Practicing Engineer - Intellectual Property Law Possibility?

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Practicing Engineer - Intellectual Property Law Possibility?

Postby JayTX » Tue Oct 11, 2016 2:49 pm

Hello All,

I'm not sure of the most appropriate place to post this inquiry - so I've picked this section of the forum.

I am a practicing licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Texas. I have been practicing for approximately 11 years and hold bachelors and masters degrees in civil (structural) engineering from Texas A&M. I work in the areas of structural dynamics, blast resistant design, etc (it's a very niche field). I often consult on legal cases during fire and explosion incident investigations. Lawyers hire my engineering firm to figure out what happened and to support and develop expert testimony. We often times assist the legal counsel with interfacing with regulatory agencies (OSHA, CSB, etc).

I am often approached by legal counsel during the cases I work who ask "have you ever thought about getting a law degree?" To which my usual response is "eh, I'm already 35, I make good money, and law school seems expensive." To which they typically reply "eh, you're still young - and there are tons of scholarships."

So, I thought about it for a while, and I went and attended the open house at St. Mary's School of Law here in San Antonio, Texas. I researched the school, and apparently in the field of law, rankings are very very important (on the internet, at least, and apparently on this website too). The internet says that St. Mary's sucks.

Engineering is also competitive, and at the time I received my masters degree in structural engineering, Texas A&M was in the top 5 in the country. But I've worked with engineers from lesser schools and they're not too bad. Anyway.... I enjoyed the open house, the dean seemed like a good guy, and it's pretty close to my house.

I looked up some firms here in San Antonio and I saw one firm that does intellectual property law (patent law) that says they hire attorneys as associates STARTING at $180,000 per year. I have a coworker with a spouse in the northwest of the country making close to that out of school (she has an undergrad in chemical engineering, but only 2 years of engineering experience prior to her law schooling). This is insane to me, but apparently this is common in the field of intellectual property law.

So my question is - if I already make low six-figure pay...... Is doing a 4 year part-time evening law program at St. Mary's worth it to move into patent law here in San Antonio? I've reached out to some local firms and I'm about to schedule a networking lunch with an engineer-turned-patent-lawyer I found online that was gracious enough listen to my questions.

Thinking about taking the LSAT in February. I'm doing research on if this is even worth it or not before I start studying. If it's worth it, I'll start studying now and do this.

I could also see myself working in employment law/administrative law/litigation, as that's the type of law I participate in right now working on fire and explosion incident investigations.


1. The internet says St. Mary's sucks. But it's the only law school in San Antonio. I want to stay in San Antonio. Thoughts?

2. Anyone have an opinion of St. Mary's intellectual property law program?

3. If I can significantly increase my salary than what I make now after only 4 years of evening law school and passing the bar, that is attractive. However, I have excellent work-life balance at the moment. Howeeeever, patent law also seems very interesting to me.

4. It is possible that my current company would help fund law school if I could make a case for them benefiting from me being a licensed attorney. That would stipulate a minimum employment time with them after my graduation of course, but I think this is a potential option.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something.... any feedback? Advice? I appreciate any insight.


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Re: Practicing Engineer - Intellectual Property Law Possibility?

Postby JOThompson » Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:37 pm

Tagged. Hope you get some responses.

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Mr. Archer

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Re: Practicing Engineer - Intellectual Property Law Possibility?

Postby Mr. Archer » Tue Oct 18, 2016 11:22 pm

I've never heard of St. Mary's, so I am also interested in any responses you get from the patent lawyer.

Law school is much different from engineering school, so I don't think you should view this from your experience with engineers. An engineer from a lower school still had to have a lot of ability to get into school. Someone who goes to a lower ranked law school can kind of sleep-walk in if the school is desperate enough for tuition (there are of course exceptions). Just look at the numbers for St. Mary's to see the quality of students.

You also shouldn't expect an outcome like the one your friend's wife had when considering law school. I assume your friend's wife went to a good law school and did very well in school to get her job. I also assume she'll be working pretty hard for that money. You might be able to achieve the same level of success, but how would you feel about your law school decision if you did not?

You might want to look into St. Mary's some more to get an idea of the academics. After a quick look at the website, I don't see anything about a specific IP concentration or program. They probably have a few generic classes in IP that all law schools have but nothing special. As an evening student, all those classes might not even be available to you.

Those are just some thoughts. Hopefully you'll be able to find someone who can give insight on what you could expect as far as getting a job with that background/education combination.

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Re: Practicing Engineer - Intellectual Property Law Possibility?

Postby lhanvt13 » Wed Oct 19, 2016 12:20 am

I'm doing patent litigation in DC but only just started. But, to get the discussion started, I'll give you my 2c - I'm sure you'll get more helpful responses than mine. Also, I can't speak to employment law or admin law, as I know nothing about those fields.

1. Law school ranking is extremely important for getting those "starting 180k" legal jobs. Some people do get those jobs from lower ranked schools but if I had to bet on their school ranking, they'd likely be the very tippy top of their classes. St. Mary's would be tough to get a "starting 180k" legal job out of. You most likely want to relocate for the sake of job prospects if you do choose law school.

However, one good thing about patent lawyers (probably more so on the prosecution side) is that the rankings affect us less (not sure how much, but from personal experience and experience of those i know, it does). So, if you're set on St. Mary's + a LOT of scholarship money + a real desire to switch fields, then St. Mary's isn't the worst place to start a patent law career... though I do strongly advise against it.

2. The specific IP program, or any specific program, doesn't really matter in terms of getting one of those 180k jobs (minus maybe GW? and some tax programs?).

3. Those 180k jobs generally have bad work-life balance. So, if you're looking for work-life balance, then this career path might not be a good option. viewtopic.php?f=23&t=228583 < look at posts from biglaw (there's 2 prosecution posts and one IP Lit). Prosecution has life a little better, but from your post it seems litigation is more down your alley.

Again, take all this with a grain of salt, as this is mostly personal experience based or anecdotal from what I've seen around me. Happy to chat on Hangouts if you want to pm me!

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