How To Become an Intellectual Property Lawyer
Similar to other highly specialized legal careers, the education and career path for lawyers looking to practice IP law can be long and winded. While studying, taking specific steps will open up specialization opportunities and, more importantly, legal practice experience, followed by a full-time job in a law firm.
The requirements can be pretty steep, however, even for entry-level intellectual property law jobs. Considering you’ll be working with licenses, patents, and digital rights, a certain level of knowledge and familiarity with the subject you’re protecting is a must. All that hard work is not for naught, though - there are many chances for advancement and an enviable annual paycheck. Read on to find out more about jobs in intellectual property law and their requirements.
Every attorney has a slightly different approach when working a case, but there are some commonalities needed to succeed in this career. Here’s what your future employers and clients will expect:
- Strong knowledge of intellectual property law: This should go without saying, but to get and keep any attorney job, one needs to have fully grasped all the intricacies of the law they’re practicing. This goes double for intellectual property attorney jobs, as they require almost constantly refreshing your knowledge and practices.
- Attention to detail: Any good lawyer will tell you that knowing how to spot potentially important particulars can be a tipping point for winning a case. There are many nuances of IP use that can make the difference between fair use and a copyright breach, so an intellectual property attorney needs to know how to spot them.
- IT skills: One specific requirement when working with intellectual property, be it a patent or copyright, is having a decent level of computer skills. You don’t need to be a hacker, but knowing how to search databases, verify information, and having some understanding of tech is imperative.
- Communication skills: To keep an intellectual property attorney job, you not only need to have good public-speaking skills for anything courtroom-related, but you’ll also be required to communicate with your client’s advertising team and even teach them about protecting their IP.
If you’re ready to take up this career path, congratulations! You’ll just need to complete several multi-year courses, get all the necessary certificates, and spend some time as an intern before getting a chance at some proper intellectual property legal jobs.
Don’t let that discourage you, though. This career offers many excellent opportunities and, compared to other options - like becoming a maritime attorney - doesn’t put you through too many hoops.
It all starts at university, of course. After four years of getting an undergraduate degree - hopefully, one with useful IP-related courses, like computer and data science, as well as some art courses - you’ll start attending the law school of your choice. High GPA and LSAT exam scores can get you into better, highly sought-after law schools, which then leads to better intellectual property law firm jobs. Your grades do matter here.
During your time at a law school, keep an eye on courses related to intellectual property law, like copyrights, patent prosecution, and unfair trade competition. If possible, hunt for an internship, as that will skyrocket your chances of landing a full-time job in the field, not to mention helping you develop your attorney skills faster by working on an actual case.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Once you’re out of law school, don’t immediately go searching for jobs in IP law - you’ll need to pass the bar exam first. These differ from state to state but, luckily, you can retake them if you end up failing on your first try.
Finally, to get your IP attorney license, you’ll have to take the USPTO (US Patents and Trademark Office) exam. Pass it, and you can start practicing IP law and go job hunting to protect businesses and individuals against intellectual property infringement.