Job Description

Patent attorneys obtain and/or renew patents on behalf of  inventors and companies. They also advise and represent clients on patent infringement issues and other areas related to intellectual property rights.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Working with self-driven and inspiring inventors
  • Being a crucial part of the innovation process
  • Very intellectually stimulating work
  • Getting to see products of the future before most of the public
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities
  • When applying for patents:
    • Conduct research to ensure the invention in question is not already patent-protected by another inventor, as well as verify the scientific and legal accuracy of the inventor’s claims
    • Draft, file, and submit patent applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
  • In addition to filing applications, patent attorneys:
    • License the patent to other companies, after it has been approved by the USPTO
    • Represent clients in cases of patent infringement
Skills Needed

Soft Skills

  • Interpersonal skills: communicating effectively and building a strong professional relationship with the client
  • Time-management and organization skills

Technical Skills

  • Analytical skills: analyze large amounts of information quickly and efficiently
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Research skills
  • Oral and writing skills
  • Extensive and current scientific and technical knowledge
  • IT skills
Different Types of Organizations
  • Law firms (most common place of employment)
  • In-counsel for companies and/or universities
  • United States Patent and Trademark Office
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Working long hours to hone the craft
  • Years of education and training that require significant commitment
  • Pre-career, holding a 1-2 year apprenticeship role entailing long hours and a relatively lower starting salary
Current Industry Trends
  • Background in a STEM field
  • Proficiency t in technology, i.e. the language of science and math
  • Keep up-to-date on trends within law and technology
  • Social media and digitization is becoming very pervasive within the legal industry
    • E.g. Law firms will sync data to a cloud in a bid to go paperless, enable access to more powerful searching tools, etc. Furthermore, attorneys have to be very careful in terms of what they publish on social media for public view.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • A love for tinkering in high school, which led to the technical aspect of their training
  • A passion for reading and writing often leads to a legal career
  • A love of learning
  • A need to address  groundbreaking topics and develop a familiarity with them in a short amount of time
Education and Training Needed
  • Bachelor’s degree in a hard science or engineering/technology discipline
  • J.D. from an accredited law school
  • Pass the state’s bar exam
  • Patent lawyers must also pass the USPTO’s patent bar
Career Advancement
  • Encouraged to  take CLE (Continuing Legal Education) patent law courses, usually offered by state bar associations as well as the American Bar Association
  • Board certifications offered by state bar associations and other professional organizations, and usually require some years of experience working a patent attorney
  • Join professional organizations or participate in seminars related to their field of expertise
  • Some links to patent law organizations:
Things to do during high school/college
  • Engagement in technology-heavy activities and courses
  • In high school, students can join stem-related clubs: stem-related clubs
  • In college, students can volunteer to work with professors in the labs
  • Maintain your reading and writing skills by taking a balanced course load of STEM and humanities subjects
Typical Roadmap
Patent Attorney Roadmap gif
How to land your 1st job
  • Actively seek a summer apprenticeship or summer associateship program with a law firm or STEM company while in law school; oftentimes such an experience can translate into employment at the firm/company post-graduation
  • Attend job fairs, a career office, on-campus recruiters, etc, offered at law school
  • Narrow your job search by identifying law firms which frequently represent clients that deal with technology within your area of expertise
What it really takes to make it and succeed
  • Success in this field requires a real passion for learning through working with inventors who will teach you about the latest and greatest projects they are working on
  • Understanding how business tool fits in the overall value for a company
How to Find a Mentor
  • Use search engines to  find law firms and companies that are conducting business in areas you are passionate about
  • Names of professionals working in these organizations is usually published with their contact info
  • Reach out to these professionals and see if they are willing to spend just a couple of minutes with you to talk about their career
Recommended Resources

These law blogs have patent law professionals publishing on the latest decisions coming down from the federal circuits or the supreme court, as well as trends that are changing within patent law

Plan B
  • Entrepreneur (for example, with a startup)
  • Employment law and contract law
  • Working within a university on licensing of the technology developed, rather than acquisition of the patents
  • A An in-house position working for a company to directly counsel the decision-makers on actions to take regarding protection of intellectual property


Jobs by
Source: Interviews, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor

Online Courses and Tools