Specialization and post-law-school education

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Should 1Ls be concerned with future specialization in a certain practice area?

Yes.
2
14%
No.
8
57%
No, wait until 2L.
2
14%
No, wait until 3L.
0
No votes
Perhaps. It depends on the practice area.
2
14%
 
Total votes: 14

DAI83
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Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby DAI83 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:41 pm

I'm posting here to elicit others' thoughts on what I think may be a somewhat unique scenario for someone interested in pursuing a career in patent law.

A little background info...I'm currently a 1L at a tier 1. I earned a BS at the United States Military Academy, and majored in Russian language. For those unfamiliar with West Point, all students graduate with a BS due to the core curriculum requirements, and are given the choice to either pursue a math/science/engineering major, or simply complete the core engineering curriculum, and pursue a liberal arts major. At the time (I graduated 6 years ago), I chose to study language because it was my first academic love. As I aspired to a career in the military and entertained an interest in becoming a foreign area officer, the decision to study language also seemed practical. In short, I chose to leave the military, and after taking a few years to re-evaluate my professional goals while earning a modest living working for a small consumer products manufacturer, I entered law school. I should note that some of the reasons I chose to pursue a JD include the challenge of devising creative solutions to practical problems and disputes, the interpretive nature of the law (given my affinity for linguistics), the intellectual challenge generally, and the myriad opportunities to which a JD grants access. Of course, earning potential was also a factor, but personal career fulfillment has always and will always take precedence for me. I don't need an exorbitant salary (nice as that would be), but I do need to love what I do. I did not enter law school with any preconceptions regarding the area(s) in which I wish to eventually practice, though I am quite certain that I do want to practice law, as opposed to taking an alternative career path in another industry.

As to my current quandary, I have spent the past month or two corresponding with attorneys and other professionals from various backgrounds and conducting a broad investigation into areas of legal practice in order to obtain a more in-depth understanding of what each entails, from career opportunities to daily life and practice. To date, patent law is the area I find most interesting, and in which I can easily envision a career of the sort that would be personally fulfilling. Though I did not pursue an M/S/E major in undergrad, I performed very well in West Point's core engineering curriculum, and also possess an affinity for EE/CS. Of course, with a Russian language degree, I know I will have to complete some more schooling before being eligible to sit for the patent bar. I suspect that with my undergrad record and a forthcoming JD, I will have little difficulty getting into an MS program, though uncertainty in this regard is my first cause for hesitation. If I were utterly certain of my ability to go right into an MS/PhD program following graduation and the bar, I would choose such a path. Conversely, if I were fairly certain that I would not be able to obtain entry into at least an MS program, I would rule out patent law and choose another focus area.

I recognize that there is some debate over whether one ought to be concerned with specialization early on. From what I have gathered, the general consensus is that one ought not be unduly concerned with specialization early on unless he/she desires to enter certain fields (patent, I'm told, being one such field). As someone transitioning from one profession to another, I feel strongly inclined to map out a career path early on, though I am open to opinion regarding the utility or efficacy of doing so.

I don't have a particular question for this forum, but would like some general input as to the feasibility of this route (i.e. going back for an MS/PhD following law school). Any advice from those with special experience or knowledge in the IP/patent field, or suggestions as to related alternatives I may not have explored is also appreciated, as are any recommendations regarding books, publications, articles, or other resources that may be helpful in assisting one to learn more about areas of legal practice. If there aspects of this dilemma I haven't considered, and I suspect there are more than a few, please feel free to raise those issues.

Also, if I can be of any assistance to anyone here, I am happy to do so. I am a former Army JMO with an infantry background and some close friends in both the Army and Navy, including a few JAG types. If anyone is considering going that route out of law school, I'd be happy to discuss aspects of military/gov't life if you're interested.

I appreciate any and all responses! Thank you for taking the time to read this far, and for anything you may be able to add to this discussion.

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thesealocust
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby thesealocust » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:22 pm

There isn't any meaningful way to specialize in law school, plenty of people take random or unrelated classes to what winds up being their highly specialized field of practice.

As for patent, you will need an advanced degree in a hard science to make it work. It should be somewhat feasible to do it after your JD, but it's a lot of time and risk.

r6_philly
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby r6_philly » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:51 pm

thesealocust wrote:As for patent, you will need an advanced degree in a hard science to make it work. It should be somewhat feasible to do it after your JD, but it's a lot of time and risk.


Unless you are EE/CS. Then BS would do.

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thesealocust
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby thesealocust » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:03 pm

r6_philly wrote:
thesealocust wrote:As for patent, you will need an advanced degree in a hard science to make it work. It should be somewhat feasible to do it after your JD, but it's a lot of time and risk.


Unless you are EE/CS. Then BS would do.


Well, OP has a non-EE/CS BS, so that door is kind of closed. I doubt firms would be too keen on an undergrad -> JD -> second bachelor in EE path, but I suppose it's at least worth considering?

r6_philly
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby r6_philly » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:12 pm

thesealocust wrote:
r6_philly wrote:
thesealocust wrote:As for patent, you will need an advanced degree in a hard science to make it work. It should be somewhat feasible to do it after your JD, but it's a lot of time and risk.


Unless you are EE/CS. Then BS would do.


Well, OP has a non-EE/CS BS, so that door is kind of closed. I doubt firms would be too keen on an undergrad -> JD -> second bachelor in EE path, but I suppose it's at least worth considering?


OP did say he has an affinity for EE/CS, maybe finish a BS EE/CS on the side (summer/nights) in the next year or so? Depending on how much OP has taken, it may turn out to be like a joint MS degree. Or OP can do a joint JD/MS EE/CS degree, and just take some science class to sit for the patent bar by counting credits?

ETA: if you get a joint JD/MS on your resume, it would probably be enough to convince firms you want to do patent by taking the science classes if you explain your plan.

DAI83
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby DAI83 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:22 pm

Thank you all for the responses! I've set an appointment with student affairs to discuss what options may or may not be available to round out a hard science degree concurrently with, or at least in close proximity to, a JD.

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thesealocust
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby thesealocust » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:24 pm

Also - if you're looking for more about general areas of legal practice, the Chambers & Associate guide has great info on what large law firms do (most corporate matters):

http://www.chambers-associate.com/Artic ... aSummaries

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vamedic03
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby vamedic03 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:31 pm

If you want to do patent lit, you don't need a technical degree. There are several V10 firms that do patent litigation that have a fairly large number fo non-technical degree people doing patent lit.

Two additional thoughts:
(1) the only reason to go back to school after the JD is to teach

(2) I would be very cautious about committing yourself to IP/Patent... that's a lot of schooling/expense for a practice area that you might not like

r6_philly
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby r6_philly » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:27 pm

vamedic03 wrote:If you want to do patent lit, you don't need a technical degree. There are several V10 firms that do patent litigation that have a fairly large number fo non-technical degree people doing patent lit.


I know you don't need it, but having it makes a lot of difference in my job search. Also having patent reg is also advantageous for patent/IP lit (see other threads)

But I agree, don't specifically commit to a practice area by sinking a lot more time/resources into it unless you are sure.

09042014
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby 09042014 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:38 pm

r6_philly wrote:
thesealocust wrote:
r6_philly wrote:
thesealocust wrote:As for patent, you will need an advanced degree in a hard science to make it work. It should be somewhat feasible to do it after your JD, but it's a lot of time and risk.


Unless you are EE/CS. Then BS would do.


Well, OP has a non-EE/CS BS, so that door is kind of closed. I doubt firms would be too keen on an undergrad -> JD -> second bachelor in EE path, but I suppose it's at least worth considering?


OP did say he has an affinity for EE/CS, maybe finish a BS EE/CS on the side (summer/nights) in the next year or so? Depending on how much OP has taken, it may turn out to be like a joint MS degree. Or OP can do a joint JD/MS EE/CS degree, and just take some science class to sit for the patent bar by counting credits?

ETA: if you get a joint JD/MS on your resume, it would probably be enough to convince firms you want to do patent by taking the science classes if you explain your plan.


Getting a BSEE/CS part time, in a year, while in law school? Impossible. No patent prosecution heavy firm is going to hire him for it.

If OP wants to do patent litigation (why would he he's never tried it) he should get a SA, then an offer, at a firm that does a lot of patent litigation. Do general litigation at that firm. They won't hire his specifically for it, but he can try to move into it after he starts. Plenty of non engineers get into patent law this way. I'd say a good 25% of the attorneys in patent law I've met did it this way.

Hell at some firms (Quinn Emanuel LA) you can't avoid patent work.

But if OP is doing this to get the "IP boost" it won't work. It's too late. He won't have an EE/CS by OCI, or even 3L OCI. That ship has sailed.

r6_philly
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby r6_philly » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:39 pm

Desert Fox wrote:Getting a BSEE/CS part time, in a year, while in law school? Impossible. No patent prosecution heavy firm is going to hire him for it.


I got my BS in 1 year while working full-time. Did the gen ed before transferring. If OP already took some class toward it, then it would be doable. I think our core was only 10 classes outside of the normal math/science requirements. If you take stuff this summer and work your schedule really good, you might be able to pull it of, depending on how much you have done prior.

Not practical, but not impossible. Not sure if it will help OP or not, but if we are purely talking about possibility ...

edited for clarity
Last edited by r6_philly on Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

09042014
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby 09042014 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:41 pm

r6_philly wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:Getting a BSEE/CS part time, in a year, while in law school? Impossible. No patent prosecution heavy firm is going to hire him for it.


I got my BS in 1 year while working full-time. Did the gen ed before that.


How'd you do 60+ credits in one year part time? EE curriculum is hard enough if that is all you do. 20 hours in class, 20+ of homework. On top of law school, it's just not possible.

r6_philly
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby r6_philly » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:52 pm

Desert Fox wrote:How'd you do 60+ credits in one year part time? EE curriculum is hard enough if that is all you do. 20 hours in class, 20+ of homework. On top of law school, it's just not possible.


It was really hard. But I happened to enjoy doing CS work so it really didn't feel like "work". :mrgreen:

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sky7
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby sky7 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:00 pm

Hey bro - I'm a graduate of the boat school down by the river, and I just went the patent law route.

1. Are you SURE that you don't qualify for the patent bar? We take so many engineering classes at the academies that you might be able to swing in just on those credits. It'll be pretty close. It might be worth re-looking at your transcript and seeing if you can qualify as a Category B. Our weird classes on military technologies (eg, I had a class named "Weapons" that was an engineering class that counted) often count. Look for ANY engineering classes on your transcript. I also know a guy who is missing the physics credentials and is now taking them at a local college to qualify himself as well as going to law school. Regular college engineering is not like academy engineering - you'll be surprised at how much easier it seems, for whatever reason (probably the lack of academy stress)

2. I'm doing EE/CS myself - the field is super easy to get into. I had horrible undergrad grades, and didn't take a patent law course until my last year in law school, and I still had multiple offers to choose from. Once you qualify for the patent bar, take it immediately. It will help.

3. I found that my academy credentials didn't count much in the regular job search, but it did in the patent search. Not sure why, but there it is.

DAI83
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby DAI83 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:49 pm

Sky7,

Always great to meet another academy grad! Thanks for the input, I'm going to bring my transcripts with me to a meeting with Student Affairs next week and see what they have to say about it. Even if I come up a bit short, I think I'll be able to pull off rounding out some course work on the side. Furthermore, if all it takes is a few more credits to be eligible, and it's feasible to finish those credits prior to graduating law school, (both of which conditions are as of yet uncertain, but I'm looking into it pretty aggressively), then I don't see the downside to keeping that option open (other than a few extra dollars heaped onto the already substantial debt mountain, but hey, at this point, who's counting?). On the other hand, if, as some other posters have suggested, it's not a workable option, then at least I'll know with a better degree of certainty where my limits lie. Maybe mom was wrong...maybe I can't be anything I want to be after all. We'll see...

Congrats on your success as well, and thank you again for your insight. If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to link up offline if/when you have a free moment to get a little more info on your thoughts about doing patent, and how it's been treating you. If so, please let me know how and when would be best to contact you.

Thanks again!

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sky7
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby sky7 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:21 pm

I'll PM you.

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NeighborGuy
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby NeighborGuy » Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:06 pm

thesealocust wrote:Also - if you're looking for more about general areas of legal practice, the Chambers & Associate guide has great info on what large law firms do (most corporate matters):

http://www.chambers-associate.com/Artic ... aSummaries


Thanks for that link!

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Kiersten1985
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby Kiersten1985 » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:26 am

Why does everyone always assume you need a science background to do patent law? It's just not so.

If you want to prosecute patents (i.e., get things patented), then you need a science background. If you simply want to do IP law (infringement, protection, etc.), you don't at all.

Renzo
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby Renzo » Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:20 am

TL,DR.

But, with a few small exceptions (like patent prosecution) you don't really choose your specialty. At best, you will chose a general field of work. After that your employer will give you whatever work is needed of you, you will spend a few years doing it, and you will wake up one day to find that you have a specialty.

r6_philly
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Re: Specialization and post-law-school education

Postby r6_philly » Fri Jan 20, 2012 4:04 pm

Kiersten1985 wrote:Why does everyone always assume you need a science background to do patent law? It's just not so.

If you want to prosecute patents (i.e., get things patented), then you need a science background. If you simply want to do IP law (infringement, protection, etc.), you don't at all.


You don't need it, but employers like to hire people who do have the background over ones that don't. In general.




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