Engineering Job or Law School?

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Engineering or Law?

Engineering Job (60k)
Law School then Patent Lawyer (120k)
Total votes: 56

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Re: Engineering Job or Law School?

Postby northwood » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:02 am

take the job, save some money to put aside for tuition, then when you have enough saved(i.e. to cover at least years 1 and 2) apply to law school without having to take loans. If you get a scholarship, then you have some extra money saved up. Regardless if you drop out or graduate, the money you have put away will give you some of a cushion for you job search.

If you can go to school at night, even better ( cuz then you can work and go to school- and if you hate it- you can drop out and remain at your job)


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Re: Engineering Job or Law School?

Postby Matth0011 » Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:15 pm

cahwc12 wrote:
Matth0011 wrote:I was in your same situation 4 years ago as another ee patent interest. My career path has worked well for me and I recommend it for you.

Step 1
Apply to work at the patent office as an examiner. Within two years, you will know if you actually like patent prosecution. It is not for everyone, but does lead to very steady work. It will also lead to a higher than 60k salary if you are good at it.

After a year or two, if you really like patent law then
Step 2
Go to a inexpensive law school part time. The patent office allows you to live anywhere in the continental US and go to law school working remotely at a certain level. I'm currently finishing my 1L year and I will also say the work helps with legal studies. Right now, I'm able to take care of most of the costs of law school.

Step 3
Go to a firm or stay at the PTO or another government agency maintaining your benefits
I haven't gotten here yet, but there are options you have once your in the Patent field that are not just the big law firm world. By working at the PTO, it does allow you to realize other avenues for a legal degree.

Would you please elaborate more on step 2?

Im not sure what you wanted me in step 2 so ill give it a shot. After working at the patent office for 2 years and getting promoted to a certain level, the patent office allows you to telework with a laptop anywhere in the continental US. There are multiple examiners attending law school throughout the country part time. Many of us selected the best value law school which lead me to a public state law school. As for the work helping with law school, the patent office provides training for patent law which translates well to other first year courses.

The long and short of this post is going to the patent office allows you to see if you like the legal field. If you don't, many people leave and go right back to engineering in the dc area. I would recommend not gambling on going straight to law school with the current high cost of tuition to see if you like it. If a high paycheck is what you are seeking, patent office experience greatly helps in any firm interview and many of my colleagues had no problem getting summer associate positions or full time positions in law firms before graduation just based on a year or two working there.

If you or anyone else has any other questions, feel free to shoot me a personal message to elaborate further.

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Re: Engineering Job or Law School?

Postby J-e-L-L-o » Sat Apr 13, 2013 5:32 am

But it seems as if, as of now, that USPTO isn't hiring. There are no openings on the JOBS website


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Re: Engineering Job or Law School?

Postby iiifly » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:45 am

Take the Job, attend LS part time. So it takes you an extra 1 year, but you're making $ for all 4 instead of 0 for 3.

In my case, I took summer classes will grad this December. And this is with a v. demanding job. Granted, not the best LS in the country (had scholly $$$$ and was close to job).

EDIT: There should be a third option in your vote that says BOTH. I voted for the job.


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Re: Engineering Job or Law School?

Postby Jimbo_Jones » Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:38 pm

Wanted to chime in with my opinion after 5+ years WE in engineering (EE). First off, the mantra around here is to be very weary of (or outright ignore) legal career advice coming from 0L's. I would do the same for the people here offering advice on engineering careers without probably having taken a calculus course let alone worked as an engineer.

Before I elaborate, I recommend taking the engineering job while doing law school part-time. Actually, I recommend taking the patent bar before law school because it will give you somewhat of an idea of what patent law is before you waste time on law school. The combination of industry experience and patent bar will give you a good boost over K-JD students when it comes to employment.

Now, engineering really isn't that bad of a career, but it's not that great either. Rayiner has done a good job of summarizing some of the pitfalls of engineering in this post. I just want to add to it by saying that after about 5-10 years, depending on where you work, you'll essentially be nudge to "shit or get off the pot" and go into management or become a technical expert in a specific technology (doesn't sound too far off of the whole biglaw partner track thing). If you don't, you're facing a strong possibility of being laid off. In fact, most of the engineers I've spoke to where I work (company is listed on the dow) have been laid off at least once every 5-10 years and then brought back after a nice pay cut. Now my company has taken it a step further by bringing back laid off engineers as low-cost contractors so they don't have to pay benefits.

A few more negative aspects to be concerned about: First, (again, at least where I work), pay does not increase that fast at all. Average here is 2.5%-3% per year with outstanding performers around 6% per year. Second, there have been quite a few companies that have all together stopped hiring U.S. engineers. For instance, our five year growth plan shows domestic head-count staying flat through 2018 (that includes low-cost contractors), and all the growth in engineering is in developing countries. Get used to seeing more of that in engineering. Cisco for instance is all over the media outlets touting how they refuse to higher domestically.

One positive is that the hours aren't that bad. I average about 50 hours a week. If you're working new development programs or production support it can get pretty hairy when deadlines loom. Then it can become "you stay till the job is done." But for the most part its not bad.

After having done some part-time work with our IP counsel and some IP law firms, law really doesn't seem any better or worse than engineering. It's just different. They each have their pro's and con's. Even the MBA's here barely make more than they did as engineers.

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