the difficulties they face on a regular basis. Call out unjust, prejudices and biased treatment, advocate for equal pay and actively promote merit.  Secondly, encourage more women and girls to venture into the different areas of STEM and pursue their goals in science and engineering actively..

Following these steps and encouraging female involvement in the fields of STEM is very important if we plan on developing out nations and tackling the increasing challenges that people are facing worldwide.

5 Tips for Finding a Fulfilling Career

What does a fulfilling career look like to you? Everyone is searching for fulfillment in life and job satisfaction. Career fulfillment is different for everyone, but we can all agree that it’s more than just a steady paycheck and the ability to live in a comfortable manner.

Not all job openings are right for everyone. Fulfilling career opportunities, whether in patent law or not, should include a career you enjoy and a career that gives you a sense of achievement. When you head home from work, you may be tired but you should never feel like you’re stuck in a rut.

So, how does someone go about having a fulfilling career and maintaining that feeling of accomplishment? We’ve got some tips for you here.

Tip # 1: Find a Career You Love and Helps You Give Back

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on it’s that status and wealth just isn’t cutting it anymore for that dream job. We all want to feel like we’re giving back to the community in one way or another. We strive to make a difference in someone’s life.

A career in patent law delivers that sense of giving back to others offering complete job satisfaction. You’re helping others innovate and invent software and devices that will only aid others in the future. It’s a dream job where you’re helping clients achieve their dreams of improving someone’s life and creating something of their own.

A passion in what you do will take you further than any large bank account ever could. If you’re passionate, you’ll want to walk into the law firm or technology transfer office everyday and excel at your position.

Tip # 2: Work with People Who Respect You

You want a work environment where you feel accepted and respected. You also want to strive for a calming law firm with little stress. The people around you should support you and you should support them. Being surrounded by negativity can follow you when you walk out the doors of your firm and walk into your home.

You need to find coping strategies to handle toxic coworkers and bosses. This will prevent you from bringing the negativity home. Toxicity can consume your thoughts, even when you’re at home away from the toxic behavior.

If it’s possible, avoid the toxic coworkers in your law firm at all costs. If it’s not possible to avoid them, limit your interactions with them. If they start spewing negativity or disrespecting you, don’t let yourself be dragged into the conversation. Listen and nod. When you get the chance, leave the situation.

If the negativity is too much for you to take at your law firm, you need to move onto another patent law firm. Some workplaces will always be toxic. The negative behavior of the big bosses can leak into coworkers. This will only drain you.

Tip # 3: Keep Striving for Your Best

Avoid peaking too early in your patent law career. Peaking means that you’ve reached your personal best and you stop striving for more in your career and in your life.

You don’t want to stale in your career as a lawyer or patent agent. You’ll lose your passion and your drive. You’ll begin to burn out and you’ll dread walking through your office doors.

There’s never a situation or a career, even as a patent law lawyer, where you’ll know everything you need to know. Keep learning and keeping absorbing information from others.

Keep fighting and keep advancing along. Most human beings aren’t content with staying in one place for too long even if it’s in your chosen career path.

Having a mentor will be the best decision you ever made. A mentor is someone who’s advanced as a patent lawyer. A mentor should be someone who lends a helping hand and sage wisdom when you need it.

Tip # 4: Work Life and Home Life Balance

Everyone is obsessed with obtaining a work life and home life balance. However, as a patent agent or patent attorney there may be days where you’ll have to bring your work home. Some days your hours will be long and you’ll be worn out.

You want to strive for a work-life integration, not a work life and home life balance. There will be sacrifices on your career journey. There are different ways to perfect a work-life integration.

Make a work schedule for outside of your law firm hours. These hours will be the hours you can work on client projects at home. Once the hours are over, it’s time for your personal life. Stick to this schedule.

Working at home can be a big benefit. It gives you extra time with your family and you can choose your own hours. If you have little ones, you can spend time with them during the day and work during the evening. Of course, being able to work remotely varies from law firm to law firm.

Tip # 5: Appreciate Everything You Have

If you want a fulfilling career and you want to maintain positivity, being grateful for what you have and what you’ve accomplished is a must. It’s easy to be negative and find the faults in life. It takes work to remain positive and look on the bright side of things.

Make two lists. The first list should include what you’re grateful for in your life or career. The second list should include all the positive things you’ve accomplished, from raising children to being promoted.

Make these lists a few times a week to keep your positive attitude. You won’t believe the impact just writing what you’re grateful for will have on your mental health.

The Bottom Line

There’s more to life than having a giant bank account. If you master gratitude, work-life integration, and you keep working on your goals then a fulfilling career will leak into your home life. Your life will be better all the way around.

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.