What you need to succeed in this field
- strong technical background
- sound judgment
- ability to make important decisions using imperfect or incomplete information
- ability to spot and analyze potential problems quickly
- people skills
- ability to write extremely well and relatively quickly
What the job entails
Most of Anita’s time is spent writing patents, writing analytical letters, meeting with clients, and reviewing work done by junior attorneys. It is not technical writing, but it needs to be both highly analytical and persuasive, as well as understandable and enjoyable to read.
Her clients are mainly biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical companies, universities and medical device companies. She helps them obtain patents and avoid infringing on the patents of others. During the development of a new drug Anita studies the patents owned by other parties. She advises her client regarding the scope and validity of these patents so that drug development avoids infringing on valid patents of all other parties.
While she was in graduate school, Anita read about some patent litigation, and the issues surrounding patents and other types of intellectual property. It sounded intellectually challenging and analytically complex. She learned that there was tremendous demand for people with a technical background to work in patent law, which offered more opportunities and stability than academia.
Anita was hired by a large law firm as a technology specialist right after her postdoctoral studies.
After a year or two as a technology specialist Anita started law school, while continuing to work at the firm nearly full-time. During this period, she became deeply involved in litigation on behalf of a large biotechnology company that was a client of her firm. She was one of a small number of people who had the right technical background to understand the details of the case.
Anita was given a great deal of responsibility, traveled widely to assist with discovery (e.g., document review and depositions), and assisted with two trials. Between school and the litigation she was generally working from 9 am to midnight or later six or seven days a week for months on end. Anita learned to work under pressure, make decisions, and manage a team. She gained confidence, and learned the value of teamwork.
Upon graduating from Boston College Law School, Anita was promoted to associate, which meant an increase in both salary and responsibilities. She is now a principal, or part owner of the firm.