How to Prepare for the First Day of your New Job as a Patent Practitioner

So, you have your bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD., you’ve passed all the required tests as well as the interview, and you are on your way to becoming a patent attorney or patent agent at one of the leading law firms.

However, it is your first day.

The first day working at a new job is an exciting yet often stressful experience. No matter what your job is, meeting new people and working at new tasks is certainly something that takes some getting used to.

This is especially true when beginning to prepare for the first day of your new job as a patent practitioner. This highly-skilled job often requires a fair bit of multi-tasking and conversing with various individuals. Though you may feel completely prepared for this experience there are still a few helpful tips that will make your first day a successful one.

This article will provide you with some very helpful ways to make your first day as a patent practitioner go smoothly.

Most people reading this article are probably well aware of what a patent practitioner is and what the job entails, but for those simply looking into this profession it’s best to quickly describe generally what a patent practitioner does.

Put simply, a patent practitioner represents individuals or groups before a patent office to discuss matters relating to patents. They submit patent applications and help with the prosecution of those applications. Obviously, this is a very succinct explanation and there is certainly much more to this job in regard to specifics, but this enough of a background for this article.

Make A Good Impression

With that highly generalized explanation of what a patent practitioner is, here are some great ways on how to prepare for your first day in this profession. First and foremost, it’s very important to make a good first impression with your bosses and co-workers. In order to accomplish this successfully make sure you are on time. Showing up late even by just a few minutes is absolutely unacceptable. In fact, it’s best to show up a few minutes early to show everyone you are professional and reliable.

A good way to make sure you aren’t late is to simply plan ahead. Have your driving route planned out and maybe even practice getting to the office a few times to ensure you understand exactly how long it takes. This may seem a bit excessive, but you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression. Knowing how you are going to get to the office on the first day is even more important if you live in a big city where you are required to travel by public transportation. This is where having a few “test runs” under your belt will really come in handy.

Dress the Part

Another very important preparation for your first day as a patent practitioner is to dress for the part. Often, you can wear the type of clothing you wore for your job interview.  This highly-skilled job requires men to wear a smart suit and tie or at least a shirt and tie and for women to dress in business casual attire. Men typically have it rather easy in this regard as they don’t really have to worry about their attire.

Women, on the other hand, should give their clothing a fair bit of thought. Most experts agree that a woman should dress conservatively as opposed to wearing some sort of cutting-edge fashion attire. Women should wear dress pants or knee-length skirts that fit well. A nice fitted top that isn’t too flashy and closed-toes shoes are also recommended for women.

It’s possible that some offices will have more casual attire. Showing up on your first day over-dressed is a much smarter option than showing up under-dressed. Just go for a week or so before you decide to deviate from these attire tips. Make sure your office is really OK with casual clothing before you show up wearing slacks and a polo and stand out like a sore thumb.

Don’t be Afraid To Ask Questions

When preparing for your first day as a patent practitioner, come prepared to ask a lot of questions. It’s best practice to take some time and think over some of the more important questions that are inevitably going to be brought up during your first day on the job. Though some people refrain from asking questions as they don’t want to be singled out as not knowing what they are doing, this simply isn’t going to be beneficial. In fact, asking questions will without a doubt help you get through your first day up through your first month and will most likely impress your bosses and co-workers alike.

Know Your Surroundings

Familiarizing yourself with the company by visiting its website is another great way to prepare yourself for your first day as a patent practitioner. Most, if not all of these types of businesses, will have detailed websites where you can gain quite a bit of insight on how the company operates.

You’ll probably also be able to look up some of your bosses and co-workers and gain additional information on them and their background. This will certainly help you learn people’s names faster and even have a bit of small talk material to bring up. Obviously, you don’t want to be overbearing trying to figure out each person’s life story, but learning where they are from or went to school is something that can be good in order to build a rapport with your co-workers.

Prepare Properly

Be prepared. People will expect you to know how to conduct basic patent searches, how and when to take a retainer from a client and how agent-client confidentiality works. Make sure you feel confident with your knowledge in these domains.

Plan Social Time

You will also want to consider what you’re going to do for lunch. This can be a bit tricky because bringing your lunch from home will prevent you from going out to lunch with co-workers and getting to know them better. Of course, you can always bring your lunch and save it if the opportunity to go out arises. This is a personal preference, but something to think about nonetheless.

You should also be prepared to introduce yourself and shake hands with new acquaintances. Be sure to look people in the eyes and give them a firm handshake. You don’t have to introduce yourself to everybody on your first day, but try to make an effort to get to know as many people as you can.

There are certainly many other great ways to prepare yourself for your first day as a patent practitioner, but following the ones laid out in this article will undoubtedly get you well on your way to surviving this initial experience. Starting a new job isn’t an easy task and since you can only make one good first impression it’s very important to strive to do the best job possible presenting yourself to bosses and co-workers. Not everything will go according to plan, but having confidence in yourself will make the day go a bit smoother.


How to Pick the Right IP Law Program

Intellectual property industries account for more than 38 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. IP plays a crucial role in American life. Intellectual property law protects people’s claims of ownership on works of art, inventions, and ideas.

IP attorneys are aware of the demand for their skills. Experts note practicing IP law is an opportunity to be involved in a human creativity industry. Commercial legal jobs are rapidly expanding, especially in the high-tech sector.

There are a significant number of disputes that exist between international companies and the U.S. that involve international litigation. The legal field is becoming central to major United States policy disputes.

IP law dealing with patents, copyright laws, and trademarks has become a dynamic area of law. Congress frequently proposes revisions to the U.S. intellectual property laws. The number of Supreme Court cases is growing.

Law school hopefuls that enjoy entertainment, art, or science may find IP law an attractive option. Because trademarks, trade secrets, copyright laws, and patents are invaluable to businesses, intellectual property law is essential for the future.

IP law schools vary in the quality of intellectual property law preparation. Therefore, deciding where to apply and attend are important decisions.

A school’s reputation and ranking represent significant decision-making process components. However, they are not the only considerations. Schools that have slightly lower overall rankings may offer an exceptional IP law program. Listed below are three signs of a quality IP program.


Review the available intellectual property courses. You need classes that explain how to:

  • Apply for patents.
  • Challenge patents.
  • File lawsuits that allege a violation of patents.

Look for IP law courses that discuss how U.S. law differs from other countries. This is marketable knowledge. Prospective attorneys use this information as lawyers for clients that need trademarks, copyright, and patents in multiple countries.

Future business attorneys need IP courses to understand and be able to flag potential problems for companies they represent. Students pursuing trademark law should consider relevant classes in addition to regularly-offered patent courses.


In the current economy, it is crucial to obtain hands-on, pragmatic experience to supplement classroom education. Conduct due diligence in regard to the career services office of each school.

Determine how robust they are; the amount of personalized assistance that can be expected; and how much the staff is dedicated to law firms, the public sector, and the nonprofit sector. The ideal choice has a substantial portion of the staff focused on areas of interest to you.

An exceptional law program provides internships, clerkships, practicums, and clinics that allow students to receive field experience. Applicants should target schools offering experiential learning opportunities in the area of IP that is of most interest to them such as copyright, trade secrets, patents, or trademarks. Writing and publishing articles on a particular IP specialty for an intellectual property law journal is valuable. Applicants should look for law schools that provide legal IP writing opportunities.

Patent lawyer, John Kappes, recommends prospective law students look for IP programs that participate in the USPTO Law School Clinic Certification Program. The program allows students supervised opportunities to help with federal trademark and patent applications.


Do not overlook a school’s networking avenues. Jackson & Lowe Law Group managing partner, Waukeshia Jackson, feels the ideal law school has recruiting relationships with local IP law firms.

These firms offer internships or summer work as opportunities for students to gain experience. A community of active, local intellectual property attorneys attending networking events is helpful.

Relationships can start developing early when there is a community of intellectual property professionals around the school. Students can make connections and possibly find a mentor. Connections open doors for employment opportunities.

Also Consider

Other key factors to consider are the location and the campus. Unless you are going to attend a top 25 school, location is essential. Decide where you would like to live after finishing law school.

Aim for a school in that geographic area. You will have access to more job opportunities. The majority of law firms that recruit at a school are local firms. There is a more extensive alumni network available if you stay in the region. For example, if you go to law school in Chicago but live in Boston, Chicago connections will not be beneficial in Boston. Cross off any school in a state that you do not want to reside.

Only so much can be learned about a campus through flashy websites and glossy brochures. Discover what the community and culture are really like by visiting each school campus that you are considering.

Talk to students about the environment. Ask about competitiveness and the weekend social scene. Explore housing facilities by looking into on- and off-campus options. Experience extracurricular activities that peak your interest. The school’s website will list student organizations.

Attending a meeting will be revealing and informative. Get in touch with recent alumni. Their memory of  the school is fresh in their minds. You can gain insight into the IP program, which professors they liked, and who to stay away from.

You will need money for tuition and fees, room and board, and other miscellaneous expenses. Loans taken out for graduate programs take years to pay back. Minimize debt by considering public law schools in the state you reside if they meet the three criteria of quality.

Points of Interest

Patent law is unique among the types of intellectual property careers. Patent value is determined by the scope of claims the USPTO grants. Practitioners who want to prosecute have to qualify for and pass the required patent bar exam. Aspiring students should investigate employments prospects from attorneys in their field.

3 Tips for Working with (and Impressing) Your Patent Law Clients

As any good patent attorney or agent knows, impressing your patent law client is your first priority, above all else. All lawyers must work hard to keep their business but, more importantly, through a good attorney-client relationship, you want to make sure your client is satisfied when they leave your office. It is not enough to just have a professional demeanor during the meeting. There is so much more to providing your services and impressing your patent law clients. You also want to maintain a strong attorney-client relationship between for future endeavors.

1. Make Sure You Are 100% Prepared for Your First Meeting

Preparation is key to gaining the business of a client’s intellectual property. Therefore, before your meeting even starts and there is any discussion of a patent application, you will want to have spoken to your patent client, either on the phone or through email correspondence. You don’t want to walk into your first meeting blind to your client’s needs. Listen to what your client tells you when you speak beforehand and take notes on the important issues. You do not have to have all the details but know the basics of your client’s invention and their special needs.

As a patent attorney or patent agent, make an agenda covering what you want to go over with your client before the meeting. This will keep you organized and you can lead the conversation. You will not end up trailing off the subject and entering unknown territory. You can lead the conversation to the main points and gather the information you need to get your client their patent. Your time is their money—do not overuse it.

You always want to have your meeting in a conference room booked in advance. A meeting in your office can be quite distracting for you and your client. You don’t want the distractions of your work phone ringing or anyone interrupting you during an important meeting. Conference rooms provide more privacy and more focus to discuss the matters at hand.

There is no worse impression an attorney can give to a client than if the attorney is late to a meeting. A client should not have to waste their time waiting for you to show up when you have scheduled a specific time to meet up. You are charging the client by the hour, it is unfair to them. It is also just a rude habit to have, in general. It is understandable if there is an emergency at hand. If that is the case, just make sure you contact your patent client immediately so they know something important has come up.

2. Be Personable and Professional with Your Client

You want your patent clients to trust you above other lawyers and believe in your abilities to help them take another step towards their goals. In order to do this, be friendly and encouraging. They should be able to talk to you about their every concern and every question. You want to be professional but you want to avoid personating a stuffy lawyer with zero interest in the particular person you are meeting with.

At the start of the meeting, it is gracious to offer your client a drink, whether you offer coffee or water. You may have a long haul ahead of you. Make your client comfortable in any way possible within reason, of course.

Listen to your client and take notes at the meeting. Let the client start the conversation so you understand their specific needs. Psychology can play an interesting role during your meeting. You can mirror your client’s behavior so they feel at ease with you. This shows your interest in your client’s concerns and project, as well as reiterating the fact that you are listening to their every word.

As a patent agent or patent attorney, speak in terms your patent client can understand. This can be a big issue between a patent practitioner and their client. If your client has no knowledge of the law industry, especially patent law, you should not start barking legal terms at them.

Explain to your client what is happening with the patent process in terms they can understand so they know the steps to achieve a patent for your client’s creation. Do this as you are having a normal conversation and not in a condescending manner. Your client is not your inferior; they just have different expertise than you do.

3. Pay Attention to Your Clients Needs and Keep Them Updated on the Entire Process

After your scheduled meeting you want to keep in touch with your client often. This does not mean calling your client for every little task you have completed to help them progress through the patent process. However, you do want to keep them updated on the serious issues that arise. This means immediately contacting your client if there is an issue with their patent application or if it has been approved. The more they are in the know, the more comfortable they will be with you in charge.

If your client leaves a voicemail or e-mail, return your client’s calls as soon as possible. There are times your client may be concerned or have additional questions since your first meeting. Don’t be surprised if you receive a call or email pertaining to their needs. You want to return your client’s call within a day or two. It’s common courtesy and it gives your client the impression that their needs are your top concern.

These Tips will Leave a Lasting Impression on Your Client

Impressing your clients comes down to the ideology of customer service, much like in the retail world. Serving your client is not much different than the service you receive while you are out on a shopping trip. You want your client to be satisfied and you want them to come back to you for any other legal patent needs as well as referrals they may bring you in the future. If you do not leave a great impression on your new client, they can easily take their needs to another attorney and send their friends elsewhere if they are asked for recommendations.

7 Mistakes You May Be Making on Your Patent Agent or Patent Attorney Resume

OK, so you’ve finished law school and are putting together a resume. If you’re looking for a career in intellectual property, a strong resume along with an equally good cover letter is your first step to getting your foot in the door of a patent law career.

Obviously, you can look at an attorney sample resume or two to give you an idea. However, without a resume that stands out from the rest, you will not get an interview with the company you want. There are several common mistakes made on a resume that can shatter your chances. Thankfully, these mistakes can be corrected and before you know it, you will have the patent attorney or patent agent career you have been striving and working for.

1. Not Adjusting Your Resume for a Patent Law Career

The biggest mistake that people make is not adjusting their resume if they are switching their choice in careers. If you started out in engineering or in a science field, your old resume may be focused on these fields instead of the patent law field. Only updating your recent work experience is not enough to stand out among other candidates. You will appear unqualified.

You will need to redirect the entire focus of your resume. Your work experience and your education, regardless of what exactly your past experience is, can be spun in a new light. Your work experience from 10 years ago in a differing field does not need to be highlighted on your resume unless you can make the experience relevant to patent law. Every detail on your resume should cater to the career you are searching for.

2. Not Including an Objective

A resume without an objective makes the resume dull and unconvincing to most companies. The objective should be the first thing the company sees when they are viewing your resume. An objective is much more than a list of your related skills. Your objective should state the goal you want to accomplish at the specific company you are applying to. This can range from a simple job title you would like within the company to your future career goals. This tells the company that you are driven and know exactly what you want with your time at their company.

3. Being Long Winded and Using Fluff

Most companies or employers hiring do not take the time to read an entire resume if it is long-winded. If they do not read your entire resume they will miss out on the skills and abilities that can benefit their company. They can better assess your qualities without the distractions of too much wordage.

Keep your sentences short and focused on the impact you had in your past work experiences and your skills. Fluff and filler words will distract the reader. Do not forget to use strong verbs when you describe your relevant skills. Strong verbs stand out from the average; boring verbs that are common on resumes. This builds up your abilities and makes you stand out from the crowd of other candidates.

Imagine sitting and reading dozens of resumes a day which is exactly what they are doing when yours hits their table. They want simple facts including what you can bring to their company.

4. How You List Your Education and Work Experiences

Believe it or not, how you list your education and work experience matters a great deal. You want your strongest qualities to be listed for the reader first.

If you have just graduated from college, you’re going to want to list your education before you list your work experience. Include your GPA as long as it is over 3.0 and you can even throw in your extracurricular activities that included leadership roles. Also, include any law-related publications you may have written during your time at college. If you attended a fantastic law school, then always list your education first and foremost.

If you have been working in the patent law field for a few years, you should list your work experience first, over your education. You should always list your most recent employment first.

5. Not Including Non-Paying Legal Experience

If you are lacking in paid positions in the patent legal field and lacking in work experience in general, do not be afraid to throw in any non-paying legal experiences you have had in the legal field. This is still considered work experience, paid or not. Unpaid work can be included on any resume for any job. You still learned new abilities and developed your skills at these places so do not be shy about including them on your resume.

6. Forgetting to Update Your Information

Always double check the phone numbers of past employers. The company may want to call and speak to your old employer to learn more about you and your capabilities. They are not able to hear your past employer bragging about you if the number changed two years ago and you did not take the time to update it. This also includes your personal information from your phone number to your email. If you are working off an old resume, do not forget to update all information that has changed since you made the original.

7. Not Proofreading

There is nothing that screams unprofessional as much as a spelling mistake or a typo on your resume. Take the time to re-read and edit your resume a few times for perfection. After you have taken the time to proofread it, do not be afraid to pass it off to a friend or family member to read through your resume themselves to catch any mistakes. After working on a resume for a long time, your brain is too close to the project and may not see every error.

Turn in a Polished Resume to Get Your Dream Job

A fantastic resume is essential to proceed with your patent law career to help you stand out from other candidates wanting the same success you want. This does not have to be a horrible and difficult ordeal that leads to pulling out your hair. With just a few adjustments and checks, you can produce a resume that is out of this world and have your skills shine through to the employer.


Patent Practitioners Guide to Being More Effective with LinkedIn Connections

As with most social networking like Twitter and Facebook for everyday communication, LinkedIn has quickly become an indispensable resource for professionals in almost every field—and that includes intellectual property. By using the latest technology, their growth has been fast and impressive with 467 million members in late 2016.

To get the most out of LinkedIn, it’s not enough to simply have a standard law firm profile. You have to engage and interact to start seeing the benefits. While it might seem a little more obvious how this networking can help in the business world, even patent practitioners can benefit from using the site more effectively.

As easily as you would upload photos and share on Twitter or promote your work-life balance on Facebook, here are some simple tips on how to use this computer-mediated communication to your advantage and what you should do to make sure your profile is put to good use and your law firm is put firmly on the map.

Connect with the National Association of Patent Practitioners (NAPP)

The NAPP is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to support patent practitioners. Their mission is to not only provide a space for professionals in the industry to the network but also to provide education and help practitioners advance in their practice. They encourage connecting with them via LinkedIn.

By connecting with them, you’ll not only be able to connect with other patent professionals for advice, support, and educational opportunities, you’ll by extension be connected to everyone in their network. This can make you more visible to the people who are coming to LinkedIn to find a patent professional. Think about it, if someone is posting a job or has an opportunity for someone in the field, the NAPP page is a great place to start looking for candidates.

Connecting with the NAPP via LinkedIn is also a great way to stay informed about conferences, continuous learning opportunities, and other events celebrating the profession. If you’re looking for a way to network specifically with other patent practitioners to mutually benefit from shared knowledge and experience, this is a great place to get started.

Don’t Forget about Inventors

Because inventors are your clients, it’s useful to understand how they use LinkedIn so that you can increase your chances of finding someone in need of your services.

One of the ways that inventors used LinkedIn is to promote their inventions. In fact, it’s often one of the primary ways they do so. This presents a golden opportunity for someone in patent law because with every new invention comes to the need for a patent. In short, reach out to inventors who are in need of your services. You just might find a new client.

Another thing to consider is connecting with inventors who you’ve worked with in the past, especially if you had a good working relationship. This is an awesome opportunity to make more professional connections. Chances are, the inventor you worked with is connected to other inventors who will all need a good patent professional. If you have a good relationship with an inventor you’re connected with, you can even ask for an online introduction. Being able to connect with potential clients quickly and easily is a major benefit of this online professional network.

Making Your Profile More Effective

In order to draw the attention of other people in the field and to make sure you stand out when someone is looking to network, there are some things you can do when creating your profile that will give you an edge.

  1. Make your specialty front and center. The headline of your profile gives you a brief space to tell the world who you are. Remember, people are going to be searching by keyword. If you’re a patent professional in the biotech field, you want to be in the top of the search results when someone searches for “biotech patent professional.”
  2. Make your profile about them. You’re trying to sell yourself to potential clients and even companies that you would one day like to work for. Make it clear why you are the candidate that they can’t live without.
  3. Get involved in groups. Join as many as you can that are related to patent law, inventing, and your specialty. And don’t forget local, alumni, and human resource groups, too. Don’t just ask to be a member, engage in discussions where you can demonstrate what you know.
  4. Post relevant updates regularly. If you post every day, it will keep your profile at the top of the feed which makes you easier to find. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?
  5. Keep your profile up to date. If you learn a new skill, add it. Did you successfully acquire a patent in a field that’s not your specialty? Get a new position? Move to another company? Always update these things regularly so your profile stays current.
  6. Connect with as many people as you can but think about whom you connect with. These might seem contradictory, but you don’t just want to connect with everyone you’ve ever known. Remember that if you apply for a position, the person looking at your profile is going to see the connections you have in common. It’s best not to have connections with people who don’t have a full profile or are inactive. The common connections might be asked to vouch for you. At the very least, they’ll say something about who you are professionally.
  7. Ask connections for testimonials. This goes back to understanding how inventors use LinkedIn but it’s so important that it should be mentioned again. Client testimonials are extremely important, whether you’re reaching out to new prospective clients or looking for a position at a new firm.

Interaction is Key

As you can see, LinkedIn offers you a lot of opportunities to network and use your connections to advance your career. By staying active on the site and paying attention to the network of people you’re connected to, you can really put LinkedIn to good use.

It helps you stay relevant and, if done right, can put you front and center when someone is searching for an expert in your field. By making sure your profile is attention-grabbing and your connections work for you, you’ll quickly be on your way to finding new clients or even your dream job.


Top 10 Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

If you’re thinking about getting into patent law, then you probably already realize gaining the right degree or degrees is a priority. Patent agents have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Patent attorneys have a Bachelor’s degree in science or engineering plus a law degree. Many patent agents and patent attorneys have much higher than a Bachelor’s degree. Often, these professionals will have a Master’s or even PhD to add to the mix.

So if you’re planning on becoming a patent agent or patent attorney, you may need to consider more education, which often requires student loans.

Finding the money to attend college is often stressful. It’s not a cheap venture and few of us have the cash on hand to pay for ridiculously priced textbooks and four years of tuition or even worse, law school.

Since tuition is rising every year, most college-bound individuals turn to student loans or other financial aid to finance their education. The problem is most people are unaware of what student loan debt truly entails and the issues that can come up in the future.

Most of us make the same tragic mistakes when it comes to our financial aid. We’re going to discuss how to avoid these mistakes so you can take bigger and brighter steps towards your future.

Mistake #1: Disregarding Community Colleges

When college-bound, we all dream of spending a few years at an expensive, well-known university. Depending on your degree and major, community college for the first two years of your education may be your best choice. There are many reputable community colleges that charge you a decent price for an equal education.

If you’ve already earned your 4-year degree and are considering a Master’s, PhD, or a law degree, then a community college is not going to have anything to offer you. In that case, depending on where you live, you may be able to enroll in an in-state college or university and save yourself a lot of money.

Coming hand in hand with deciding on a college, deciding your major is also of utmost importance. Your degree needs to advance your career not lead you further into debt. Is there actually a return investment on the degree you’re going for?

You might not need that Master’s or PhD to get the job you want, but a law degree will pay-off in the future. So make sure you’re going for something you really need.

Mistake #2: Borrowing Private Loans Instead of Federal Student Aid

Private loans should always be the last resort. You should start with applying for scholarships and grants, first and foremost. It goes without saying but the more money you can get for your education that you don’t have to pay back, the less debt you have to deal with in the future.

After applying for as many scholarships that you can, your next step will be checking out federal student aid. FAFSA is your best bet at cheaper loans with simpler repayment terms. Federal loans also have a three year deferment after your graduation.

A deferment allows you to stop payment for a short period of time or decrease the amount of your monthly repayments. Deferment can come in handy but shouldn’t be the first choice.

Federal loans also have death and disability discharges in case serious circumstances stop you from repayment. If you pass away, your loans don’t fall on anyone else and if you are unable to work, you may not be required to pay off your debt. Private loans don’t have either of these options available.

If you are unable to cover the entire cost of your tuition through scholarships and federal loans, then you should shop around for the best private loans.

Mistake #3: Not Shopping Around for the Best Rates

If you do go the route of private loans, it’s imperative that you don’t pick the first loan you come across. Many private lenders advertise low-interest rates but the truth of the matter is that very few students qualify for these low rates. Private lenders can set their own rates and fees and they can be subject to change.

It’s also extremely important to know the difference between fixed interest rates and variable rates. Fixed interest rates will never increase or change whereas variable interest rates can and usually do change over the years.

Mistake #4: Don’t Choose the Wrong Repayment Plan

Your repayment plan should be chosen carefully. Important factors to consider are how much you can afford to pay per month and how fast you want to pay off your debt. If you don’t choose a repayment plan, you can be put on a 10-year plan in which interest accumulates daily.

Mistake #5: Don’t Borrow More than You Need

Under no circumstances should you apply for the biggest loans just because you may qualify for them. You must never forget that the money you are receiving is not free money. Every penny must be paid back and at a higher interest rate. Therefore, minimize your loans.

Don’t spend the money you receive on living expenses or shopping. This money needs to go towards your tuition and your textbooks. Nothing extra, nothing more!

Mistake #6: Don’t Cosign Your Loan

Cosigning a loan seems enticing at first but you should never drag another person into your debt unless you are positive you can repay the loan. A cosigner is considered a co-borrower. This means if you miss a payment or simply ignore your responsibilities, your bad decisions fall onto your cosigner. They are just as much obligated to repay that loan as you are. This can ruin not just your credit score but theirs as well.

Mistake #7: Forgetting to Keep Your Contact Info Up-to-Date

If you move, keep your loan lender up-to-date. Even if you aren’t receiving information on your loans because you didn’t contact them on your move, your interest is still accruing. Going into default means your wages can be garnished, you won’t receive your income tax refunds, and even your Social Security benefit payments can be taken from you.

Mistake #8: Don’t Refinance Federal Loans

It’s best to forget refinancing your loans, federal included. Refinancing loans means you a creating a new loan. Federal loans become private loans. As we’ve seen before, private loans don’t have the protections that federal loans do.

Mistake #9: Late Payments or Missed Payments

Late or missed payments will affect your credit score. A horrible credit score leads to difficulties down the road if you want to finance a home or a new car. If you are having difficulty keeping up with repayments, contact your loan lender as soon as you are able. They may offer to reduce that monthly payment.

Mistake #10: Postponing Payments

Postponing a repayment should be a last resort. Most postponing of repayments will deal with deferment or forbearance. Both of these options only hurt you in the long run. Even under a postponed payment, your interest is still accumulating. This means when you begin to pay it again, your interest may have doubled during the down period.

There Is Hope

There are other ways to get ahead with your student loan debt. If you can, start payments while you’re still in school. Pay more than your monthly repayment plan if possible and set up an automatic payment plan so you never miss a month.

The worse outcome of not taking your loans seriously is drowning in debt in your future. Nobody wants to be paying off student loans well into their 60’s, unable to buy a home or unable to send their own children off to college. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of education and debt without understanding what the consequences are.

Do your research when you’re applying for loans. Your future can be bright if you take the right steps!


How to Apply to Law School as an Engineer or Scientist

Law schools welcome those with engineering and science majors. A scientific or technical background is helpful for lawyers specializing in patent law. If you’re planning on applying for law school after gaining your science or engineering degree, make sure you enroll in courses that train students to think analytically and require lots of writing.

Choosing Classes

Use elective opportunities to gain strong writing and reading skills. Minimize classes that grade on a pass/fail basis. Save law classes for law school, instead, acquire a broad education during the undergraduate years.

Studying abroad and learning a foreign language are wonderful pursuits since the law increasingly deals with global concerns. Being able to communicate in a foreign language can be very valuable.

Consider an honors thesis in the field of engineering or science if eligible. You will graduate with Latin honors and have the opportunity to work with a faculty member to conduct research and create an important piece of writing.

The Admission Process

The Law School Admissions Council coordinates and facilitates the law school admission process. The corporation oversees the Law School Data Assembly and the Law School Admissions Test.

The LSAT is given four times each year and is a requirement for admission into ABA-approved law schools. Law school admissions officers place high importance on LSAT scores. There are five 35-minute sections on the test.

A reading comprehension, analytical thinking, two logical reasoning, and an ‘experimental’ section make up the test. A writing sample is also part of the test. Make sure you carefully prepare for the exam and plan to take it only once.

Give it your best attempt and take lots of practice tests. There is no better resource than previous exams to prepare for the LSAT. Practice under realistic, timed conditions.

If you plan to apply to law school in your senior year, the summer after your junior year is the best time to take the test for a score that will be used.

You will receive your score before summer’s end. Early in the fall, a realistic list of schools to apply to can be created. A second option is to take the test in the fall of your senior year. Results will still be available so that an application can be filed before the deadline. The last opportunity to take the LSAT, if you plan to apply as a senior, is December. If you plan to pursue other interests or work between college and law school, the test can be put off for a bit.

LSDAS prepares academic records for law schools to which you apply. Nearly all schools require registration with LSDAS and there is a separate fee over and above the LSAT fee to register. The law schools contact LSDAS for the report. You indicate how many reports you want to pay for that will be sent.

It is not uncommon to take some time between law school and college to pursue travel opportunities, community service, or a fellowship. A minimum of half of the first-year classes are occupied by people who have not been in college for a year or more. Reasons to wait include:

  • Time to gain maturity, self-confidence, and experience.
  • Become more confident about becoming a lawyer and law school.
  • Desire to have senior grades included in the calculation of GPA.
  • Full-time experience may impress legal employers.
  • Earn money to pay for law school.

Others go directly to law school because they are positive they want to become lawyers. Some believe they will lose academic momentum if they wait while others wish to postpone repaying education loans.


Seniors typically apply to multiple law schools. Choose a couple of “safe” schools where the chances of admission are 75 percent or better, two or three that appear reasonable, and a couple where the odds of acceptance are less than 30 percent.

When you complete the application, proofread everything carefully. The LSACD allows applications to be completed on personal computers and printed or sent electronically. Make sure to follow all instructions and leave no blanks. Put “not applicable” in any space that does not pertain to you.

Be sure to understand all aspects of the application before signing. Tailor any answers to questions seeking a written statement to the questions since the same response may not suffice for every school.

Disclose any convictions, arrests, discipline problems, or academic problems that the application seeks. These incidents do not automatically bar admission to law school. Schools look for responsibility taken and response to negative consequences.

Undisclosed information may be caught somewhere else in the process of applying that triggers a misconduct inquiry. Talk to a pre-law advisor about any questions you have about the application.

Include a resume that outlines academic accomplishments, work experience, other competencies, and activities. Do not answer questions on the application by asking to refer to the resume.

Apply early. It is an advantage to have an application read as soon as possible. There are law schools that offer early decisions and notifications. Complete applications by Thanksgiving so that your application is considered while seats in the class are available.

The only section that you control entirely is the personal statement. It is your opportunity to distinguish your application from others the committee reviews. Write what you would tell the committee in a ten-minute interview.

Letters of recommendation make a positive difference if LSAT and CPA scores are average among the group applying to a law school. Ask faculty members who know you well for letters of recommendation.

Things contained in letters of recommendation that impress committees include intellectual capacity details, writing skills, motivation, and overall academic experience. Enhance your chances of getting detailed letters by participating in class and using office hours to address material not fully understood.

Legal delivery is becoming data and tech-driven while new skill sets are required. An engineering or science background is necessary for new legal industry positions. There is an acute need for engineer and science-trained professionals that offer enormous opportunities.

Many legal startups are founded by millennial lawyers with science and engineering backgrounds. Students with such backgrounds have an opportunity to be part of a huge industry transformation and gain a share of the market.  There are many other options as well including becoming a patent agent or patent attorney and helping inventors patent their inventions.

How Old Is Too Old for Law School?

The average first-year law student is almost 26-years-old. Therefore, people in their 30’s and 40’s may think they are too old for starting a second career and going to law school, but it can still be a great choice for many. Here are some facts non-traditional students should know about law school admission.

Advantages of Attending Law School Later in Life

Law schools look closely at LSAT scores and GPA’s in student applications. However, relevant experience carries a certain amount of weight with admission committees. Older students bring transferable skills to both the law school and the profession.

Those who work in the justice system as secretaries, paralegals, and police officers have direct knowledge of the law. Life experience is also valuable. In addition, older students may have experience with more than one area of law.

Another advantage of attending law school later in life is that older students have lived through successes and failures that can be relevant in law school. Experienced students bring knowledge that benefits all students to the classroom. Many law schools have part-time, evening programs, and online courses that accommodate older students.

The outside-of-school-contacts older law students have typically allow them to find jobs quickly. Their personal lives are often more stable than younger students which allows for more study time. Older students had the opportunity to explore other fields of employment and have an idea of what they plan to do on a more realistic and detailed level than younger students.

Many young law students have admitted they attended law school because they had no other plans after completing their undergraduate education. Older law students are usually embarking on a second or perhaps third career. Law school is a pursuit of something they love rather than a means of making lots of money. Their expectations of the requirements and the profession are reasonable.

Disadvantages of Attending Law School Later in Life

Learning issues may cause older students to struggle. When there is a long gap between studying, learning is more difficult. Older students may find spending long evenings studying to be harder than when they were younger.

Those with children may be distracted when studying. Some find learning new technology skills to be daunting. Obligations at home may prevent older students from participating in study groups. They may also feel they do not fit in with more traditional, younger students and miss out on collaboration and learning opportunities.

Law school is expensive. Law school students sometimes graduate with more than $150,000 in student loans. Older students may decide the change in career is not worth the investment. Taking out loans for living expenses and tuition may cause an inability to recoup the investment.

Older students have a shorter work career and consequently, less time to pay back loans and enjoy large salaries. They may have trouble finding a job with an employer where age bias exists. The pay is not as high in the public sector, where many older students prefer to work.

Other Considerations

These scenarios are not true for all older students. Some can continue an existing career to avoid excessive student loans. Financial aid and scholarships may be available to older students who bring diversity to a law program that will mitigate the financial sacrifice.

Law school is both a substantial financial commitment and a significant time commitment. There are certain drawbacks to attending law school later in life.

Many employers prefer hiring younger, less experienced graduates who will work for less money. Other reasons for hiring younger employees include commitment, trainability, and career longevity.

Large firms that have more than 250 attorneys offer salaries that are the most lucrative. Statistics, gathered by the National Association for Law Placement, show 53 percent of graduating law students who are 36 or older go solo into private practice or join firms having fewer than ten attorneys. 17 percent join large law firms.

Older employees often have commitments such as aging parents or children that prevent working the 50 to 80 hours that are required. Employers sometimes fear older law student graduates are set in their ways and are not mold-able or trainable. Accepting assignments from younger supervisors may be awkward for some.

As the economy continues its stagnant condition, more people in their 40’s and beyond are going to law school. All legal sectors have recruited older law school graduates.

There are law firms that value previous work experience, especially in the area of patent law. In this field you are required to have a degree in science or engineering and any work experience in those fields is highly valued. The fact that you can become a patent agent without a law degree is a great way to take advantage of this field without spending the time and money in law school.

In addition, even outside the field of patent law, an employer is more likely to hire someone with 15 years of experience in the field of engineering over a recent law school graduate having no expertise if all other factors are equal.

Life experience may carry an edge in the process of admission. Research shows older workers are considered more committed, honest, stable, reliable, and mature by employers. Older graduates are more grounded and focused.

The maturity can be advantageous both in the admission process to law school and the job-seeking process after graduation. Older workers are less likely to challenge established dress codes by wearing inappropriate attire to work. They will not mind rising early to commute to work.

Case Study

The best reference for someone wanting to go to law school later in life is to hear what someone who did it has to say. Jamison Koehler started law school when he was 43. He felt his grades would have been better if he attended law school immediately after college.

However, Mr. Koehler is pretty confident he would have hated it. Life experience, patience, and perspective as an older student meant every reading assignment was not viewed as a task to be completed rather than an experience to savor. As an older student, he took time to sit back and let the content sink in.

Socially, he and his wife found things to be a little strange. They were friends with some of the faculty members. The instructors had joined the Koehler’s for dinner, attended school functions with them, and their children knew each other. However, the age difference was not awkward for him in the classroom.

Koehler hoped to land a job with a criminal defense firm. He had no takers. The gaps in his resume were hard to explain. He decided to forego an apprenticeship and jump into a practice of his own.

Mr. Koehler stated he is satisfied with his decision to attend law school later in life. He may be behind others in his profession concerning his practice, but he feels out in front at his second career.


[Case Studies] Top 5 Careers for Scientists to Transition Into

Traditional career paths have changed. A career trajectory will have plateaus and dips as scientists change direction and build skills.

Whether you’re a promising student or you have years of hands-on experience working for leading companies, career changes are often daunting enough; switching to a completely new area can be downright frightening.

Five popular career changes for scientists include:

  • Entrepreneurship, business, or consultancy
  • Patent law
  • Author
  • Teaching and education
  • Product development

If you’re wondering how to ever switch from science to one of the listed career fields, rest assured, there are ways to prepare for a major career change while you’re still working at your current job. The exact skills vary, but some attributes are common for those who wish to switch roles.

For starters, communication is a skill most scientists are stereo-typically said to lack. It is necessary to be able to clearly and concisely communicate scientific ideas in an accessible manner to change careers. The best candidates are comfortable talking to top scientists, policymakers, and kids.

Many of the jobs come with an expectation of getting quickly up to speed on a new area, possibly one for which the person has no prior knowledge. For instance, with patent law, you could keep your job as a scientist while you learn patent law and even prepare for and pass the patent bar exam before you ever quit your current position.

In addition, an adaptable and flexible attitude is needed for many of the positions that require teamwork. There will be shorter deadlines; deadlines that center around hours and days instead of weeks and months. Some career changes (like patent law) require professional qualifications.

We’ve found that the best resource for learning about a transition is from someone who has succeeded in the endeavor. Therefore, we include case studies for each of these career changes here:

1. Company Founder

Dr. Ed Marshall found converting academic research into an industrial process to be more exciting and challenging than his research into metal-based-polymerization catalysts at the Imperial College London.

In 2008, he met a former BP Chemicals senior manager, Dr. John Hamilton. Hamilton’s input was the impetus that drove the start of a new company focused on improving the properties and reducing the cost of manufacturing PLA.

Dr. Marshal says he does not regret his decision to leave academia. His advice to those thinking of starting a company is to seek advice from people who have made the transition. The challenges and rewards make up for the small sacrifices.

2. Patent Law

Toby Thompson spent five years as a pharmaceutical company medicinal chemist before working in the field of patent law. This area is one that requires qualification. Those interested in passing the Patent Bar Exam will need to spend the time learning about patent law and once they pass the exam, they will become registered before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Thompson currently works in private practice for the Abel & Imray firm as part of the Life Sciences team. His job includes drafting and filing applications for patents, prosecution of a patent application until granted, defending clients’ patents and third-party patent opposition, and advising clients of their rights regarding products in light of patents others own.

Mr. Thompson was a little concerned when he left pharmaceutical research that he would miss breakthrough in projects that can happen rapidly and be exciting. His current role involves aiding inventors who work on the boundary of science. He finds learning about the clients’ inventions interesting.

Thompson combines scientific knowledge with his appreciation of the law. He recommends the patent profession to those who want to use a scientific background but have no desire to work in research directly.

3. Film-maker, Writer, Part-time Physics Teacher

Alom Shaha spends most of his professional career sharing a passion for education and science. He writes for some online and print publications and has written a book. Shana was not a researcher but was the author of a paper published in Current Biology that helped in the collection of DNA samples for ‘A Y Chromosome Census of the British Isles.’

Nothing makes Mr. Shaha feel better about himself than teaching. It satisfies his yearning to do something useful in the world. It was not his intention to teach. Mr. Shana suggests those with the smallest suspicion of being a science teacher become certified and explore teaching as a career transition.

4. Program Manager, Life Sciences, at the New York Academy of Science

Amanda Ullman was interested in germs from the time she was a child. Not surprising, her focus of study was viral pathogenesis. She worked with a New York Academy of Science team to help shape the agenda of the scientific conferences for the Academy.

Ullman enjoyed the role that gave her a broader understanding of current biological research than an esoteric perspective in the lab. She found the work intellectually satiating. Ms. Ullman wanted to pursue a career that kept her toes dipped in the waters of science without the frustration and stress of laboratory work. Her advice to exploring jobs outside academia is to leverage a network of acquaintances and friends who have made the leap.

5. Product Development  

Ian Mulvaney is one of the many people who begin working toward a PhD in science and found it not to be the best fit. After being asked to leave the Columbia University department, he picked himself up and got on with other things.

After doing such things as supply teaching, data entry, and bike courier to pay the rent, it dawned on him just how qualified he was for a career related to science. He applied for three jobs listed in New Scientist.

He got a job in Germany working for Springer Verlag in the copy editing department. While there, Mulvaney felt the need to create better research services.

He got the opportunity to pursue that avenue when he became a Nature Network, product manager. Mr. Mulvaney has no plans to return to research but hopes to continue experimenting with the infrastructure and tools of scientific communication. His advice is to be open to opportunities and willing to try approaches that are a little different.

The Path to a Career is Not Always Straight and Narrow

The choice of a scientific vocation sometimes involves unanticipated and challenging decisions with no guidance available. Some scientists hop from the lab into other industries.

The progress of others is the result of climbing the academic research ladder. Scientists can leave research behind as they explore working in technical roles, setting up a business of their own, teaching, or science communication.



Interested in Intellectual Property Law? Review These Top 8 IP Law Schools

According to a report by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, over 38 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product is made up of intellectual property. To name a few, the field of intellectual property law protects ownership claims to works of art, inventions, and written works.

Any industry involving human creativity presents an opportunity to practice IP law. Intellectual attorney skills are in demand. There is a wide array of international litigation and commercial legal jobs available.

This legal field is becoming central to U.S. policy disputes. Jon Kappes, an Arizona State University lecturer and lawyer, says that IP law, especially patent law and trademark and copyrights, has become a dynamic area of law in recent years.

Congressional members propose revisions to IP laws on a regular basis. More and more Supreme Court cases on the topic arise. The discipline of patent law may be an enticing option for law school hopefuls who know something about science, art, or entertainment.

Law schools vary in the quality of student preparation for practicing IP law. A strong intellectual program includes three things:

  1. Key Courses
  2. Specific Training
  3. Networking Opportunities

Key courses are those that teach how to apply for patents, how to challenge patents, and file lawsuits alleging violations of a patent. Experts suggest IP law courses that discuss how U.S. Law differs from other countries be offered. That knowledge is marketable as attorneys for multinational firms requiring trademarks, copyrights, and patents in multiple countries.

Law schools should provide specific training with experiential learning opportunities such as internships, clerkships, externships, practicums, and clinics in the areas that are of most interest to the students.

A law school’s networking avenues should have solid recruiting relationships with local IP law firms that will provide opportunities for summer work, internships, and externships. There should be an active IP alumni community that attends networking events.

Intellectual Property law schools have been ranked for several years by US News and World ReportThe following schools provide the criteria mentioned above and are typically found on the top IP law schools in US News and World Report rankings:

1. Stanford Law School

Stanford operates the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic that provides students with practical experience. Students represent clients in such areas as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and information technology.

Microsoft provided a grant for the Transatlantic Technology Forum that works to reduce inconsistent policy between the European Union and the United States in areas such as biotechnology, intellectual property, and antitrust law.

2. George Washington University Law School

The IP program at George Washington University Law School is rooted in a Master of Patent Law program that was launched in 1895. 22 advanced courses and four foundational courses are offered that result in an LL.M in intellectual property law. Students participate in various IP competitions and an IP law association.

3. University of California – Berkeley

Although the University of California – Berkeley does not publicize peer rankings or assign letter grades, its legal curriculum is among the most rigorous in the nation, especially in intellectual law.

Boalt Hall was the first law school to establish such an IP program in 2001.

Students have represented clients before the United States Supreme Court, the California Assembly and Senate, the California Supreme Court, the Federal Elections Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission.

4. Vanderbilt Law School

Vanderbilt Law School is located in Nashville, Tennessee. 39 percent of the students who graduate end up in highly coveted positions. 93 percent of the students pass the bar exam.

Nine programs are currently offered. They include intellectual property, international, and social justice. JD candidates focus on specialized areas of law after completing the first-year core curriculum.

5. New York University School of Law

Students at New York University School of Law can earn an LL.M in Competition, Innovation, and Information Law. One international and three foundational courses are required before moving into specialty areas such as evidence, administrative, and corporate law.

Students that participate in the Technology Law and Policy Clinic gain real-world experience as they represent clients on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union. The university publishes the Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law and maintains an Intellectual Proper and Entertainment Law Society.

6. Santa Clara University School of Law

Students can take more than 40 IP law-related courses at the High Tech Law Institute. Areas include venture capital, startups, Internet law, broadband, and entertainment.

Santa Clara is among the largest American IP programs. The law school houses a think tank known as the Broadband Institute of California, sponsors student groups in biotechnology and intellectual property, and publishes two technology law journals. Through the school’s Entrepreneurs Law Clinic, students provide area entrepreneurs with legal services.

7. Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law

Being in New York City is beneficial to Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law. 30 courses in areas such as commercial, antitrust, arts, music, sports, patent, and Internet law are offered.

Instructors include Daniel Ravicher, who won a Supreme Court patenting case recently; and Susan Crawford, who Time Magazine named as one of the top technology minds.

8. American University Washington College of Law

More than 40 courses in property and information law are offered at American University Washington College of Law. This is another law school that benefits from its Washington, D.C. location.

The school conducts internships with such organizations as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Federal Trade Commission. Through the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, students manage real cases involving patents, trademarks, and copyrights.