Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

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ollie22

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Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby ollie22 » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:32 am

Many IP firms have a technology specialist -> patent attorney track, where they hire you out of an engineering school to work as a technology specialist assisting the patent attorneys, and pay for you to go to a part-time law program, eventually transitioning into becoming a patent attorney (prosecution) at the firm.

The downside to this is that there aren't many schools that offer a night program, and certainly not any of the top schools (I believe that Fordham has one in NY, Suffolk University in Boston, and many of the others are not in cities that such firms have offices in.)

My question is, does the law school choice matter if you are already guaranteed an associate position at the firm? Will it matter if you leave the firm to go elsewhere?

Is it better to pay for law school, and go to a T14 (Or even T5, if you have the grades) school, and then find a job as a patent attorney, or does it not matter? (I have heard that there are differences between prosecution and litigation, so assume prosecution.)

Thanks!

QContinuum

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Re: Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby QContinuum » Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:04 pm

Doing the night program is fine if you're sure you want to stay in patent prosecution. It'll be difficult to impossible to switch out and do something else - everything apart from prosecution cares strongly about law school prestige & grades. (Prosecution cares about prestige too, of course, but it cares primarily about grad school prestige (life sciences) or undergrad/WE prestige (engineering).)

Going to a T13 would certainly give you vastly more flexibility, which can be valuable. But you'll need to weigh that against your COA (and loans).

ollie22

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Re: Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby ollie22 » Tue Oct 16, 2018 5:43 pm

It'll be difficult to impossible to switch out and do something else - everything apart from prosecution cares strongly about law school prestige & grades.


Is this true even after a few years of working at a prestigious firm?

QContinuum

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Re: Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby QContinuum » Tue Oct 16, 2018 10:07 pm

ollie22 wrote:
It'll be difficult to impossible to switch out and do something else - everything apart from prosecution cares strongly about law school prestige & grades.


Is this true even after a few years of working at a prestigious firm?


Especially true after working for a few years - you're more or less locked into the legal area you start in, post-graduation (this is true of any area, not just prosecution).

You'll have the most flexibility you'll ever have to switch areas during law school - and you'll have the most flexibility to do that at a T13. You'd need really gangbuster grades at a T3/T4 school to switch.

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trmckenz

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Re: Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby trmckenz » Thu Oct 18, 2018 1:29 am

FWIW, I am a patent agent who has gone through the decision process of whether to go to law school part time or full time. I’ve had big law firms offer to fund my way through law school. I went through the part-time law school application process. I’ve seen my some of my patent colleagues go through law school part time while working.

I chose to go full time. I am a 2L at UT now. It’s definitely the better play. Here are a few reasons why:

Going to law school at night completely sucks. It is such a slog. It’s not impossible, but my god, it’s miserable. I don’t know how people last through four years of it, between the big law job, the school, and family obligations, it is a lot. As Ron Swanson says, don’t half ass two things... whole ass one thing.

You won’t be pigeonholed into doing patent work if you go full time. Even with my strong IP background (electrical engineer, 5 years of patent law experience), I will be joining an office of a firm that doesn’t do IP work at all. I can say with confidence that if I had gone to law school part time, I would have been (or at least felt) stuck doing patent work. It’s important to understand that going part-time really ties you to one specific practice group at one specific firm... it’s much better to have options at the beginning of your career.

Lastly, which law school you go to matters. A lot. So much. Probably too much. It sets your place in the pecking order, for better or for worse, and it stays with you forever. Now is the time to set yourself up, so reach for the stars. I transferred up law schools; I have seen the difference bewteeen A and B. My jump of less than 10 slots up US News rankings has been significant in terms of job opportunities and academics. T20 or bust.

My advice is to crush the LSAT and go to the best school you can get into. Take out loans or whatever you gotta do. If you have patent-eligible background, you will have much less risk than your peers when job hunting begins, so don’t worry too much. The best thing you can do is go to a top school so that you have lots of options. And then you’ll get your pick of firm and practice area!

Happy to help with any questions. Feel free to PM. Good luck.

UniX01

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Re: Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby UniX01 » Fri Dec 28, 2018 7:04 pm

Night student here in my final (4th) year.

Honestly, you really have to weigh your sanity vs. how much you want to get out of law school. I'm ranked in the top 5, law review, moot court, research assistant position coming up, etc. -- but I've killed myself achieving that while maintaining a professional full-time job (to the point where I've had some health issues come up). If I could do it over again, I would take out additional loans and just go full time in a heartbeat.

Alive97

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Re: Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby Alive97 » Fri Dec 28, 2018 7:43 pm

I would say this is a highly individualized decision, finances being a big part of it. It is not the case that one option or the other is necessarily better as a blanket statement.

QContinuum

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Re: Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby QContinuum » Fri Dec 28, 2018 7:51 pm

UniX01 wrote:Night student here in my final (4th) year.

Honestly, you really have to weigh your sanity vs. how much you want to get out of law school. I'm ranked in the top 5, law review, moot court, research assistant position coming up, etc. -- but I've killed myself achieving that while maintaining a professional full-time job (to the point where I've had some health issues come up). If I could do it over again, I would take out additional loans and just go full time in a heartbeat.

Congrats on your success. I can't even imagine how tough it'd be to be top 5/LR/MC/RA PLUS being a full-time patent agent. And doing all that for four years!

Out of curiosity are you planning on staying at your current firm as a patent prosecutor? If so, what was the impetus for pushing yourself so hard in law school? Or are you transitioning to a different firm/practice area?

Npret

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Re: Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby Npret » Sat Dec 29, 2018 10:22 am

Alive97 wrote:I would say this is a highly individualized decision, finances being a big part of it. It is not the case that one option or the other is necessarily better as a blanket statement.


I agree with this. For many people the chance to graduate debt free with a guaranteed job/career would be like winning the lottery. Even though going to school at night would be insanely difficult, it’s doable for the financial reward at the end.

It’s easy to say just take out hundreds of thousands loans when you’re still in school and haven’t been repaying them.

There isn’t a single right answer here.

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Re: Going to top law school vs. doing night program (IP Law)

Postby JosefK » Sat Dec 29, 2018 12:51 pm

I think pretty much all of the points raised above are pretty accurate - it is a very personal decision.

If you do choose to go the technical advisor route, try to go to the most prestigious/national firm you can, particularly one that does more than just patent prosecution. Just as an anecdote, I went the tech advisor route and was pretty close with a midlevel who went through night school at one of the best night programs, had seven or so years of prosecution experience, and got hammered with questions on his degree when lateraling to a tech transactions position (he was top third or so in his year too). He got the job though because he had been able to do a sizable amount of patent-heavy deal work and litigation prep. I can't imagine he would've been successful had he been at a smaller firm where that sort of work was not available. If you're only doing prosecution, you're going to be stuck doing prosecution most likely.

If your engineering/science credentials are particularly strong (think MIT/Stanford/public ivy or great work experience) I would look into the Fish/Finnegan/MoFo type large patent boutiques and some of the V50 that still have patent prosecution shops or at least tech advisor programs (I think Ropes actually still has one for litigation support, but I could be wrong) because these will give you some broader exposure and the potential to attend day school (I know at least one person from the a couple of the above mentioned firms who was allowed to go to day school). There's no sugar coating it though working and school sucks, whether night or day school. I'm happy with the choice I personally made, but I'm not sure I would've been if I was locked in to only doing prosecution forever.



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