Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Law Students, Get Thee to a Patent Law Class

We’ve spent some time here on LB discussing bad economic straits for law school graduates and first-year attorneys. Is there any positive news for attorney job prospects? Turns out there is.

Patent attorneys are seeing a boom in demand, accounting for as much as 15% of law firm job openings, while representing only 3% of lawyers in the U.S., according to Bloomberg.

The catalyst for the increase in hiring for patent lawyers is said to be the America Invents Act, which is “the most sweeping change to the U.S. patent system in decades,” according to The National Law Journal.

The Act, which became law last month, is designed to bring the U.S. in line with European and Asian countries, which award patents on a “first to file” basis, as WSJ reported.

That shift means more work for in-house patent lawyers, as Corporate Counsel notes. There will be increased pressure on companies to file patent applications fast, perhaps even before all research has been completed.

As the Journal noted, some small businesses and investors opposed the change, pointing out the disadvantage they will have without access to an in-house legal department or patent lawyers on retainer.

“The quantity of qualified attorneys who can perform this work is limited,” T.J. Duane of the legal recruitment firm Lateral Link said to Bloomberg. Without the right kind of experienced lawyers, some law firms might use “general practice attorneys to focus on the nontechnical sides of these complex cases,” Duane told Bloomberg.

Patent attorneys in the U.S. must pass a separate bar exam, as required by the Patent and Trademark Office, and usually have additional degrees in engineering or computer science.

That’s right. A plum legal job awaits. All you gotta do is nab that bachelors of science, a masters in electrical engineering, do well at a top law school, pass the regular bar and pass the patent bar.

By Sam Favate

Source: Wall Street Journal

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