hdosanjh

IP Law without an Engineering/Science Background

14 posts in this topic

Hello everyone,

I'm a 0L and starting at Osgoode in the fall. This is kind of pre-emptive but going into school, IP Law is one of my standout interests. However, when I look at job postings for positions in the field, it seems like firms overwhelmingly look for an applicant with a science or engineering background (I did polisci). 

Would taking the appropriate courses at Osgoode or perhaps doing their specialized intensive offset this requirement? If anyone who works in the field knows, that would be great. I'd like to avoid taking a bunch of IP courses if I can't actually work in the field post-graduation. Also, I acknowledge that it's too early for me to decide what area I want to practice in 100%, I'm just kind of curious. 

 

Thanks! 

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Posted (edited)

 I think I remember reading an article about "IP law or Patent Law", Assuming a guy graduating with degree in Electrical Engineering, he is doing patent law, but sometimes the work assigned for him is biotechnology or genetic engineering. He also faced some rough time, but I think this industry recruit people "with science and engineering  "for a reason.   I guess one be easily understand some of technology theory,  analyze those product well , portray why those invention has novelty , and have patent right granted.

I think in Asia , it's also  dominated by science or engineering graduate at this field. There are some from art major, although proportion is lower or but not none.

I think you can at least take two classes for general understanding , rather than take  seven or eight classes as specialization of ip classes.  So if you don't get in ip law, you still have your other option opening.  You can take copyright law or patent law as general understanding rather than take a bunch of ip for core concentration.  It's good to have some level of understanding of ip law.

 

Edited by akulamasusu
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On 7/14/2017 at 9:26 AM, hdosanjh said:

Hello everyone,

I'm a 0L and starting at Osgoode in the fall. This is kind of pre-emptive but going into school, IP Law is one of my standout interests. However, when I look at job postings for positions in the field, it seems like firms overwhelmingly look for an applicant with a science or engineering background (I did polisci). 

Would taking the appropriate courses at Osgoode or perhaps doing their specialized intensive offset this requirement? If anyone who works in the field knows, that would be great. I'd like to avoid taking a bunch of IP courses if I can't actually work in the field post-graduation. Also, I acknowledge that it's too early for me to decide what area I want to practice in 100%, I'm just kind of curious. 

 

Thanks! 

The good news is that with the exception of the perspective option, all your courses in 1L are already set for you. But, yes, you will likely not go into IP law. It is a specialized area and few IP firms actually hire for OCIs and articling. The ones that do hire largely take students with demonstrated interest in IP law, decent grades, and a science/engineering background. In fact, many of the people I know hired from Osgoode has MSc and PhDs in these fields. Of course, I am not saying that it is not impossible to go into IP law with a non STEM background, but it is incredibly difficult and for most students not worth it. Keep an open mind in 1L and go from there. I recommend you get involved in some clubs and clinics (CLASP, business clinic, law journal, etc.) to make you more well-rounded. 

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It is possible to go into IP law with your background, but very difficult and limited to things like copyright and trademarks; patent prosecution (i.e. drafting) will not be an option for you. Unfortunately, you are competing with PhD's and engineers that also enjoy trade-marks, copyright, and litigation, so to the firms, these people may be a safer bet. I had a PhD in chemistry and am very confident that without this credential, I would not have secured interviews at IP firms. I do not want to tell you that this is impossible, but you may be precluding yourself from other positions by trying to specialize in IP, and yet be unable to actually work in IP.

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18 hours ago, S.U. said:

It is possible to go into IP law with your background, but very difficult and limited to things like copyright and trademarks; patent prosecution (i.e. drafting) will not be an option for you. Unfortunately, you are competing with PhD's and engineers that also enjoy trade-marks, copyright, and litigation, so to the firms, these people may be a safer bet. I had a PhD in chemistry and am very confident that without this credential, I would not have secured interviews at IP firms. I do not want to tell you that this is impossible, but you may be precluding yourself from other positions by trying to specialize in IP, and yet be unable to actually work in IP.

Out of curiosity, what's the path you took from having a PhD to getting a law degree (or vice versa)? Sorry if this is too off-topic, people with deep interdisciplinary studies just fascinate me.

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On 7/14/2017 at 9:26 AM, hdosanjh said:

Hello everyone,

I'm a 0L and starting at Osgoode in the fall. This is kind of pre-emptive but going into school, IP Law is one of my standout interests. However, when I look at job postings for positions in the field, it seems like firms overwhelmingly look for an applicant with a science or engineering background (I did polisci). 

Would taking the appropriate courses at Osgoode or perhaps doing their specialized intensive offset this requirement? If anyone who works in the field knows, that would be great. I'd like to avoid taking a bunch of IP courses if I can't actually work in the field post-graduation. Also, I acknowledge that it's too early for me to decide what area I want to practice in 100%, I'm just kind of curious. 

 

Thanks! 

Usual caveats, my experience is years ago and I had an engineering degree, I did IP litigation for a few years (with an engineering degree, and good marks in law school so I actually articled at a full-service firm to get a broader experience then shifted to an IP firm as an associate), though now my FT career is non-law and I only practice civil litigation part-time (so pay more attention to people like S.U.!).

I've certainly met IP litigators without technical backgrounds, but I don't know how common/feasible it is now, because if a law firm has a choice of hiring you, with some IP courses, or someone else, who may have worse marks in law school but has a technical degree (and maybe even a doctorate), which will be good for client relations and understanding technical things even if not directly related to the field of practice of the law firm (if they specialize in e.g. pharma or something), why would they hire you? How do they know you're even really interested and not just trying to get a job? I think (this is speculation, don't rely on it!) that if you have excellent law school marks and took all the IP courses offered at your law school (or most of them), and it's clear you're really interested, that you should get some interviews, but will you be hired? One firm I interviewed at (again, many years ago) said they offered me an interview only because my marks were good, but they were looking that year specifically for a lawyer with a mechanical engineering background or something like that (they told me this at the beginning of the interview, so it's not like I screwed up and they were giving a polite FOAD!). How much worse will it be for someone without any technical degree? Not sure if it's worth it or how much it would help, but I knew one lawyer who did a part-time professional LL.M. in an area of law they wanted to get into to demonstrate to potential employers they really wanted to do that work, and they got interviews and a job (though whether they needed to go to that extreme, and whether it would work for you for IP, even if you were willing to do that, are uncertain - and are you going to be taking a part-time LL.M. in IP while working at a non-IP firm, how's that going to look to your current employer?).

That said, if you're genuinely really interested in IP why wouldn't you at least take the courses in law school? Your uncertainty over doing so suggests to me that maybe you're not that interested? Unless you think that your marks in IP would be significantly worse than the alternative courses you'd take (though unless the professors have particularly harsh reputations, how would you know that?).

 

20 hours ago, S.U. said:

It is possible to go into IP law with your background, but very difficult and limited to things like copyright and trademarks; patent prosecution (i.e. drafting) will not be an option for you. Unfortunately, you are competing with PhD's and engineers that also enjoy trade-marks, copyright, and litigation, so to the firms, these people may be a safer bet. I had a PhD in chemistry and am very confident that without this credential, I would not have secured interviews at IP firms. I do not want to tell you that this is impossible, but you may be precluding yourself from other positions by trying to specialize in IP, and yet be unable to actually work in IP.

Just one slightly picky thing, for the benefit of OP, in Canada as you know you can become a patent agent without a technical background, it's just that you're not going to have much like finding someone to employ you without such a degree while you're getting the experience needed, as a patent agent trainee, to qualify to write the exam...so it's effectively not an option, but practially not prohibited by law or regulation (i.e. de facto not de jure). in the US you can write the exam without experience, but you need a technical background, and you have to be either a US citizen or resident in the US and entitled to work there to be a patent agent or patent attorney (a patent agent who is called to the bar in at least one US jurisdiction). There are also reciprocal rights but that's getting further afield.

 

 

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On 2017-07-14 at 9:26 AM, hdosanjh said:

Hello everyone,

I'm a 0L and starting at Osgoode in the fall. This is kind of pre-emptive but going into school, IP Law is one of my standout interests. However, when I look at job postings for positions in the field, it seems like firms overwhelmingly look for an applicant with a science or engineering background (I did polisci). 

Would taking the appropriate courses at Osgoode or perhaps doing their specialized intensive offset this requirement? If anyone who works in the field knows, that would be great. I'd like to avoid taking a bunch of IP courses if I can't actually work in the field post-graduation. Also, I acknowledge that it's too early for me to decide what area I want to practice in 100%, I'm just kind of curious. 

 

Thanks! 

I do have one friend who ended up at one of the top IP boutiques despite a lack of science background.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that she had a prior, very successful, career in marketing at a very high level, so was able to carve out a niche for herself in that area dealing with trademarks, advertising and marketing regulation, etc.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest you aren't going to find it easy to replicate her path. 

I think the reality is that for most of the practice in that area you need some scientific background to have the slightest idea what you're doing.  Without that, it's like trying to practice law in Germany without speaking German, you don't have the basic skills you need to understand what's going on.  

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As said above, patent work would be difficult to break into. Those doing patent work without a STEM background are typically more senior and got in before it became more of a requirement. 

However, you do have a shot at TM or copyright work if you get into a full service firm that does that work. Based on my experience, and from talking to others, the STEM kids get sucked into the patent prosecution or litigation work and it leaves an opening for someone else to pick up copyright and TM work. So if that's your interest you could look for a large firm doing that kind of work and then try and get TM and copyright work during an articling rotation (you would likely summer in a different department).

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Thank you all for the help. 

I should have been a little more clear in my original post, but I was referring more to the copyright/tm side. That being said, this was all very informative and I'll probably explore a bunch of different areas once I start off.

Once again, thanks for all the help! 

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Most IP boutiques in Toronto will only hire students with an engineering or science degree (usually MSc or PhD). I think Gilbert's was the one boutique that is flexible on that unwritten rule though. Just take a look at any student profile at any IP boutique (Smart & Biggar, DLA Piper's IP group, Gowling's IP group, Gilbert's LLP, Bereskin & Parr, Deeth Williams Wall).

Your best bet would be to work at a full service firm that has a great IP team. McCarthys, Torys, Goodmans etc. Try to get your hands on some of their IP files and learn through them. 

You'll never do patent prosecution but you are absolutely not barred from practising other areas like IP litigation and Trademarks.

I also work in IP so feel free to drop me a PM if you have more questions. 

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3 hours ago, Jgweebz said:

Most IP boutiques in Toronto will only hire students with an engineering or science degree (usually MSc or PhD). I think Gilbert's was the one boutique that is flexible on that unwritten rule though. Just take a look at any student profile at any IP boutique (Smart & Biggar, DLA Piper's IP group, Gowling's IP group, Gilbert's LLP, Bereskin & Parr, Deeth Williams Wall).

Your best bet would be to work at a full service firm that has a great IP team. McCarthys, Torys, Goodmans etc. Try to get your hands on some of their IP files and learn through them. 

You'll never do patent prosecution but you are absolutely not barred from practising other areas like IP litigation and Trademarks.

I also work in IP so feel free to drop me a PM if you have more questions. 

+1

During OCIs, there were two people from my class hired in the full-service firms with C+/B averages. I started to question how they were offered interviews in the first place (unless they had connections), and then found out both have science/engineering backgrounds and work in the firms' IP departments. I have a close friend at Bereskin who was hired with a C average, but he has a phD and many years of work experience. These firms arguably care more about hiring students with these backgrounds than law school grades. 

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17 hours ago, BeltOfScotch said:

Out of curiosity, what's the path you took from having a PhD to getting a law degree (or vice versa)? Sorry if this is too off-topic, people with deep interdisciplinary studies just fascinate me.

Other way around--I always wanted to go into law, but accidentally got sucked into science. We all make bad life choices, mine just happens to give me the title Dr.

11 hours ago, maximumbob said:

I do have one friend who ended up at one of the top IP boutiques despite a lack of science background.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that she had a prior, very successful, career in marketing at a very high level, so was able to carve out a niche for herself in that area dealing with trademarks, advertising and marketing regulation, etc.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest you aren't going to find it easy to replicate her path. 

I think the reality is that for most of the practice in that area you need some scientific background to have the slightest idea what you're doing.  Without that, it's like trying to practice law in Germany without speaking German, you don't have the basic skills you need to understand what's going on.  

I also knew someone with that background, female as well, but she started in firms about 10 years ago. Now though, I have seen the odd arts background for TM work, so it is definitely possible, but I do not want to say probable or likely. However, if it is what you want, always try, but have a backup plan. Alternatively, when you are in 1st year (or even now), reach out to the firms to someone with the same background as you. Ask them what they did and how they were treated during the whole process. One thing you will learn is that lawyers generally love talking about themselves nearly as much as they genuinely want to help other young lawyers, so take advantage of this culture.

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3 hours ago, S.U. said:

Other way around--I always wanted to go into law, but accidentally got sucked into science. We all make bad life choices, mine just happens to give me the title Dr.

Sounds like a great subtitle for a memoir. Thanks for the response!

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12 hours ago, Jgweebz said:

Most IP boutiques in Toronto will only hire students with an engineering or science degree (usually MSc or PhD). I think Gilbert's was the one boutique that is flexible on that unwritten rule though. Just take a look at any student profile at any IP boutique (Smart & Biggar, DLA Piper's IP group, Gowling's IP group, Gilbert's LLP, Bereskin & Parr, Deeth Williams Wall).

Your best bet would be to work at a full service firm that has a great IP team. McCarthys, Torys, Goodmans etc. Try to get your hands on some of their IP files and learn through them. 

You'll never do patent prosecution but you are absolutely not barred from practising other areas like IP litigation and Trademarks.

I also work in IP so feel free to drop me a PM if you have more questions. 

Jgweebz has the most practical answer from my point of view: you may be able to get some copyright/trademark experience at a large firm, but IP is unlikely to be your bread and butter unless the IP group at your firm is hurting for a copyright/trademark associate and slot into that role - even then, will there be enough copyright/trademark to keep you fed? You may find it compliments another practice area, like M&A.

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