Engineers: Why Law School?

(Please Ask Questions and Answer Questions)
User avatar
kaftka juice
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:49 pm

Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby kaftka juice » Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:53 pm

Hello future IPers,

I wanted to know why you decided to forgo engineering in favor of law school. Was it for $$, change of scenery, you disliked engineering? I am actually contemplating right now between going back to school to get a BS (and maybe MS) in engineering or going to law school (I actually started in engineering and somehow decided liberal arts was a better route...HA!).

Since you folks all made the plunge I wanted to know your reasons for choosing law over engineering.

09042014
Posts: 18282
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:47 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby 09042014 » Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:55 pm

I'm a failure at engineering.

You can find a 60K for 40 hr a week, low stress engineering job even in this economy, even from a not so great company.

I recommend it.

EngineeringLawyer
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 6:56 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby EngineeringLawyer » Sun Oct 31, 2010 10:13 pm

Who said I picked one over the other? I didn't see myself running equations, getting a masters or even a PhD, and I'm not a big fan of feeling stuck (especially around a boys club that doesn't know what to do when a female questions them, hmm, guess I wont be getting very far from that aspect), but at the same time I loved the clean logic and solution oriented thinking of engineering. So anyway, I actually deliberately chose my engineering degree to take me to law school from the start. At the end of the day I like the sciences/engineering and I prefer the ever so slightly more humanistic flexibility of legal logic so I combined them. They are by no means mutually exclusive and those with engineering backgrounds do have quite a few niches in law (even outside of IP) where they are valued for their technical acumen (just as they are in finance, for example). I also figured I'd be much more flexible in my life choices if I had my bases covered. I'm not even married to the idea of IP yet, but it is great to know that I have that option and will have a much smaller subset of my colleagues to compete with for those positions. Did I mention I hate being pigeon holed?

User avatar
OrdinarilySkilled
Posts: 266
Joined: Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:22 am

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby OrdinarilySkilled » Sun Oct 31, 2010 10:18 pm

For the $$ and cause engineerings hard.

User avatar
rinkrat19
Posts: 13918
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2010 5:35 am

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby rinkrat19 » Sun Oct 31, 2010 10:22 pm

Not a future IPer, but engineering is f'ing boring. I'm happy to have it as a fallback in case I can't find a legal job, but I would really not prefer to do this for the rest of my life.

My best friend, also an engineer, is taking zookeeping and animal conservation classes in her spare time to keep her sanity.

EngineeringLawyer
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 6:56 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby EngineeringLawyer » Sun Oct 31, 2010 10:23 pm

On a more realistic note, you should keep 2 things in mind for your situation since you are looking at this as an either or: 1. That, from what I've heard, government student loans rarely go out to those going for their second bachelors, and 2. That if you don't plan on going to a school near the tip top of the law school totem pole and can handle the work for an engineering (esp. since you don't already have that background to boost you in law school-although even then the boost wont get you past a relatively small drop in ranking (relative to pre-2009 boosts)), you'll probably make more money, have fewer loans (go to a state school, they're just as good for most engineers), work more reasonable hours, and have a better shot at getting a job.

User avatar
deadpoetnsp
Posts: 149
Joined: Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:57 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby deadpoetnsp » Sun Oct 31, 2010 10:56 pm

The days when your degree dictated your vocation are long gone. A friend of mine is a medical doctor who got an engineering degree and now is working as a patent specialist in the field of medical devices. Another friend of mine has a biotechnology PhD and is a patent attorney. Someone else I know is an accountant and a lawyer. I've tried to answer your question "Why?" below.

I have an engineering Bachelors and Masters. I worked for two years as a technology specialist with patent attorneys and loved the work - it requires a good understanding of science/technology and business. It is exciting to learn about new inventions and know what is going on right now in various fields and to have a chance to forecast future trends. Every month I worked on a new technology domain. I love technology, reading, pushing myself to learn, and writing reports. I also enjoy doing financial analysis and working with numbers. So I find corporate law, M&A law, tax law, interesting as well. Some people enjoy aspects like these, some people don't. So it is not surprising that there exist engineers who want to study law.

Philosophy, math, literature, sociology, political science, psychology, etc majors do go to law school. So why is it surprising that some engineers/scientists would want to learn law as well? Further, there are fields of regulatory and technology law (for example, chemical, pharmaceutical and food safety) where you cannot be a good lawyer without having a good technical background.

There are people who do what they do because they enjoy doing it rather than for the money, however hard that is to believe :D

whymeohgodno
Posts: 2508
Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2010 8:15 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby whymeohgodno » Sun Oct 31, 2010 11:00 pm

deadpoetnsp wrote:The days when your degree dictated your vocation are long gone. A friend of mine is a medical doctor who got an engineering degree and now is working as a patent specialist in the field of medical devices. Another friend of mine has a biotechnology PhD and is a patent attorney. Someone else I know is an accountant and a lawyer. I've tried to answer your question "Why?" below.

I have an engineering Bachelors and Masters. I worked for two years as a technology specialist with patent attorneys and loved the work - it requires a good understanding of science/technology and business. It is exciting to learn about new inventions and know what is going on right now in various fields and to have a chance to forecast future trends. Every month I worked on a new technology domain. I love technology, reading, pushing myself to learn, and writing reports. I also enjoy doing financial analysis and working with numbers. So I find corporate law, M&A law, tax law, interesting as well. Some people enjoy aspects like these, some people don't. So it is not surprising that there exist engineers who want to study law.

Philosophy, math, literature, sociology, political science, psychology, etc majors do go to law school. So why is it surprising that some engineers/scientists would want to learn law as well? Further, there are fields of regulatory and technology law (for example, chemical, pharmaceutical and food safety) where you cannot be a good lawyer without having a good technical background.

There are people who do what they do because they enjoy doing it rather than for the money, however hard that is to believe :D

User avatar
kaftka juice
Posts: 97
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:49 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby kaftka juice » Sun Oct 31, 2010 11:12 pm

deadpoetnsp wrote:There are people who do what they do because they enjoy doing it rather than for the money, however hard that is to believe :D


i believe it! i am one of those people. i am really just concerned about where i would be happiest; unfortunately you cannot completely "try out" a career before investing a bit of time into it. i suppose my question isn't so much why you switched from engineering to law, but rather, what opportunities did you believe law provided that you could not get from engineering.

thegor1987
Posts: 323
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:00 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby thegor1987 » Sun Oct 31, 2010 11:56 pm

It is hard to understand what is going on in the legal profession. For example, the GW Law pamphlet indicates 95% employment rate with avg. salary at 138K. However, the TLS and JDU anonymous forums paint a much bleaker picture. Are the unemployed %5 distorting reality by bombarding these sites with claims of a jobless environment for law students? Or is there something bad going on... If so, is it significantly safer to go to law school with a science/engineering history than without?

I am considering taking the patent bar and applying to law school but am worried that there are no jobs.

User avatar
deadpoetnsp
Posts: 149
Joined: Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:57 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby deadpoetnsp » Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:26 am

kaftka juice wrote:
deadpoetnsp wrote:There are people who do what they do because they enjoy doing it rather than for the money, however hard that is to believe :D


i believe it! i am one of those people. i am really just concerned about where i would be happiest; unfortunately you cannot completely "try out" a career before investing a bit of time into it. i suppose my question isn't so much why you switched from engineering to law, but rather, what opportunities did you believe law provided that you could not get from engineering.


Disclaimer: rambling, melodramatic, optimistic or idealistic prose may follow.

Example 1)
A food scientist may learn all about processing food and nutrition and the chemistry and biology behind food. But then that person may gain an interest in how are laws written to ensure that the knowledge behind food science is actually translated into keeping people safe. So you may know that it is essential to keep levels of mercury in fish below certain levels. But practically, how do you ensure that the fish on a dining table indeed has mercury within safe levels? And what should those levels be? What should you assume about how many times is fish eaten by an average person? What if the person is a child? What if the person is old? Now if a food scientist happens to be a person who worries about questions such as these, s/he may be prompted to study law.

Example 2)
I realized this important distinction over the last few years
1) Patent agents are engineers/scientists who have given the patent bar. Typically, they can write patent applications and file them with the USPTO.

2) Patent attorneys are lawyers who are additionally, patent agents. They can not only write and file patents, they can fight cases in the court of law.

Very very vaguely: it is sort-of like the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist (I know it is not a good analogy, but I do not have a better one yet). A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who is also a psychologist. The psychiatrist can prescribe medicines because in addition to understanding the mind, as a medical doctor, s/he also understands the underlying system: the human body. (Disclaimer: no offense meant to anyone and I am not trying to imply one is better than the other)

Now, certain fields like biotechnology or pharmaceuticals have become so technically specialized, that you need a PhD to even understand what's going on scientifically speaking. Practically, by the time you get a PhD, you may have lost the energy to go to law school. So there are many patent agents rather than attorneys in these fields. So you can indeed work in the legal field based on your engineering knowledge without having a law degree (That said, there are individuals who do have the energy to get a PhD and a JD).

However, there are other fields (say chemical engineering) where a bachelor's or a master's degree is enough to understand many technologies. And you may not want to just keep working in one specific area of technology (which is what usually happens with typical engineering jobs: specialization). If you are that kind of person who likes breadth rather than depth, you will probably enjoy being a patent agent/attorney (or a science journalist) than being an engineer. Or if you like reading about technologies but do not enjoy working in the lab as much. Or ... you get the picture ...

Example 3)
A young mechanical/automobile engineer knows everything about cars and engines and everything that goes vrooooom. But then as the engineer grows older, s/he may start worrying about the proper functioning of cars as used by the common man. Are certain kinds of cars prone to safety issues? Is there an engineering solution to it? If so, great! But just having an engineering solution is not enough - you have to make sure that the solution is implemented. So how do you go about making sure that those safety measures are used? Automotive safety law!

Example 4)
Option a)
Worried about pollution? Love the environment? Are you an environmental engineer? Do you want to do something about bringing about changes for the better environmental health of the earth? Get into environmental law and fight those big companies!
Option b)
"Pollution schmollution! I hate the environment" Are you an environmental engineer? Do you want to do something about bringing about changes for the better financial health of the earth? Go and fight those nitpicking environmentalists on the behalf of the big companies!!!

These are examples where a law degree allows you to do something that you could not do as effectively as only an engineer: bring about a change. (yes I know that the economy sucks, you may earn less with a JD than you would with only an engineering degree, yada yada yada)

So it boils down to: what are you passionate about? Do you enjoy science? How much? Do you enjoy doing science in the lab for 8 hours a day? Or would you rather read about science performed by others for 8 hours a day? Do you think about how science/technology interacts with and affects society? Which aspects of this relation pique your interest? Does innovation excite you? Or do you lie awake in bed thinking about the next recall by an automobile manufacturer? If you like science, enjoy reading a lot, and are able to concisely and unambiguously present your understanding in writing (and can continue doing this for 8 hours a day): you are all set to become an (engineering) lawyer!

User avatar
KevinP
Posts: 1324
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2009 8:56 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby KevinP » Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:33 am

I am going to be quite honest here.... I just like the sound of a law degree next to my name. I would like to work in biglaw a max of 3 years to pay off the debt before just doing my own unrelated-to-law thing.

09042014
Posts: 18282
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:47 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby 09042014 » Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:00 pm

KevinP wrote:I am going to be quite honest here.... I just like the sound of a law degree next to my name. I would like to work in biglaw a max of 3 years to pay off the debt before just doing my own unrelated-to-law thing.


Law degrees are embarrassing.

User avatar
dood
Posts: 1639
Joined: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:59 am

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby dood » Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:02 pm

...
Last edited by dood on Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

clintone88
Posts: 117
Joined: Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:10 am

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby clintone88 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:40 am

I'm not choosing law over engineering, I'm choosing both. If you're trying to decide between getting a BS in engineering or getting a law degree, then it generally isn't all that applicable to future or current IPers. Most people who are in IP are engineers and attorneys, not just attorneys (trademarks and copyright excepted of course, but generally when I think IP, I think patent, my grandma could get a copyright on her own). I'm doing law school after engineering because, as much as I love engineering, it simply isn't where I want to be in 15 years. With a job in engineering it is easy to get stuck in a rut, either in one position for your entire life, or on one product for your entire life. Some of the best engineers never get promoted because being promoted in engineering generally implies being promoted OUT of engineering, and your boss may need you as an engineer. If you are promoted, you become a project manager or something along those lines, and you aren't really doing engineering work anymore.

On the other hand, as a patent attorney, I get to respect, interact with and enjoy technology and engineering from a distance. Chances are I won't be stuck prosecuting the same patent for 30 years (a very real chance if you are an expert on a particular product in engineering) and even if I am, in the mean time I will have prosecuted hundreds of other patents, dealt with hundreds of other clients and gotten to experience hundreds of other new technologies.

If you are trying to decide between the two, I think engineering has better career prospects, at least for now. I had several competing offers for full time employment upon graduation, most with starting salaries of 55k-65k. However if you want to take the time to do both law school and get an engineering degree, the career outlook is decidedly better as you can always be an attorney, patent attorney or engineer in the end, and the pay for patent attorneys is quite generous.

czelede
Posts: 689
Joined: Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:54 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby czelede » Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:45 pm

I'm just not passionate about engineering. No, I really actually kind of hate it. It bores me to death. Majoring in engineering was really just a very time consuming mistake, although it probably helped me in terms of analytical thinking and the LSAT. Both my parents are scientists (my dad did his doctoral dissertation on quantum theory) and my state school had a top 5 engineering program, so it kind of just ended up happening for me - by the time I realized how much I didn't want to be in it, too much time had passed. I didn't want to take more than 4 years to graduate (and had already taken a semester off due to an accident, so really 3.5 years) and I kind of decided on applying to law school after some work experience anyhow so I just stuck it out.

User avatar
Noval
Posts: 252
Joined: Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:33 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby Noval » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:53 pm

dood wrote:ITE:

"what do you do?"

"i'm a law student"

"oh.....sorry"




If you got paid 1 cent for each time you posted either a troll or retarded comment, you would be richer than J.D. Rockefeller today.

User avatar
Bluben
Posts: 49
Joined: Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:29 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby Bluben » Fri Dec 17, 2010 3:50 pm

Desert Fox wrote:I'm a failure at engineering.

You can find a 60K for 40 hr a week, low stress engineering job even in this economy, even from a not so great company.

I recommend it.



Yeah thats me, although it is from a "great company."

Anyways, there are hotter chicks in law school than in engineering. Why else would anyone do anything?

User avatar
BriaTharen
Posts: 750
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 5:17 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby BriaTharen » Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:04 pm

Bluben wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:I'm a failure at engineering.

You can find a 60K for 40 hr a week, low stress engineering job even in this economy, even from a not so great company.

I recommend it.



Yeah thats me, although it is from a "great company."

Anyways, there are hotter chicks in law school than in engineering. Why else would anyone do anything?

Anything is hotter when your sample size in engineering is 0-5 per class.

To the OP- I am not a failure at engineering, but after doing a few internships, I knew I wouldn't be happy doing it the rest of my life. I had already planned on looking into law in my last year, but the internships decided it for me.

gerbal
Posts: 84
Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 12:42 am

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby gerbal » Fri Dec 17, 2010 9:57 pm

Are you planning on doing IP? can you tell us a bit about your internship experience?

BriaTharen wrote:
Bluben wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:I'm a failure at engineering.

You can find a 60K for 40 hr a week, low stress engineering job even in this economy, even from a not so great company.

I recommend it.



Yeah thats me, although it is from a "great company."

Anyways, there are hotter chicks in law school than in engineering. Why else would anyone do anything?

Anything is hotter when your sample size in engineering is 0-5 per class.

To the OP- I am not a failure at engineering, but after doing a few internships, I knew I wouldn't be happy doing it the rest of my life. I had already planned on looking into law in my last year, but the internships decided it for me.

User avatar
pu_golf88
Posts: 210
Joined: Thu May 14, 2009 1:34 am

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby pu_golf88 » Fri Dec 17, 2010 10:40 pm

I liked the idea of patent law since high school and after working in engineering this has be reinforced in me.

benedict.assnold
Posts: 17
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:32 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby benedict.assnold » Sat Dec 18, 2010 3:26 pm

Because engineering is the most mundane profession one will ever enter. I just regret my decision not to go to a state school, score a 3.9+/current LSAT score on my way to a FAT scholly.

09042014
Posts: 18282
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:47 pm

Re: Engineers: Why Law School?

Postby 09042014 » Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:09 pm

benedict.assnold wrote:Because engineering is the most mundane profession one will ever enter. I just regret my decision not to go to a state school, score a 3.9+/current LSAT score on my way to a FAT scholly.


Being a comma jockey is definitely more exciting.




Return to “Law School FAQ”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests