Subscribe

Forum

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby Keven » Wed Mar 14, 2007 2:23 pm

I made the decision about one month ago to leave my postdoc position and pursue a career in patent law. Since that time I have been following the advice of this forum and networking like crazy with various IP attorneys in my area of the world. I have been successful in obtaining 2 offers (with one interview to go yet) using the methods prescribed here, and feel I am indebted to this forum for the help it has provided the last few years.

I thought it might be of use to others to know how I went about this transition from academics to soon-to-be “big law firm” life, so here are some pointers from my experiences. It should be said that these are only my experiences though and may not apply universally.

Contacting people out of the blue:

When I decided I was interested in patent law enough to pursue the area as a career I didn’t know a single patent attorney. Thus my approach to this was focused entirely on cold e-mails. I used a variety of resources including IP Law 360, IP Today, Vault, and The American Lawyer to learn what firms in my area had patent prosecution departments and to learn more detail about the ones I found. I of course also consulted the firms’ websites. I would typically look for firms that had IP practices and had patent agents/tech advisors on staff already. After identifying app 15 such firms I used the attorney search function on the firm websites to identify people I could contact (their email address is always there). At first I contacted anyone that would respond, but this approach doesn’t work very well. It is best to contact people who have a similar background to you and are fairly high up the ladder. The ideal candidate for me would be someone who has a PhD in bio, is a partner, is the head of the group, and who went to law school part-time. This last part is probably the most important. I spent (wasted?) a lot of time speaking with PhDs who quit entirely and went back to law school full-time. All encouraged me to do the same and contact them in the future about summer associate positions. This was not my goal, so onward I went finding better contacts.

When I contacted people I would start simple, saying something like:

“My name is () and I am a postdoc at () in the lab of (). I have an interest in IP law and have been exploring career options in this arena. Would it be possible to meet with you over lunch or coffee sometime to discuss how you made the jump.” No resume/CV.

Most people seemed to respond (>90%) and I would talk to them over the phone, lunch or coffee. If things went well I would ask if they could look over my resume (2 pages max, cut the fat) or if they might be looking to hire a new tech advisor in the near future. These contacts would do one of two things: dead-end or lead to an interview.

Interviewing:

Your first meeting with a given IP attorney is really your first interview. Most questions are general: Why law? Tell me about yourself? Experience with patents? Etc. I found that usually wearing a suit to these meetings made them uncomfortable with me (maybe this is a Cali thing) and sometimes sent them into mentioning several times that this was not an interview. Typically dark dress pants, dark socks, black shoes, black belt, blue button-down shirt was fine (I am male, females probably know the equivalent better than myself). Business casual. Etiquette is important; especially if it is lunch you are eating. Offer to pay, but you won’t.

After the meeting, write a thank-you to everyone who came and spoke with you. Provide the materials they requested or that you offered (resume, manuscripts, writing samples, etc).

If everything goes well during the initial meeting and they are looking to hire someone, you will be invited to return again for a more extensive interview with associates, partners, and agents/advisors in the firm. I always wore a suit and tie to these. Most people ask the same general questions as before, but you get some others as well: Why are patents important to companies? How did you prepare for this interview? Tell me about yourself outside of science. Etc. The general questions can become redundant very quickly, but it is essential to always stay positive and answer the same questions time and again with the same enthusiasm. Overall this stage is a “fit” screen. You looked good enough on paper and in person to the partner you contacted, now what does everyone else think about you? Write thank you notes to everyone you meet during the day. I always used email.

If this goes well, an offer is likely coming. This can move extremely fast. I went from initial meeting, to full day in office interviews, to an offer in 4 days with one firm. From initial cold email to offer was only 2 weeks.

This is what I can think of now from my experiences. I wrote this in part because someone asked some questions, in a previous thread I started, about some of my techniques, etc. If there are any specific questions or comments, post them and I will try to respond in a timely manner.
Keven
 
Posts: 62
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:30 pm

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Mar 14, 2007 5:19 pm

Keven,

I can't tell you how much we all appreciate hearing back from you about your experiences. I'd like to suggest that we add this post of yours to our Forum Primer (the FAQ) because it is considerably helpful. Most importantly, it shows not only that the forum advice works, but it also shows that you have to be flexible when you find an area that DIFFERS from the forum content. And so it is with Law Firms (we've heard this before) where the "peer plus 2" networking method doesn't work as well as getting Partners on the line. With law firms, it appears that Partners are really the ones to contact -- they appear to be most interested in recruitment and they always have a few minutes to spend with a young person who is professionally investigating (as you have) the law field.

Good luck to you Keven, and please keep us informed of your progress!

Dave Jensen, Moderator
"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
 
Posts: 7898
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby Beth9795 » Wed Mar 14, 2007 6:24 pm

Hi Keven,
That is probably THE most helpful patent law post I have ever read, thank you so much!! Might I ask what type of positions are being offered to you? Are/were you looking to be more of a technical specialist at a firm or take the exam and become an agent straight away? I have also been "successful" in speaking with patent attorneys about their career choices, so if anyone out there is extremely nervous to speak to attorneys, don't be! Most of them have been very very friendly and more than willing to chat with me. As I am still pursuing my Ph.D, I haven't really pursued interviews or meetings, but calling around just to get information has been very helpful in my decision making.

Thanks again for this wonderful post!!!
~Beth
Beth9795
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:30 pm

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby Matthew » Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:33 pm

Keven,

Wow! 1 month from email to job is impressive. I am writing this just to reiterate what you and Dave have already indicated...that often the ticket to law firms is the partners. The 2 people that I know who have transitioned from academic postdoc to patent law did so by contacting and having lunch with a partner. I don't think it happened quite as quickly for them, though. Nice job.
Matthew
 
Posts: 186
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby Greg 2 » Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:40 pm

thanks keven. It was interesting and useful to hear about a job search/transition in such a clear and concise way.

Best of Luck!

greg
Greg 2
 
Posts: 248
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby Keven » Thu Mar 15, 2007 12:35 am

Beth said: "Might I ask what type of positions are being offered to you? Are/were you looking to be more of a technical specialist at a firm or take the exam and become an agent straight away?"

Beth--I am being offered positions as a technical advisor (also called scientific advisor). I have not taken the Patent Bar, but when I do I will be a Patent Agent instead. Firms don't seem to care too much about the fact that I have not taken the Patent Bar. Though some of the attorneys I talked with said it would help in a job search since it helps show that you are more serious about law as a career. You would also be paid more from the start. With the firms I have offers from, both have said to take the exam after about 6-12 mos of experience. It is much easier at this point due to hands-on experience. They will also pay for the prep course and exam fees for you.

I plan to start part-time law school next year and eventually become an attorney. The firms will pay the tuition for me to do this. Also, when negotiating offers as an incoming advisor be sure to confirm the ability to negotiate your attorney experience level upon completion of law school. Most seem willing to put you on the partner-track at app the 2-3 years experience level. This is generally for 5 years patent agent/advisor experience.

Being in DC you are in a great area for biotech patent law. The top 4 areas from talking to IP attorneys are: Bay Area, San Diego/OC, Boston and DC. Others are RTP, NJ/NY. DC has great part-time law school programs (G-town, GWU, George Mason) and great IP firms. The competition may be more difficult with the USPTO there though. As an advisor here I will make atleast 50% more starting than a comparable examiner ($ tends to draw examiners away from their current jobs). Firms also love examiner experience.

Good luck with your search.
Keven
 
Posts: 62
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:30 pm

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby Chris Buntel » Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:05 am

Keven:

Congrats on the offers - welcome to the IP world!

Partners at a law firm are "hiring managers". Just like in science, you want to contact the people who have real influence over hiring decisions. Associates, and especially patent agents have little or no hiring power.

Dave's "peer + 2" networking still works in law firms, but more to learn about what life in a firm is really like, and possibly to put you in touch with the right partners. Networking is still very valuable, and should not be abandoned in favor of cold emailing. I, and many other people landed first technical advisor jobs through extensive networking.

Chris Buntel.
Chris Buntel
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby SHU » Sat Mar 17, 2007 9:05 am

Hi Keven,

This is an incredible post, which I've saved to my "must have" reads. I have one question, though: Can you give an example of what the firms are looking for with respect to "writing samples"? Are they looking for briefs or review papers?

I'm in grad school, and expect to graduate in two years. What preparation can I take - including "writing samples" - now to make myself look more attractive prior to fishing for the job? Would a few law courses in grad school help? If so, if I'm limited to, say, 2 or 3 courses, which law classes shoudl I make a priority.


Many thanks,

SHU
SHU
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby Keven » Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:19 pm

SHU said: "Can you give an example of what the firms are looking for with respect to "writing samples"? Are they looking for briefs or review papers?

I'm in grad school, and expect to graduate in two years. What preparation can I take - including "writing samples" - now to make myself look more attractive prior to fishing for the job? Would a few law courses in grad school help? If so, if I'm limited to, say, 2 or 3 courses, which law classes shoudl I make a priority."

Writing samples don't have to be legal in nature, from my experience. I just used portions of review papers I had written in the recent past.

If you are certain about patent law you can take the patent bar prior to "fishing". I don't know that any law classes would help that much. I would instead focus on getting a PT internship with a law firm (check with the firm that drafts your school's patents), your tech transfer office, or a local VC firm that focuses on biotech-related areas.
Keven
 
Posts: 62
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:30 pm

Transitioning to a Big Law Firm

Postby Kat » Mon Oct 22, 2007 11:22 pm

I\'ve found the previous posts in this thread very encouraging, and wish to pursue a career change from bench science to IP law. I don\'t have a PhD, just a BA in molcular biology. Will my lack of a graduate degree prove to be a big stumbling block? (my background: three years as a tech in an academic lab, started working as an RA for a biotech almost one year ago)
Kat
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:31 pm

Next

Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 18 guests