By Dorothy Park, McKinney 3L
On a cool Thursday morning as the sun was still rising, a small group of dedicated attorneys and eager law students gathered for a roundtable discussion. The focus topic for the day was any and all things related to Intellectual Property (IP) law. In the brief span of an hour, the students presented a steady stream of questions, on topics ranging from each attorney's favorite aspect of practice, to practical steps that students should take now to improve their chances of breaking into this practice area. The attorneys responded in kind, sharing their wealth of knowledge, gleaned over many years of practice. Following are some of the takeaways.
A strong interest in IP law is a given. Any student who hopes to practice in this area of law – be it copyright, trademark, patent, or trade secrets – is expected to have an interest in IP law. To stand out, though, requires something more: a demonstration of that interest through active pursuit of opportunities that further develop knowledge and skills in IP law. Students should take IP courses offered at school, and if an IP certificate or track is offered, satisfaction of the requirements helps establish an interest in IP law, even if it is not determinative.
For some areas of IP law, certain academic qualifications or certifications are required for practice. Students interested in practicing patent law should consider taking the Patent Bar prior to beginning a job search. Successfully passing this Bar is necessary to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Also, as the position may require, a student may need an advanced or terminal degree in a science.
Practical experience in IP law is also valuable. This could take the form of an externship or internship or even research that produces a significant written product. The unique value in this setting is the prospect of honing softer skills through interaction with others, including clients, colleagues and even firm partners. Another possible benefit is to incorporate previous experiences and non-legal knowledge into supervised legal projects.
Lastly, but certainly not least, students were encouraged to network with purpose. One way to achieve this is by attending conferences or events hosted by local- or regional-level trade associations, such as International Trademark Association (INTA) or ChIPs. Another ways is to participate in professional organization divisions or committees, such as those offered through IndyBar or the American Bar Association (ABA). Yet another option is through requesting with an attorney a conversation over the phone or in person. The goal here is to be the name that comes top of mind when an opportunity opens up.
As the event came to a close, the attorneys and students parted ways, the IP-minded students having gained advice from those who went before them on how to effectively prepare now for a future in practicing IP law.
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