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Author Topic: Young, B.S. in ME with aspirations of becoming a Patent Attorney  (Read 4486 times)

MechE

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Hi,

I will be graduating next May with a B.S. in mechanical engineering from a well respected southern university. Law school has become a great interest of mine within the past year. More specifically, I have become very absorbed by the possibility of becoming a patent attorney. One of the biggest self-realizations I've had during my time as a college student is that I am a very logical thinker. This has helped me tremendously in my engineering courses and has compensated for my lack of spatial awareness. This, as I am told, is a very valuable skill to has a law school student. I have been doing some very light LSAT studying over the past few months, mainly during the weekend. I have come to the point to where it is time for me to converse with a large group of law student and professionals in order to seek advice on my unique (or not so unique) situation.

As I have said, I am a ME major with a graduation date of May 2012. I started interning for a company last summer and have earned my place as a respected employee. I was offered a full-time job this spring semester with my current employer. Being offered a full-time job as a junior is not something I was about to take for granted and, needless to say, I accepted the position. My employer is unaware of my ambitions to become a patent attorney. I have no intentions of not fulfilling my word with my employer (to become a full-time employee). I do, however, still want to become a patent attorney. So my goal is to be able to work during the day and become a part-time law student at night. This is where my head spins and the questions begin.

- Is being a part-time law student as a 22-23 year old an implausible task if I was to also be a full-time employee?
- Am I wasting the hard earned and very versatile degree I have worked so hard for?
- Does having an engineering degree help my chances at being accepted into a night-time law school program?
- Do patent attorneys get the chance to understand ideas from a client then get the convey those ideas to a jury? I have a great ability to understand and then convey that understanding to someone else in a way that they can also understand.
- Could it be recommended that I do not take my position as a full time employee and instead pursue a FT career as a law student? I am very against this because I hear that experience as a professional engineer is very important asset that many law firms look for.


Please note that I am not only looking for answers to these questions but also looking for ANY advice or suggestions that could in ANY way pertain to my situation. I appreciate any and all advice I can get. Thanks! 

john4040

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Re: Young, B.S. in ME with aspirations of becoming a Patent Attorney
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2011, 03:48:24 PM »
1. Is being a part-time law student as a 22-23 year old an implausible task if I was to also be a full-time employee?
2. Am I wasting the hard earned and very versatile degree I have worked so hard for?
3. Does having an engineering degree help my chances at being accepted into a night-time law school program?
4. Do patent attorneys get the chance to understand ideas from a client then get the convey those ideas to a jury? I have a great ability to understand and then convey that understanding to someone else in a way that they can also understand.
5. Could it be recommended that I do not take my position as a full time employee and instead pursue a FT career as a law student? I am very against this because I hear that experience as a professional engineer is very important asset that many law firms look for.

1. No.  Many 22-23 year olds attend law school on a part-time basis.
2. No.  You could always fall back on your degree.  There's generally more money and room for advancement in patent law, and your job prospects will be better than the average poli-sci/law grad.
3. It will only give a negligible bump, if any, in the admissions process.  If I had to guess, I'd say that 95% of law school admissions is about your LSAT, GPA, and race.
4. Yes.  But, patent litigation doesn't require a science-based undergrad degree.  In fact, some of the best patent litigators are general commercial litigators and do not have technical undergraduate degrees.
5.  It's up to you.  Obviously, work experience could only be a plus.  However, I'm not sure that it's enough of a plus to go part-time.  Firms would probably hire you anyway, assuming you went to a good school and made decent grades.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Young, B.S. in ME with aspirations of becoming a Patent Attorney
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2011, 04:27:09 PM »
- Am I wasting the hard earned and very versatile degree I have worked so hard for?

I am not sure I can address your other questions, but this one struck a chord with me.

One of the reasons I didn't go to Law School earlier is that I felt that doing so would be "wasting" the time I spent getting a degree in Information Systems.

So, on the one hand, yeah, a law degree "wastes" your ME degree since you won't be doing any mechanical engineering as a practicing attorney. 

On the other hand, I'll offer these two perspectives:

1.  Successful attorneys make a lot more money than successful MEs.  Bank on it.  Folks who argue otherwise just don't know what they're talking about.

2.  From a philosophical perspective, education isn't wasted.  Yes, if your goal is to go to law school, I believe your best bet is to get the easiest degree you can get.  Major in communications or Poli Sci or something where grades aren't as hard to get as they are in differential calculus.  At a minimum, they don't require as many hours in the lab as an engineering class.

However, once you get that hard-science degree, I'm sorry, but liberal arts degrees don't teach people how to think.  Some of the people with the worst logical skills I ever met were liberal arts majors, whereas people with a background in the sciences usually had good solid logical foundations for everything they did.

So, is your degree wasted?  I'd say yes and no.  Mostly, you probably got into ME to make money doing something you could enjoy, or at least tolerate.

Using that degree to get you into Law School lets you make money doing something else you can enjoy (or at least tolerate) and you can make a lot more money.

MechE

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Re: Young, B.S. in ME with aspirations of becoming a Patent Attorney
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2011, 10:07:27 PM »

So, is your degree wasted?  I'd say yes and no.  Mostly, you probably got into ME to make money doing something you could enjoy, or at least tolerate.

Using that degree to get you into Law School lets you make money doing something else you can enjoy (or at least tolerate) and you can make a lot more money.



I can really appreciate this. Because, to be honest, 80% to 90% of the reason I want to go to law school and into patent law is because of the money. I want to have a job that I can tolerate and make lots of money. It is a scary thought however when I read about the increase in lawyers and decrease in jobs over the past few years. I don't know if I can make the top 10% of my class, and if that is what it is going to take to land a job as a patent attorney, going to law school becomes a much bigger risk. I will not and do not want to get into a T14 law school. Will this mean that I AM going to have to be in the top 10% or 5% of my L1 class in order to become a 'sexy' applicant to an employer?


Please note that I just read the something awful post on becoming a lawyer and it scared the living crap out of me. 

MechE

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Re: Young, B.S. in ME with aspirations of becoming a Patent Attorney
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2011, 10:17:10 PM »
4. Yes.  But, patent litigation doesn't require a science-based undergrad degree.  In fact, some of the best patent litigators are general commercial litigators and do not have technical undergraduate degrees.

So being a PE and wanting to be involved in patent prosecution does not help me in the eyes of an employer?

john4040

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Re: Young, B.S. in ME with aspirations of becoming a Patent Attorney
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2011, 11:00:47 PM »
4. Yes.  But, patent litigation doesn't require a science-based undergrad degree.  In fact, some of the best patent litigators are general commercial litigators and do not have technical undergraduate degrees.

So being a PE and wanting to be involved in patent prosecution does not help me in the eyes of an employer?

When people say they want to be a "patent attorney," that generally means that they want to do patent prosecution, not litigation.  The best prosecutors usually don't litigate and the best litigators usually don't prosecute.  Your science background is a REQUIREMENT for patent prosecution.  Attorneys can litigate patent claims without a science background.  Thus, your science background will put you ahead in both prosecution and litigation; however, it is less important on the litigation side.  Before you begin your job, you'll probably have to decide whether you want to litigate or prosecute.  There are some attorneys that do both, but usually they are in smaller "jack-of-all-trade" patent firms, and are only good at one or the other.

john4040

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Re: Young, B.S. in ME with aspirations of becoming a Patent Attorney
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2011, 11:06:04 PM »
Will this mean that I AM going to have to be in the top 10% or 5% of my L1 class in order to become a 'sexy' applicant to an employer?

If your object is to make $160K first-year salary, you'll still have to be near the top of your class if your school is outside T14.  Also, it's worth mentioning that top firms are now requiring their associates to have masters degrees in their tech fields.  Currently, EEs are highly sought-after, so, a firm might cut an EE grad some slack.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Young, B.S. in ME with aspirations of becoming a Patent Attorney
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2011, 07:36:43 AM »
It is a scary thought however when I read about the increase in lawyers and decrease in jobs over the past few years.



There was a time in life when I wanted to be a professional musician.  If you think lawyers have it tough...

In a lot of ways, being a highly paid attorney is a lot like most other very lucrative careers.  For instance in music, you have a few people making tens of millions, and thousands upon thousands of people (maybe even millions) who are slogging it out and barely making enough money for rent.

Major league baseball?  A handful making $25 million a year.  Thousands upon thousands of people living in fleabag hotels, scrapping their way through the minors for $18,000 a year. 

Law is nothing near that bad.  According to BLS, the average salary for a salaried attorney (meaning non-partner or solo practitioner) is over $100,000 a year. 

People are smart and markets are efficient.  Lots of people are going into this field specifically because it's lucrative.

However, because there are a lot of law schools cranking out a lot of lawyers, a lot of them are never going to rise higher than the equivalent of single-A ball. 

You're going to have to be good to make money, but it's not nearly the long odds to be good that you face with other professions. 



I will not and do not want to get into a T14 law school.

I'm not.  I have my personal reasons, mostly to do with my son.

Why don't you want to?  I would strongly recommend it.  If you aren't thinking about it, you might want to think again.

Will this mean that I AM going to have to be in the top 10% or 5% of my L1 class in order to become a 'sexy' applicant to an employer? 

Depending on the school you go to, you might have to graduate top 10% just to make what you would make as an ME. 




Please note that I just read the something awful post on becoming a lawyer and it scared the living crap out of me.

It should.  If you do this the wrong way, going to law school could be one of the biggest mistakes of your life.


I sort of figured things out as I went along in life.  However, it took me 20 years to get to where I had things mostly figured out.

Not to shill too much, but I would recommend Thane's book if you haven't read it.  Spring for the cost.  You're looking at making a six-figure investment.  Do it with your eyes open and with the right plan in mind.

http://www.amazon.com/Law-School-Getting-Good-Gold/dp/1888960809/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1306582228&sr=8-1



It's hard to say this without coming across as a jerk, but I am taking what, for most people, would be the "wrong" path to law school, but that's a luxury I can afford.  I sorta made some investments that have set me up pretty well.  Money is still a worry, but not the worry it was back when I had to have a job. 

I might be totally wrong, but I'm guessing you're not in that boat. 

Off the bat, I'd say the things you're already doing incorrectly are:

1.  You're not trying to get into the very best school you can.  Unless you've got a family situation that prevents you from moving, you should be doing just that.  Funny quote in Thane's book about Yale, but I think it applies to any T14 school:  "Go, just go.  Sell a kidney if you have to, but go".  (Paraphrased, but you get the idea.)  If you don't go to the best law school you can possibly get into, you will likely regret it the rest of your life.  (Of course, there's the FalconJimmy plan where you work 13 years in fortune 500 companies, start a couple of small businesses, eventually stumble on one that pretty much works, throw in a few years of military service here and there, and VIOLA!  You're an attorney just starting out at age 50.  I sincerely do not recommend my method.  Follow Thane's.)

2.  If you don't think you can get into a good school, you might be wrong.  Also, you don't need to do T14 to land a Hugh Jass job.  I knew people who attended a school that's ranked somewhere in the 60-ish neighborhood who worked biglaw.  In fact, I knew two of them.  It can be done.  Thane's book does a great job of talking about how to get into a good school.


If you don't have a relative who knows the industry (and the law, as far as I'm concerned, is an industry), then I'd say find a source of information who will give you good stuff.  A lot of the reason it took me so long to get to law school is that I got a lot of very, very bad advice from some very well-intentioned, highly educated people who were basically just guessing based on what they thought they knew of the situation. 

Don't get your guidance from people like that.  Get it from people who have been there and done that.  If you don't know somebody like that, I recommend Thane's book as a good resource.

MechE

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Re: Young, B.S. in ME with aspirations of becoming a Patent Attorney
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2011, 02:14:26 PM »
After further consideration, I have decided not to go to law school. This is partly because of the risk, partly because of the aforementioned forum thread I read, and partly because I met a lawyer with 3 young kids who blew his head off 5 days after meeting him. His firm was being indicted. I'll find something more useful to do with my money