Thanks for your responses. It's encouraging to hear that it's probably easier to get an IP summer job than a non-IP firm job. Oscars, thanks for your offer to help. However, I'm on the East Coast, and I'd prefer a job on the East Coast also. (Although "beggars can't be choosers" does perhaps apply here.)
What do they look at besides degrees; research experience, publications?
Also, how does it work in IP -- are (e.g.) mechanical engineers also supposed to work on biochemistry problems and vice versa?
If your degree is in Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical or Computer Engineering then you are in the door with most of the Patent/IP Boutiques.
I'm an engineer myself and I do some IP work now (among other things) for biglaw.
There are not too many of us (engr's) in law school, so it is definitely easier for those majors listed above. I have an Architectural Engineering degree, which is along the lines of Civil, and I had a very very very very very tough time getting in with any patent boutiques where they have very specific specialty groups within IP (Chem., Mech. EE), but I was loved by the general practice/biglaw firms who also happened to have an IP group so that's where I am now. I came to find out this was due to the particular nature of the boutiques - many of them would specifically look for Mech. E's to work on their mechanical patents, Chem. E's or Chemical PhD's to work on their drug patents, etc. General practice firms, by contrast, tended not to be that picky. Any science background and you're good to go.
Either way, if you're looking at IP and you have a science background you're in good shape.