Is IP/patent law a "unique" field in terms of pay?

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LegalBiology

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Is IP/patent law a "unique" field in terms of pay?

Postby LegalBiology » Wed May 30, 2018 8:01 pm

So I am relatively new to being pre-law and have discovered some things about making money in law. It seems like if you want to make great money staring out (160K+) you should go for "biglaw" and have to go to a top 14 law school, or be top 10% in your class/work locally at a top ~30 or get lucky. But does this also apply to patent/IP law?

In other words, are IP lawyers more in demand such that one could start out making 140-180K from any law school and not working in a "biglaw" firm, assuming they had a bachelor's degree in a hard science?

or, if I want to have the high salary in patent law, should I still expect to have to graduate from a top 14 school just like everyone else?

JosefK

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Re: Is IP/patent law a "unique" field in terms of pay?

Postby JosefK » Wed May 30, 2018 8:53 pm

From the tone of your post I'm not sure you've really given enough thought to what it is lawyers do v. other career paths you could take with your science background and I would encourage you to do so. Money is not everything.

To your IP question - first and foremost IP is a huge field, and most of it does not require a technical degree. It encompasses trademarks and branding (don't need a technical degree), transactions (again no technical degree needed), and copyright (again, no technical degree). For these areas, a technical degree may be a small plus, but the school you go to is much more important.

Patent prosecution and patent litigation are the exceptions where a technical degree is useful or required (because of patent bar eligibility). Frankly, patent lit you don't need much technical background either - I know plenty of successful patent litigators with English backgrounds who do district court motion practice and avoid the PTAB. A bachelors is usually fine for patent lit. BUT about 5-10% of every law school is people with BS degrees that would be patent bar eligible (or something around that). So you may get a bump relative to your classmates, but having a BS isn't going to suddenly make you have offers from Tulane that normally only Harvard kids would get. More likely, instead of needing to be top 30% for biglaw at your school maybe you only need top 50% with a technical degree. It's a slight boost and nothing more.

You must have a strong technical background for patent prosecution. EE/CS can get away with a bachelors and get into patent pros, but those days may be numbered given the continued devaluing of those inventions by the judiciary (rightly or wrongly is a question people over on patentlyo.com, an excellent patent blog, debate constantly). If, as I suspect from your user name, you are getting a life sciences bachelors degree, you must have a PhD. At a bare minimum, you should have a masters degree in engineering (e.g., Bio undergrad, BME Masters) but even that is not necessarily enough.

The thing about pay is somewhat moot - biglaw is lockstep, maybe smaller IP firms pay better than smaller general firms, but I can't speak to that as I am in biglaw IP.

tl;dr - high pay is based more or less on whether you get biglaw. Go to the best school you get into, preferably in the T13/14, because unless you have a CS/EE degree or PhD in a life sciences field your technical background will only be a slight boost.

LegalBiology

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Re: Is IP/patent law a "unique" field in terms of pay?

Postby LegalBiology » Wed May 30, 2018 9:09 pm

JosefK wrote:From the tone of your post I'm not sure you've really given enough thought to what it is lawyers do v. other career paths you could take with your science background and I would encourage you to do so. Money is not everything.

To your IP question - first and foremost IP is a huge field, and most of it does not require a technical degree. It encompasses trademarks and branding (don't need a technical degree), transactions (again no technical degree needed), and copyright (again, no technical degree). For these areas, a technical degree may be a small plus, but the school you go to is much more important.

Patent prosecution and patent litigation are the exceptions where a technical degree is useful or required (because of patent bar eligibility). Frankly, patent lit you don't need much technical background either - I know plenty of successful patent litigators with English backgrounds who do district court motion practice and avoid the PTAB. A bachelors is usually fine for patent lit. BUT about 5-10% of every law school is people with BS degrees that would be patent bar eligible (or something around that). So you may get a bump relative to your classmates, but having a BS isn't going to suddenly make you have offers from Tulane that normally only Harvard kids would get. More likely, instead of needing to be top 30% for biglaw at your school maybe you only need top 50% with a technical degree. It's a slight boost and nothing more.

You must have a strong technical background for patent prosecution. EE/CS can get away with a bachelors and get into patent pros, but those days may be numbered given the continued devaluing of those inventions by the judiciary (rightly or wrongly is a question people over on patentlyo.com, an excellent patent blog, debate constantly). If, as I suspect from your user name, you are getting a life sciences bachelors degree, you must have a PhD. At a bare minimum, you should have a masters degree in engineering (e.g., Bio undergrad, BME Masters) but even that is not necessarily enough.

The thing about pay is somewhat moot - biglaw is lockstep, maybe smaller IP firms pay better than smaller general firms, but I can't speak to that as I am in biglaw IP.

tl;dr - high pay is based more or less on whether you get biglaw. Go to the best school you get into, preferably in the T13/14, because unless you have a CS/EE degree or PhD in a life sciences field your technical background will only be a slight boost.


Hi, thanks for your response. As for your comment on the judiciary, I think I have read some other stuff on TLS about that. Could you (or anyone) elaborate and explain to me what the courts did and how it affects patent prosecution as you say?

JosefK

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Re: Is IP/patent law a "unique" field in terms of pay?

Postby JosefK » Wed May 30, 2018 9:23 pm

I was being a bit dramatic above, but in the Supreme Court's Alice and Mayo decisions, it made it significantly more difficult to get software / business method claims as well as analytical method/diagnostic claims. Certainly, claims are still granted in all of those areas, and at least for diagnostic claims some judges have pushed back on portions of the Supreme Court's rulings. I'd recommend reading the decisions and commentary / academic scholarship on them if you're interested. Basically, because it's harder to get those types of patents and they are easier to invalidate, one would expect fewer jobs in those technical areas.



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