Patent Lawyers

Outlook

Employment Prospects

Employers

Many patent attorneys work for law firms that focus specifically on patent law or the wider field of intellectual property law, although some practice at firms that offer a wider range of legal specialties. Other lawyers practice at larger technology corporations that hire their own in-house counsels, or at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office itself. For all patent lawyers, however, the work environment tends to be formal and often intense, since the amount of money at issue in patent suits is usually substantial.

Starting Out

Internships and clerkships are often good ways to gain experience and enter the law field. You may want to apply for a clerkship in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Court in Washington, D.C. To gain a clerkship, you should write to the judge while you are still in law school. Another option is to get a job at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Finally, many people are recruited by law firms right out of law school. Your law school will have a career services office as well as offer you professional contacts through alumni that help you find a position.

Advancement Prospects

For patent lawyers who excel at combining verbal and technical skills, advancement can be rapid and exciting. It is not uncommon for lawyers with Ph.D.'s in genetic engineering, biotechnology, or other fast-growing fields to find themselves flooded with clients. The most successful of these lawyers can hope to advance to partner positions at their firms or even to establish a sufficient client base with which to start their own firms. 

Tips for Entry

Join the American Intellectual Property Law Association, https://www.aipla.org/resources, which offers resources for students interesting in a career in patent law.

Familiarize yourself with the process of acquiring a patent by reading books about patent law. Many people apply for a patent by themselves and as a result, there are many books explaining the process to a person without a legal background.

Keep a clean driving record. When you graduate law school, you will still need to be approved by the bar, where your background will be checked. As an American Bar Association-approved lawyer, you will need to have a past that is law abiding.

Visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Web site, https://www.uspto.gov, to familiarize yourself with the process of applying for a patent.

Network at state and national bar association career events, conferences, and seminars. Popular events include the American Bar Association’s Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference and AIPLA meetings.