Patent attorney that could use some advice

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Patent attorney that could use some advice

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 09, 2018 3:30 pm

I'm a sixth-year patent prosecution associate at an IP boutique in the mid-atlantic. It's a small firm and not one of the well-known ones.

To be brief, I've decided to leave my current firm partially because the work is drying up. I'm an EE for undergrad and went to a T3 law school (strong GPA). One big issue is that my EE GPA is extremely (and embarrassingly) low.

I have been applying to some posted positions at different firms recently and to my delight I get call-backs and initial/screening phone interviews but as soon as they see my undergraduate transcript I think that’s where the discussion ends and I don't hear from them for a second interview. I know that for patent prosecution your undergrad GPA and school is just as important, and for some firms, more important than your law school and GPA.

From what I've gathered, the interviewers equate having a low EE gpa with difficulty understanding technology. Of course I can understand why they think this and why they are concerned, but in my case I have never had trouble understanding technology or performing my job as a patent attorney. My partner reviews are great and in many cases I understand tech better than the associates I work with. I have a low GPA because I decided to socialize instead of study. I also explain this during interviews, but it doesn't seem to help.

With this in mind I have the following questions:

(1) Is lateraling to a patent attorney position an AMLaw 200 firm or another IP botique even an option given my grades? Am I delirious/naive to think I have a shot?

(2) Is it possible to enter as a junior associate in a new firm (within my credential reach) doing other work such as real estate, telecommunications, etc.? Or do firms only choose from associates from law schools/clerkships? If possible where do I look for jobs for 1 year associates or associates with no experience?

(3) What are my other options besides patent law? Is it possible to totally change tracks/careers and start in a new firm? Has anyone done this or head of anyone who has? Patent prosecution isn't the money-maker it used to be anyway and will soon be dominated by patent agents that can bill lower (my personal view).

(4) Do law firms ask for undergraduate transcripts when applying for positions other than patent prosecution? This may sound like a dumb question but I have no idea.

(5) In general, I think my next step is a recruiter. Do you advise against this? Why or Why not?

(6)What websites should I check for IP job listings? Right now I check indeed.com, AIPLA, PatentlyO, and the "current opportunities" sections of a dozen or so firms.

I really do appreciate your responses and could use your candid feedback!

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Re: Patent attorney that could use some advice

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:19 pm

With this in mind I have the following questions:

(1) Is lateraling to a patent attorney position an AMLaw 200 firm or another IP boutique even an option given my grades? Am I delirious/naïve to think I have a shot?

I don't think grades are as important given the experience.

(2) Is it possible to enter as a junior associate in a new firm (within my credential reach) doing other work such as real estate, telecommunications, etc.? Or do firms only choose from associates from law schools/clerkships? If possible where do I look for jobs for 1 year associates or associates with no experience?

Very unlikely. Switching practice group is a very difficult proposition especially since law firms can just hire new grads.

(3) What are my other options besides patent law? Is it possible to totally change tracks/careers and start in a new firm? Has anyone done this or head of anyone who has? Patent prosecution isn't the money-maker it used to be anyway and will soon be dominated by patent agents that can bill lower (my personal view).

Have you consider patent-lit? That is a very hot field right now. Lit usually don't care about your undergrad GPA.

(4) Do law firms ask for undergraduate transcripts when applying for positions other than patent prosecution? This may sound like a dumb question but I have no idea.

(5) In general, I think my next step is a recruiter. Do you advise against this? Why or Why not?

I personally do not trust recruiters. Never encountered one that is actually worth a dime

(6)What websites should I check for IP job listings? Right now I check indeed.com, AIPLA, PatentlyO, and the "current opportunities" sections of a dozen or so firms.

LinkedIn, gobiglaw, goinhouse.

I really do appreciate your responses and could use your candid feedback!

Full Disclosure: I am not as senior as you, but I have personally lateralled, also have low uGPA, and also entertained the idea about switching practice. So the above responses are based on personal experience and not meant to be authoritative.

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Re: Patent attorney that could use some advice

Postby QContinuum » Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:My partner reviews are great and in many cases I understand tech better than the associates I work with. I have a low GPA because I decided to socialize instead of study. I also explain this during interviews


I don't recommend saying in interviews that you "decided to socialize instead of study." That may lead interviewers to question your dedication. In fact, I don't recommend bringing up your GPA at all - it is what it is, and there's really no way to spin a low GPA into a strength. Rather, try to use some examples to illustrate your technical expertise ("show, don't tell"). Do you enjoy "talking shop" with inventors? Have you ever gotten a patent on a particularly complex invention, perhaps one where the inventor was unavailable and you only had limited notes to work off of? Things like that will help build confidence in your skills.

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PeanutsNJam

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Re: Patent attorney that could use some advice

Postby PeanutsNJam » Thu Aug 09, 2018 9:00 pm

What kind of trash tier employer looks at UG transcripts when considering someone 6 years out of law school (and therefore at least 9 years removed)?

Look for in house gigs.

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Re: Patent attorney that could use some advice

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:40 am

Op here. Thank you for your replies!

PeanutsNJam wrote:What kind of trash tier employer looks at UG transcripts when considering someone 6 years out of law school (and therefore at least 9 years removed)?

That's what I thought, for patent prosecution they apparently still think it's highly relevant.

I don't recommend saying in interviews that you "decided to socialize instead of study."

Thanks for the suggestions. I try to use examples.

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Re: Patent attorney that could use some advice

Postby jhett » Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:05 am

PeanutsNJam wrote:What kind of trash tier employer looks at UG transcripts when considering someone 6 years out of law school (and therefore at least 9 years removed)?

Look for in house gigs.


For patent prosecution, the UG transcript is still important because they need to know your technical background and training.

To OP: unfortunately, the combination of low GPA and relatively unknown current firm makes many firms unwilling to take the risk of hiring you in fear that you might be a dud. To boost your applications, you could list a couple patents that you drafted and are proud of in your resume, and also provide one or two great writing samples (e.g., OA responses) even if the firms don't specifically ask for them.

Aside from the other job boards already mentioned, look at the various IP firm/boutique rankings (like Juristat, https://resources.juristat.com/juristat-top-100) for potential employers and then check their websites for openings. Also, a good recruiter can really help you, but there are a lot of bad ones out there so be careful when choosing one. Lastly, hit up your network and try to find leads via personal connections.

It is highly unlikely that you can switch practices since you are now quite senior. Your best bets are tech trans and IP lit, but you'll need to come up with a really good reason why you want to switch ("my current practice is at a dead end" is not one of them), and you need to demonstrate that you've already started moving in that direction.

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Re: Patent attorney that could use some advice

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 10, 2018 12:42 pm

It is highly unlikely that you can switch practices since you are now quite senior.

OP here. I appreciate your feedback. Do you think it's unlikely even if I have no problem with starting at a 1st year pay scale?

jhett

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Re: Patent attorney that could use some advice

Postby jhett » Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. I appreciate your feedback. Do you think it's unlikely even if I have no problem with starting at a 1st year pay scale?


It's not so much your willingness to take a paycut, but rather an employer's skepticism of your long term stability in a new practice area. For example, they may be worried that (a) you'll jump ship if you find a good position in your old practice area, (b) you discover you don't like the new practice area and leave, (c) you just aren't good at the new practice area, (d) you may balk at doing things that are "beneath" you since you are already accustomed to being a senior associate, (e) you quickly become unsatisfied with the lower compensation and demand more, etc. A fresh law school graduate does not carry this kind of baggage.

You say that you would consider switching practice areas, but you haven't said which other practice areas you would be interested in. As with choosing to go to law school, you shouldn't switch practice areas just because you don't know what else to do. You have to really know what you are getting into before you do it.

Lastly, try applying for in-house positions too. Many companies are moving more IP functions in-house to reduce costs (hence, the drying up of your work).

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Re: Patent attorney that could use some advice

Postby Usernameisanon » Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:03 pm

jhett wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:OP here. I appreciate your feedback. Do you think it's unlikely even if I have no problem with starting at a 1st year pay scale?


It's not so much your willingness to take a paycut, but rather an employer's skepticism of your long term stability in a new practice area. For example, they may be worried that (a) you'll jump ship if you find a good position in your old practice area, (b) you discover you don't like the new practice area and leave, (c) you just aren't good at the new practice area, (d) you may balk at doing things that are "beneath" you since you are already accustomed to being a senior associate, (e) you quickly become unsatisfied with the lower compensation and demand more, etc. A fresh law school graduate does not carry this kind of baggage.

You say that you would consider switching practice areas, but you haven't said which other practice areas you would be interested in. As with choosing to go to law school, you shouldn't switch practice areas just because you don't know what else to do. You have to really know what you are getting into before you do it.

Lastly, try applying for in-house positions too. Many companies are moving more IP functions in-house to reduce costs (hence, the drying up of your work).

OP here: I have sites set on data privacy and security and technology transfer. But, there aren't many (if any ever) openings for candidates with almost zero experience in those fields. I would also do litigation, but then again they would probably rather pull from a law school. Same with post-grant work. Post-grant teams usually promote from within rather than recruit directly from law school or randoms like me.

I'm also applying for some in-house jobs...

I really appreciate your perspective so thanks again.



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