Law school at 40 for an international student w/ 10 years of US patent experience

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Law school at 40 for an international student w/ 10 years of US patent experience

Postby wiredfromback » Sat Dec 09, 2017 1:17 am

Firstly, I'd like to express my thanks for the incredible minefield of resources put together here. This is probably another one of the oft-requested pieces of information, but I guess I'll ask it anyway...

I am a patent professional with close to 10 years of US patent prosecution experience. I started my career at a US patent boutique firm right after a PhD in a STEM field from a state school (Public Ivy). Then I moved back to India to work for another US firm from their India office, and have been here since then. An in-house gig also counts as part of my work experience.

There is the option of studying law in India and taking the patent agent examination, but the India patent practice, with its concomitant lack of rigour and maturity, has never interested me. And since I was there in the US only a year and a bit more post-PhD, I didn't go for the patent bar registration w/ limited recognition. Moreover, I treated the first year as a trial period to see if this patent thing is for me. I was good at it, but I was getting married, so the option to go to India and still work for a US firm was attractive.

Over time, I came to see that there would be a plateau in my career graph without patent related qualifications. And this made me think of law school in, say, 2019.

Some questions:

1. I would be 40 in 2019, so would it be worth going to law school at the mid-career stage? I am married with two kids, and plan to take my family with me if things go well.

2. Would my professional experience count for something in law school admissions and post-law school positions at law firms? I want to be authorized to write opinions and diversify into litigation/litigation support.

3. I went to undergraduate school in India, so I guess the GPA/percentage wouldn't count. My grad school GPA is 3.65, but I think that the focus here was always on research and publications. I have published a few papers, including a couple in the very top Physics journals, and am a co-inventor in a couple of USPTO issued patents. Would the genericity of my experience be a stumbling block in scholarship considerations, in spite of a high LSAT score, because of the lack of a tangible GPA?

4. Would the law school prestige matter that much with regard to a big law position for someone with my background, experience and patent aspirations?

NB: I have been in mid-relatively senior positions in India, but Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) and family obligations make it quite impossible to bear all costs associated with law school.

Thank you very much.

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Bush v. Gorgeous

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Re: Law school at 40 for an international student w/ 10 years of US patent experience

Postby Bush v. Gorgeous » Wed Dec 13, 2017 10:08 am

I say do it! I worked for an IP firm before my current job and there were tons of new attorneys who were middle-aged because they had the tremendous experience and education of someone like yourself. While I am in no way trained for patent work, we have somewhat similar stories in that I work in a firm environment (research manager) and want to do more, so I'm going for it.

A few thoughts:

1. I'm applying right now and will be 37 when I start. I have a child and a husband. I am having a pretty good cycle all things considered, so I wouldn't feel like it would be a deal breaker (especially for programs with IP specializations and who recruit students with the right IP background and thus know about the higher ages).

2. I think your experience would be huge for both. Again, target US schools with IP programs. Make your specific goals clear in your personal statement. Ultimately law schools want students who will succeed...and also like students who want to work in biglaw because those students turn into donors. The fact that you know what you're getting into, have done very similar work, and want to take the next step will, I suspect, be very logical to AdComms. (It appears to be working that way for me.)

3. LSAC would evaluate your transcript and give you a rating (average, above average, etc.). There are plenty of international applicants so schools are used to seeing this. I'm no expert by any means but I'm sure you could get lots of advice on admissions cycles from international applicants who've been there, done that.

4. I think prestige always matters to a certain extent, but knowing your stuff matters more. At the IP firm where I worked, there were people from a range of schools - not just the top 14 or 20 by any means. Just look for strong IP programs (this might be helpful: ... rty-law/45)

Another thing that might comfort you is that strong IP schools tend to have slightly more advanced average student age. GW is a great example of this - the IP strength, plus the fact that it's in Washington, DC (which tends to attract applicants who have been out and working in law, policy, etc. etc.) means their average student age is definitely well above average.

Best of luck in the decision - it is not easy I know.


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Re: Law school at 40 for an international student w/ 10 years of US patent experience

Postby Piggy11 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 11:42 am

I don't think your age would be an issue, and the experience with IP will be a bonus for admissions.
The biggest issue I can foresee would be the fact that you are not currently authorized to work in the US and you are not eligible for the patent bar at this time. The majority of people who go the IP route later in their careers work for a law firm as patent agents, then go to law school part time (most firms would lower your hours but not your pay and would pay for your law school) and stay on as associates once they get their degrees.
If the American firm you work for would be willing to get you a work visa and eventually sponsor you for a green card, you should consider this route - if you had an H1B visa for a "technical specialist" position at a law firm you would be eligible to sit for the patent bar and get limited recognition.
In your position (older, with family living abroad) I don't think I would personally take the huge chance of going through three years of law school without having the visa stuff sorted out and some type of job lined up. Your practical experience would give you a leg up on the IP job search over the people who went to law school right after getting their science degrees, but not over the former patent agents turned lawyers who have the same level of experience but in the US and already have ties with the firms.
Your risk tolerance might well be different from mine, so please don't take the above to mean that you absolutely shouldn't. Just that there is risk involved.

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