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Author Topic: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school  (Read 997 times)

SillyValleyEngineer

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i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« on: January 10, 2012, 01:29:17 AM »
hello all.  i am a silicon valley software engineer who wants to (potentially) switch career paths.  i want to get a better sense of which fields of law i might be interested in (preferably those that leverage my math and computer science background) by volunteering at a law firm in the silicon valley area.  can you guys give me tips about how to approach a tech law firm about the possibility of volunteering?  how else may i get exposure to the field before applying to law schools?

FalconJimmy

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Re: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2012, 10:42:28 AM »
1.  I presume you are interested in IP law related to the tech industry.
2.  You can take the patent bar exam RIGHT NOW if you want.
3.  If you have that under your belt, I would think it'd be easy to get an internship once you're accepted to a law school.

Best of luck.

SillyValleyEngineer

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Re: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2012, 02:36:10 PM »
I will take that under advisement.  What I really want is a way to start a network of contacts and to get advice from practicing lawyers (in tech) so that I know what I am getting myself into before I apply to law school and switch careers.

FalconJimmy

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Re: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2012, 06:10:39 PM »
I will take that under advisement.  What I really want is a way to start a network of contacts and to get advice from practicing lawyers (in tech) so that I know what I am getting myself into before I apply to law school and switch careers.

So you don't really want to volunteer anywhere.  You just want to pick people's brains.  Just pick up a phone and call around. 

As I said, you can pass the patent bar without being in law school.  When did you think you were going to "volunteer"?  6:00 p.m. to midnight?  Saturday and Sunday?  Attorneys frequently work late and on weekends, but they tend to do that to make $$$ or catch up on projects.  Doing it so they can just give a tire-kicker a flavor for what a law firm is like is going to be a tough sell.

The reality is, if you want to "volunteer", you're going to have to get into a situation where you are showing up on a regular basis so they can teach you, but also get some productive use out of you, too.  Their time is valuable.  They're not eager to just waste it every time somebody shows up and says, "hey, I might like the law, I might not... why don't you guys go to the trouble of helping me decide?"

If you passed the patent bar, you wouldn't necessarily have to be enrolled in law school.  You could tell them you intend to start in the Fall or whatever.  But you still need to show up, preferrably during normal work hours.  If you won't make that committment, you're not "volunteering" and they're not interested.

And before you say you have some plan of "volunteering" that is somehow short of being an intern, that's highly unlikely.  Keep in mind that even unpaid internships turn down far more candidates than they accept.  A productive lawyer does not have that much time to spend on a person who knows nothing about the law.  You may think you'll be helping, but if you can't put in regular hours on a consistent basis, you're just wasting their time.

Best of luck. 

SillyValleyEngineer

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Re: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2012, 08:16:23 PM »
you sound somewhat cynical, but i do understand your argument about their lack of incentive to mentor someone whom they cannot also use for their purposes.

thanks for the info.  i will make inquiries in other places.

FalconJimmy

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Re: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2012, 08:48:18 PM »
you sound somewhat cynical.

Just telling you like it is.  One of many, many interesting things about being a law student is that people get turned down every day for unpaid internships.  That's how utterly useless a non-attorney is to most law firms.  They will turn you down even if you offer to work for free.

So, although your offer to "volunteer" for them may seem generous from your perspective, it's a total waste of time from their perspective unless you bring something to the table.  Passing the patent bar lets you bring something to the table. 

SillyValleyEngineer

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Re: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2012, 11:15:54 PM »
your point had already been taken, though i would like to pick your brain further. 

is the oversupply of lawyers pervasive across all specialties, or is it endemic to those with a humanities/social science B.A. + JD?  do you know where i can find comprehensive statistics about employment prospects and salary for lawyers according to specialty?

FalconJimmy

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Re: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2012, 12:33:37 PM »
is the oversupply of lawyers pervasive across all specialties, or is it endemic to those with a humanities/social science B.A. + JD?  do you know where i can find comprehensive statistics about employment prospects and salary for lawyers according to specialty?

Oddly, undergraduate degree bears little correlation to success as an attorney.  It bears SOME, but not much.  For instance, some firms actually like to see people with business degrees because their clients tend to be businesspeople.

If you have a degree that lets you sit for the patent bar (some type of hard science, usually), then IP law is actually a pretty good field.  I've heard some people say that IP law, especially in technology fields, is unaffected by the current recession.

What you find, I think, is that employment is GREAT for great graduates of top schools.  (They are the candidates for the legendary $160,000+ starting salaries in biglaw.) 

The prospects for a low-ranking graduate of a not particularly well respected school are pretty close to abysmal.  I don't think it's a stretch to say that those folks will need a small miracle to get a law job of any sort.  For the vast majority of them, the time, effort and expense involved in getting a law degree was a total waste.

So, you sorta work your way down the food chain.  If you attend Harvard, but graduate in the bottom quartile?  You probably still have job opportunities and maybe some good ones.  If you graduate first in your class out of a 3T or 4T, you probably have good prospects.

The average student at an average law school is going to find it a bit of a struggle.  They'll be competing pretty hard for a $60,000 a year job.

As for good sources of data on this, those are hard to find.  Honestly, what little I know on the topic comes from anectdotes from people I talk to.

Do you know which areas you are interested in practicing in?  I guess I sorta presumed you might be a good fit for IP law since you have "engineer" in your nickname, but that's a big presumption.  What are your goals?  To make a lot of money? To work in a specific field?  To save the world? 

You can pursue any of those goals with a law degree and I think you stand a good shot at success on them if that's what you're after.  What are your interests, specifically?  Or do you know at this point? 

SillyValleyEngineer

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Re: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2012, 12:55:33 PM »
I'm a software engineer in the silicon valley area.  i'm interested in finding out about tech IP law.  i also have a passing interest in policy regarding software patents, which is just a clusterf**k right now.  in addition to the job prospects, i really need to find out whether i won't hate the day to day tasks involved with doing the job.

FalconJimmy

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Re: i'm an engineer: how to approach applying to law school
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2012, 10:38:32 AM »
You could always look for the local IP Law Society.  Find when their meetings are.  See if you can attend their functions, talk to their members, etc.