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October 11, 2005

Does School Matter for IP?

A reader writes:

I've heard that the quality of the law school matters less when it comes to hiring IP/patent attorneys. I even heard once that it doesn't matter at all where you go to law school, because the demand for such specialized attorneys is so high. Is this true?

Hmm. My impression would be no, this is not true. When I was looking at schools I remember some were singled out as good primarily if you wanted to do IP—some schools have a reputation for being strong in this area. That suggests to me that those schools will give a you a leg up in the IP job search, even if just a small one.

As far as which schools are better for IP and whether demand for IP attorneys is high, I'm not so sure. Does anyone know more?

Posted by mowabb at October 11, 2005 08:11 AM

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Even though I'm into IP I know little about corporate hiring for it, since I'm not into regular IP practice but policy.

One thing to consider is that some schools teach very little IP. Look at the course catalog of a law school in a non-technology area -- they'll probably have an "IP" course, and at most a copyright and patent course (maybe trademark too).

In a specialist school there will be much more. Here at GW we have a course specializing in patent drafting, another in multinational IP, etc . . . . Lots of visiting prof's bring different seminars.

If you want to go into IP practice, another thing to look for is an IP clinic. I would be surprised if they don't exist -- look for schools near technology areas. Though these are probably IP specialist schools already.

Posted by: gr at October 11, 2005 10:10 AM

Also look for schools that might have journals specializing in IP. Chances are, a specialty IP journal means there's enough curricular support for students interested in the subject—and there's probably faculty and institutional support as well.

Posted by: kristine at October 11, 2005 10:37 AM

"IP" is such a generic term, it's impossible to say if the demand for "IP" is high. Yes, in some fields the demand is certainly higher than others, however, to say that just because demand is high that the quality of your school doesn't matter is patently absurd (pun intended).

If the demand is high, you can bet that so will be the supply... many people will pick a field they perceive as being "hot" because of the job prospects, not their own interests. That's not necessarily a wise decision, but that's another post. So what is it that is going to differentiate you from all those other wanna-be IP lawyers: your experience, your grades, and your school.

I'm at a school with a very well regarded IP program (they offer a lot more than just "IP" classes... even a certificate in IP) and that was part of my decision to attend this school. It's true that there is debate about the merits of a program geared toward a legal specialty vs. general legal education with specialization in practice, but think about it: no matter what the field, from law to medicine to cooking, your pedigree always counts for something.

Posted by: Dave! at October 11, 2005 12:21 PM

I would say that since you are focusing on "quality," then yes, quality of the school will always matter. It just depends on how you define quality.

I go to Minnesota, which is by far the "best" law school in the area. Minnesota is a top 20 school, whereas the next closest school is a Tier 3 school. But, that Tier 3 school (William Mitchell) has an outstanding reputation (at least in the area) in IP law, especially in patent law. So, as far as IP goes, Mitchell is considered a fairly high quality IP institution.

But, everywhere else in the country, I would much rather have my Minnesota law degree than a Mitchell law degree, because the quality of a Minnesota legal education is allegedly much higher.

Quality of the school always matters in a job search, no matter how high the perceived demand may be.

Posted by: Unreasonable Man at October 11, 2005 02:55 PM

As for whether your school matters and whether IP being "hot" will necessairly land you a job, consider this... I'm a 2L at Northwestern with a BS and an MS in chemical engineering from Columbia. I've mailed my resume/cover letter/etc to nearly a hundred firms, OCIed with 52, and got one call-back (that didn't end in an offer). So, it can't be all that great of a field.

Posted by: 2L at October 19, 2005 12:42 AM

Yes, school does matter.
If you're looking for proof, go to the firms' websites. Look at their recent associates in their IP groups. While there are more people from lesser regarded schools as compared to the firm's other groups, you'll see that a top school is still an advantage.
Generally, associates from lesser schools are either from that region or have very good grades. This is true even for IP.
What also matters are where you went to undergrad, undergrad grades, and your particular degree. EE is better than CS, for example.

Posted by: Igots at November 6, 2005 01:50 AM