Would appreciate some input on my PS!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
mkdd90

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Would appreciate some input on my PS!

Postby mkdd90 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 3:41 pm

Currently writing my personal statement and am hoping to get some input. I've already been working in patent law for five years so I went with a pretty narrow IP law theme. Patent law unfortunately isn't very "inspirational" but either way it's the most honest take on why I want to get a JD. Any feedback much appreciated!

___

To put it bluntly, my first few hours in the patent law world were not a promising start.

It was August 21, 2012 – Day 1 of a weeklong shadowing program at an IP boutique in Virginia. Apparently a disciple of “baptism by fire,” the supervising partner had immediately handed me a rejected patent case and asked me to put together a rebuttal argument. Not yet realizing what I was getting into, I flipped to page one and took off reading.

Well, “took off” isn’t quite accurate. A better metaphor would be “immediately ran into a brick wall.” If you’ve never read a patent application before, it can best be described as… dense. Extravagant technical jargon mixed with thick legalese, patent applications can seem like they’re designed to make the reader pull out their hair within the first few lines. This case was no exception. While I understood it from an engineering standpoint – related to a radio transmission concept called piggybacking – I could not for the life of me understand the nuances of the legal language. Why did every sentence include some obscure phrasing like “in some embodiments” or “without loss of generality”? And why were the patent claims – supposedly the cornerstone of what a patent protects from infringement – written in language that not even an engineer could hope to understand?

Thoroughly outmatched on the legal side, I gradually realized that I could lean on my electrical engineering background as a foundation – or, more candidly, a crutch – to help understand the case. As explained by the supervising partner, my primary goal was to identify differences between our application and the references cited by the patent office in the rejection. Was there a unique feature in our claims, like a special transmitter, that was actually different from a seemingly similar element in the references? Or, even better, was there something in our claims that the patent office had missed entirely, a claim element that the references didn’t mention at all?

As these lines of analysis churned in my head, I noticed my thought patterns moving and shifting in ways that I had never experienced in engineering. And I was fascinated by this new way of reasoning. In contrast to the fixed, mathematical engineering approach, I found that patent law required thinking in abstract terms, developing mental schematics of counterpart engineering designs and trying to pinpoint the differences between them. And, unlike engineering, I could put my writing talents to use, formulating arguments that drew on both technical knowledge and logical reasoning.

Slowly, surely, I muddled through the legal maze and put together a rebuttal argument countering the patent office’s rejection. And I’m proud to say it paid off: I managed to craft a response that ultimately overcame the rejection and led to grant of the patent.

Now, I have to admit that getting a patent granted would be a pretty minor victory to an experienced patent attorney. But, despite its relatively small stakes in the IP universe, working on that first case turned out to be the catalyst that triggered my enthusiasm for patent law. Captivated by this alternate use of my engineering background, I have spent the six years since progressing deeper and deeper into the world of patent law (or, as the partner amusingly coined it: “into the trenches”). From intern to patent examiner to patent agent, I have examined, drafted, and prosecuted hundreds of cases, passionately applying those same thinking skills that hooked me that first week.

Even though my patent prosecution abilities have come a long way since that first day, I haven’t forgotten that critical reason why I struggled: a solid technical background alone won’t cut it. While technical know-how can occasionally be enough to squeeze by – that first case being a rare example – patent prosecutors must balance their technical side with rigorous legal reasoning skills to successfully serve their clients over the long run. I have witnessed my attorney colleagues demonstrate this firsthand: from writing crisp, appeal-winning arguments to effortlessly issue-spotting when analyzing rejections, it is striking how effective a legal education can be when wielded by a skilled patent prosecutor. And as I look ahead toward my own JD pursuit, I cannot help but be excited to learn these skills for myself.

Law school is therefore not just another hurdle or credential for me, but rather a chance to learn and grow, to shape my own abilities in the same vein as those colleagues, to transform myself from just an engineer with some IP experience into a full-fledged patent attorney. And, while law school may present the same types of legal mazes and brick walls that I encountered in that first case, I am convinced that my passion and enthusiasm will be more than enough to once again guide me through.

Alternate last paragraph - specific to Georgetown

Law school is therefore not just another hurdle or credential for me, but rather a chance to learn and grow, to shape my own abilities in the same vein as those colleagues, to transform myself from just an engineer with some IP experience into a full-fledged patent attorney. And, having looked at all the options, Georgetown Law immediately stands out as my top choice. An elite law school, in my adopted hometown, just a short drive from my family in Maryland, that would also allow me to continue working while studying at the nation’s highest-ranked part-time JD program – in much the same way that patent law has proven the perfect career for me, I am convinced that Georgetown Law will prove the perfect place to take my next step. And I can’t wait for the chance get started.

SomethingLaw

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Re: Would appreciate some input on my PS!

Postby SomethingLaw » Sat Oct 06, 2018 11:57 am

Hey so I am no expert in these matters, but I think I would cut the "into the trenches line" it is not funny enough to take up a whole line. Also, in the alternative Georgetown ending you mention that you would be able to continue working. Is that a good idea? My impression is that a school like Georgetown is going to expect you to be a full time student. Implying that you will be working on the side may count against you.

Again, I am not an expert here.

mkdd90

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Re: Would appreciate some input on my PS!

Postby mkdd90 » Sat Oct 06, 2018 1:48 pm

Sorry for posting again, but I had some weird, Westworld-inspired epiphany and ended up re-writing the whole thing in a more creative way. Please review the below version instead!

___

I love to think. Before you get the wrong idea, I don’t mean in that romantic, philosophical vein of thinking – I’m an engineer, not a Rodin sculpture, and all my thinking is hopelessly rooted in the left-side of the brain. I mean that I love to think in the way that engineering makes you think. The way that solving an engineering problem is like a maze, deliberately testing and probing each possible route until you find the one path – that singular mathematical solution – that leads you safely to the exit.

But, for all my love of engineering mazes, it was a different kind of maze that sent me down the path to now – down the path that led to me write this personal statement. This path started on August 21, 2012, in the exotic locale of... Northern Virginia. Not the most dramatic backdrop, but bear with me. This was the day I first picked up a patent case – the day I found myself standing at the entrance to my first patent maze. This unassuming Monday was Day 1 of my weeklong IP shadowing program at an IP boutique. Apparently a disciple of ‘baptism by fire,’ the supervising partner immediately handed me a rejected patent case and asked me to write up a rebuttal argument. Unsuspecting, unaware, I flipped to page one and took off reading.

Well… “took off” isn’t quite accurate. A better metaphor is – you can probably guess given all this maze talk – “got immediately lost in the first few rows of the hedges.” If you’ve never read a patent application before, they can best be described as… dense. Extravagant technical jargon mixed with thick legalese, patent applications can seem like they’re designed to make the reader pull out their hair within the first few lines. This case was no exception. Peppered with obscure legal phrasings. Decked out head-to-toe in equations. And, worst of all, the patent claims were a mess. Supposed to be the shining, impeccable fortress protecting the invention from infringement, they appeared to me as a cobbled jumble of words, like a crumbling, misshapen tower ominously looming above the tops of the hedges.

Twisting, turning, doubling back, the first few hours were spent hopelessly wandering, trying to probe the different routes through the maze. Thoroughly outmatched on the legal side, I gradually realized that I could lean on my electrical engineering background as a foundation – or, more candidly, a crutch – to help keep me afloat. Put in patent terms, my goal was to identify differences between our application and the references cited by the patent office in the rejection. Was there a unique feature in our claims, like a special transmitter, that was actually different from a seemingly similar element in the references? Or, better yet, was there something in our claims that the patent office had missed entirely, a claim element that the references didn’t mention at all?

As these lines of analysis churned in my head, thoughts moving and shifting, I noticed something... different. Unlike an engineering maze, I wasn’t sticking to fixed routes and paths – I was moving between them. Instead of just pursuing that one, singular mathematical solution, I was finding new ways, new routes, jumping over the hedges and finding hidden shortcuts. Developing mental schematics of engineering concepts, pinpointing differences between them, shifting the wording of the patent claims to change the shape of our patent fortress to be just different enough from the cited references. There was no longer one route to find the end of the maze – there were infinite.

Slowly, surely, and no doubt with invaluable guidance from the partner, I muddled my way through and put together a rebuttal argument. And, by some miracle, the hedges opened up to daylight: I managed to craft a response that ultimately overcame the rejection and led to grant of the patent.

Now, I have to admit that getting a patent granted would be a pretty minor victory to an experienced patent attorney. But, in spite of its relatively small stakes in the IP universe, working through that first patent maze turned out to be the catalyst that triggered my passion for IP law. Captivated, I have spent the six years since progressing from intern to patent examiner to patent agent, moving ever deeper into the world of patents (or, as the partner presciently coined it: “into the trenches”).

Even so, I can’t forget the reason why I struggled in that first patent maze: a solid technical background alone won’t cut it. While I was fortunate that first day, sometimes the only way through the maze is with crisp, clean, appeal-winning writing, with top-notch issue-spotting skills – with the abilities one can only learn in law school. I have come a long way. But I know that I don’t have these abilities yet – I know that there are still patents – mazes – out there that would leave me lost in bushes once again.

And so that’s how a bigger maze – my own maze of life – led me to here: to the pursuit of a JD. And, given my path so far, I know that obtaining a JD isn’t just another hurdle or credential, but rather a chance to learn, to grow, to transform myself from just an engineer with some IP experience into a full-fledged patent attorney.

Or, put in the only fitting way, to find a better way out of the maze.

mkdd90

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Re: Would appreciate some input on my PS!

Postby mkdd90 » Sat Oct 06, 2018 2:43 pm

SomethingLaw wrote:Hey so I am no expert in these matters, but I think I would cut the "into the trenches line" it is not funny enough to take up a whole line. Also, in the alternative Georgetown ending you mention that you would be able to continue working. Is that a good idea? My impression is that a school like Georgetown is going to expect you to be a full time student. Implying that you will be working on the side may count against you.

Again, I am not an expert here.


My bad, I didn't see this before I posted the re-write - thanks for the help! I'll think about taking the trenches line out. Regarding the part-time thing, Gtown actually does have a part-time JD program (highest-ranked school to actually offer one). I'm primarily applying for that one.

mkdd90

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Re: Would appreciate some input on my PS!

Postby mkdd90 » Sun Oct 07, 2018 11:52 am

I love to think. I don’t mean in that romantic, philosophical way of thinking – I mean that I love to think in the way that engineering makes you think. The way that solving an engineering problem is like a maze, deliberately testing and probing each fixed route until you find the one path – that singular mathematical solution – that leads you safely to the exit.

But, for all my love of engineering mazes, it was a different type of maze that sent me down the path to now, down the path that led to me writing these words. This path started on August 21, 2012 – my first day shadowing a partner at an IP boutique in Northern Virginia. Not the most dramatic backdrop, but bear with me. This was the day I first picked up a patent case – the first time I stood at the edge of the legal labyrinth known as patent law. This was the unassuming Tuesday that the partner handed me a rejected patent case and asked me to write up a rebuttal argument. Unsuspecting, ill-equipped, I flipped to page one and took off reading.

Well… “took off” isn’t quite accurate. A better metaphor is – you can probably guess given all this maze talk – “got immediately lost in the first few rows of the hedges.” If you’ve never read a patent application before, they can best be described as… dense. This case was no exception. Peppered with obscure legal phrasings. Decked out head-to-toe in equations. And, worst of all, the patent claims were a mess. Supposed to be the shining, impeccable fortress protecting the invention from infringement, they appeared to me as a cobbled jumble of words, like a crumbling, misshapen tower ominously looming over the tops of the hedges.

Twisting, turning, doubling back, the first few hours were spent hopelessly wandering, trying to probe the different routes through the maze. Thoroughly outmatched on the legal side, hopelessly in need of a map, I discovered that I at least had a compass – my electrical engineering background – to use as a guide, to just barely keep my bearings. Put in patent terms, my goal was to identify technical differences between our application and the references cited by the patent office in the rejection. Was there a unique feature in our claims, like a special transmitter, that was actually different from a seemingly similar element in the references? Or, better yet, was there something in our claims that the patent office had missed entirely, a claim element that the references didn’t mention at all?

As these lines of analysis churned in my head, thoughts moving and shifting, I noticed something... different. Unlike an engineering maze, my thoughts weren’t sticking to fixed routes and paths – they were moving between them. Instead of just pursuing that one, single solution, I was finding new ways, new routes, jumping over hedges and squeezing through shortcuts. Developing mental schematics of engineering designs, pinpointing those technical differences, shifting the shape of our patent coverage – our claims, our fortress – to be just different enough from the cited references. While I still didn’t have a map, while I was still largely lost, my compass was just barely pointing me towards the exit.

Slowly, surely, and no doubt with invaluable guidance from the partner, I muddled my way through and put together a rebuttal argument. And, by some miracle, daylight through the hedges: I managed to craft a response that ultimately overcame the rejection and led to grant of the patent.

Now, I have to admit that getting a patent granted would be a pretty minor victory to an experienced patent attorney. But, in spite of its relatively small stakes in the IP universe, working through that first patent case turned out to be the catalyst that triggered my passion for IP law. Captivated, I have spent the six years since progressing from intern to patent examiner to patent agent, passionately applying those same thinking skills that hooked me that first day, trudging ever deeper into the winding rows, trustworthy compass always in hand.

Even so, I can’t forget the reason why I was so lost in that first patent maze: a solid technical background alone won’t cut it. While my engineering compass was just enough on that first day, sometimes the only way through the maze is with a map – with crisp, clean, appeal-winning writing, with top-notch issue-spotting skills, with the abilities one can only learn in law school. I have come a long way. But I know that I don’t have these abilities yet – I know that there are still patents out there – mazes – that would leave me helplessly lost in the bushes once again.
And so that’s how my own path has led me to this point: to the pursuit of a JD. And, given my path so far, I know that obtaining a JD isn’t just another hurdle or credential, but rather a chance to learn and to grow, to match a map to my compass, to find a way through the maze.

kellyjohnson

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Re: Would appreciate some input on my PS!

Postby kellyjohnson » Mon Oct 08, 2018 10:58 am

So, thinking about GT part time law school, I have to imagine they get tons of applications from patent agents since it is the highest ranked evening program, and patent agents generally work during the day and study in the evening. All of you probably have very similar backgrounds, and all of your letters of recommendations will be very similar ( a partner at a law firm talking about how good you are).

I say all that to get to the point that the personal summary is probably the only way to show your personality, or to tell your story in a way that differentiates yourself from everyone else with the same background and profile. Your PS is the place to tell us "who are you?"

When we finish your PS, the only thing we really know about you is that you are a patent agent with a background in engineering. And we already knew that from your resume. Think about in the admissions office, two people talking about applications, they are going to say "which kid is that? are you talking about the one that worked in Madagascar?" What will they say about you? "Which one is that? The one that is a patent agent in a law firm?" which of course describes tons of applicants.

The central story of "it took time to adjust to patent language after coming from a science/engineering background" is true for probably every single patent agent currently working, no?

It is mostly well written, especially the reworked version, and it does frame the topic in somewhat of an interesting way with the 'maze' framing. If the best answer you have to the question of "who are you?" is "I am a patent agent", then there is not much more you can do with it. But I would encourage you to think about if that really is the best answer you have to the question of "who are you?"

kellyjohnson

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Re: Would appreciate some input on my PS!

Postby kellyjohnson » Mon Oct 08, 2018 11:02 am

Also, get rid of the ellipses...

mkdd90

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Re: Would appreciate some input on my PS!

Postby mkdd90 » Mon Oct 08, 2018 7:20 pm

Hey thank you - this is really good insight and I actually hadn't thought about that aspect of the GT PT program. I did actually work abroad (Europe) as a patent agent for a few years, but I couldn't think of a really captivating way of framing this - working/living over there honestly wasn't all that dramatic and it felt like a stretch to frame my whole PS around it. It's still on my resume and one of the European partners is writing one of my letters, so that aspect will still be reflected in my app.

Also, I did think of a way to make it more personal by tying back to something I loved when I was young (an overused tactic for PSs, but we'll see). Could I PM you the draft when I'm done? Either way I really appreciate the feedback you already gave!

kellyjohnson

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Re: Would appreciate some input on my PS!

Postby kellyjohnson » Tue Oct 09, 2018 10:52 am

I think the work abroad part would certainly differentiate you from others with your background, and I think it may play well for GT which fashions itself as an "international" school. I would think you could find some material from your experiences abroad.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that you need to write about something dramatic or transformative. As you have said, IP law is not PI law (public interest) -- you will not have a story about travelling to syria to free yazedis from sex slavery. I would go the opposite route and go for a story that is light-hearted and relatable, then find some way to hook that into your patent experience. Here is an example:
-----------------------

Part 1 (lighthearted story, no more than two paragraphs): You have been living abroad for three weeks in Spain working as a patent examiner. You are finally becoming comfortable in your surroundings, so much so that you find the confidence to invite a local neighbor over to your apartment for dinner. You are nervous because its your first date with a Spaniard, and you know they are very picky with their food. You decide to give her a taste of home and cook your mom's famous chicken pot pie. As anyone who has lived abroad can attest, grocery shopping is one of the most frutstrating parts of living abroad (how do you say "panko bread crumbs" in spanish?). After spending what seems like hours hunting down the neccessary ingredients, you arrive back in your kitchen and start cooking. You open up the tightly wrapped package of chicken from the butcher only to find two pounds of octopus starting back at you. Due a mix of your Southern accent and a butcher that (as you would later learn) was hard of hearing, when you asked for "un kilo de pollo," the butcher instead thought you wanted "un kilo de pulpo" (the spanish word for octpous). You're date is in an hour, you dont have time to go back to the store. Your whole night might be ruined!

Part 2 (hook this into being a patent agent): Something about how patents have their own language, and to an engineer it is as foreign as Greek to an Ohian. Just like how one misplaced word threatened to ruin your meticulously planned date, one misplaced word in a patent claim can ruin an otherwise well-written (and very expensive) patent. Here if you want you can write about how you felt when you first read a patent (if you can make it fit). You are, in large part, a translator -- inventors pay you $500/hour to translate from equations and engineering language into patent language that can be understood by judge, litigators, and jurors alike. Maybe something about how 60 pages of a patent all boils down to a single sentence at the end (the claim). (This paragraph ties the story above to being a patent agent-- in this case the hook is patents are like their own language, and how mistakes in 'translation' can ruin a patent just like they ruined your dinner).

Part 3: I would possibly give a specific example of a patent you have written. There was an inventor who spent 10 years perfecting his invention . Finally, he decided he was ready and quit his job and raised funds for his own business. He came to you to write this patent about *some technical thing that will impress layperson (a nanocomputer that cures cancer using phased interference) *. He understood that, if successful, there would be billion dollar companies trying to copy his idea, and you were responsible for writing a patent that would protect him and form the core of his business. Not only did you get him a patent, but you worked with him to develop a patent portfolio and strategy that offered him the best protection in multiple countries. (This paragraph just shows that you have client facing experience and have succeeded in satisfying clients, even under pressrue situations).

Part 4: Maybe tie it to law more generally. Maybe something about how, after 6 years, you feel fluent in patent language, but you recognize that is only a single dialect in the larger legal world. You want to get JD to learn how to think like a lawyer, etc. etc.

Part 5: Maybe a paragraph about why georgetown or why other school.

Part 6: A closing paragraph, could just be two lines, that finishes up your main story: "As it turned out, your date's favorite food is octopus, and she thought you were such a great cook that the date turned into a long term relationship. You are planning on serving "octopus-pot-pie" at your wedding next spring." Or maybe, as you discovered, octupus is in fact a potent aphrodisiac. Far from ruining the date, the "octopus-pot-pie" enhanced it in ways your mother's chicken-pot-pie never could (okay, this might be too far). (The main point of this paragraph is just to leave the reader with a smile and tie up your essay, though in this case it also shows that you were able to make the best of a bad situation).
----------------------------


Dont be afraid to take a lot of creative liberties in telling your story. It doesnt have to really be true (dont lie about what country you were in or whatever, but certainly you have some lattitude in creating the story).

I just give this example to show how you can frame your PS around a story that is not overly dramatic or unique. In some ways, its actually better because it is more relatable. In this case it's just a relatable, somewhat humorous, somewhat memorable story that you can somehow 'hook' into patent law. You become the "octopus pot pie guy", which might not be as good as the "cured malaria in Africa guy," but at least its something.

You are a good writer and clearly creative. I'm sure you can brainstorm different stories and ways to tie them into something to do with patents. Feel free to PM me if you want.



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