Science vs. IP Law Compensation

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collegebum1989
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Science vs. IP Law Compensation

Postby collegebum1989 » Sun Jun 17, 2012 10:54 pm

Why is it that IP attorneys are compensated significantly higher than engineers/scientists with same amount of experience in their respective fields?

I understand that a JD requires more debt than an engineering education which forces higher starting salaries.

I was looking through median salaries, and even with significant experience an engineer that expects to enter management after 10+ years will make approximately 120-140k from a starting salary from 60-80k based on education (BS,MS,PhD). However, the median salary for an IP attorney coming from law school is somewhere near 100-120k, and can rise high as 200-300k after 10+ years. Even someone with a engineering PhD cannot expect to make that much.

Why such a large disparity in salaries? Most people in science will make the argument that conducting the science and developing products is clearly more rigorous and hands-on than patenting the technology. So then, why do the attorneys receive higher salaries?

2012JayDee
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Re: Science vs. IP Law Compensation

Postby 2012JayDee » Mon Jun 18, 2012 6:28 pm

collegebum1989 wrote:Why is it that IP attorneys are compensated significantly higher than engineers/scientists with same amount of experience in their respective fields?

I understand that a JD requires more debt than an engineering education which forces higher starting salaries.

I was looking through median salaries, and even with significant experience an engineer that expects to enter management after 10+ years will make approximately 120-140k from a starting salary from 60-80k based on education (BS,MS,PhD). However, the median salary for an IP attorney coming from law school is somewhere near 100-120k, and can rise high as 200-300k after 10+ years. Even someone with a engineering PhD cannot expect to make that much.

Why such a large disparity in salaries? Most people in science will make the argument that conducting the science and developing products is clearly more rigorous and hands-on than patenting the technology. So then, why do the attorneys receive higher salaries?


Because
collegebum1989 wrote: a JD requires more debt than an engineering education which forces higher starting salaries.

collegebum1989
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Re: Science vs. IP Law Compensation

Postby collegebum1989 » Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:53 pm

I meant in terms of salary growth. I might be exaggerating considering the market, but hypothetically an IP attorney will have paid back majority of student loans in 10 years and has the potential to earn high six figures, while in 10 years an engineers salary will hover around and plateau around 100k.

What I'm asking pretty much is how is it that you never see statistics of engineers with 200k+ salaries. Is it because the engineers which earn these types salaries move onto more lucrative opportunities (therefore skewing the statistics) or is it because there is something intrinsic about different fields beyond the amount of education which determines market salaries throughout one's career?

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vamedic03
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Re: Science vs. IP Law Compensation

Postby vamedic03 » Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:27 pm

Because companies will pay $400-$1000/hr for legal services. Patent litigation can put billions on the line.

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rayiner
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Re: Science vs. IP Law Compensation

Postby rayiner » Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:39 pm

The Econ 101 answer is that the price of labor is a function of supply/demand, not cost. It doesn't matter how much debt IP attorneys have, what matters is the supply of IP attorneys along with the demand.

The reality is that this is true but also somewhat simplistic. The additional wrinkle is that the dynamics of demand in law are quite different than the dynamics of engineering. Engineers are seen as fungible commodities much more so than lawyers. Outside the top few companies (Facebook, etc), pedigree isn't valued very much (an engineer from MIT doesn't make dramatically more than one from GMU). In law, meanwhile, there is a prestige culture. Law firms mostly hire from the 5,000 or so people that graduate from the top 10-15 law schools. There are only so many people with technical backgrounds amongst this supply, which given the demand for IP attorneys leads to high salaries. The prestige culture of law means that firms would rather pay more to hire from amongst that pool of 5,000 than from the broader pool of 45,000 at the other 190 law schools. That prestige culture doesn't exist in engineering, but does exist in fields like banking and consulting, where they lead to similarly inflated salaries.

collegebum1989
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Re: Science vs. IP Law Compensation

Postby collegebum1989 » Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:40 am

Thank you, that makes a lot of sense. Wish many of my engineering peers known this before starting their PhDs lol.

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rayiner
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Re: Science vs. IP Law Compensation

Postby rayiner » Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:00 am

collegebum1989 wrote:Thank you, that makes a lot of sense. Wish many of my engineering peers known this before starting their PhDs lol.


An engineering PhD is the biggest waste of time imaginable. Unless you manage to get into academia or one of the top companies that hire a lot of PhD's and compensate them at a higher level, you'll be making barely more than you would have just working for the intervening five years with your BS, and it'll be harder for you to find new jobs because you'll be "overqualified."




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