Tips for an Intellectual Property Job Search
Research what IP attorneys do. If you want to be an IP attorney, you should know what they do every day. Do some research and see how this career aligns with your interests. If you are already attending a law school, use the resources that your school provides – take IP-related classes, participate in IP-related clinics, and talk to your IP professors and alumni who practice IP law. If you are not yet in law school, you can still reach out to IP professionals to scope things out and look for other opportunities to educate yourself. For example, Finnegan has a fantastic four-week online program—the Finnegan IP University—which is geared towards individuals in science and engineering fields and provides the nuts and bolts of the U.S. patent system. Check it out here: https://www.finnegan.com/en/Finnegan-IP-University.html.
Update your Resume. Your resume is one of the most important parts of your job search process. It is your first foot forward and should encapsulate all the reasons you are right for the job. Based on the information on your resume, firms made initial decision on whether to invite you for an interview. Then, before your interview, the interviewing attorneys will review your resume closely and outline questions to ask you. Thus, make sure to spend plenty of time to ensure your resume accurately represents yourself and your skills. Include relevant experiences and background with specific examples, but do not throw in everything you did during your life. For example, interviewers probably do not want to hear about your dog’s name… unless he was the basis for your research into potentially patenting a new agility training toy. Keeping it short is always a good rule of thumb. But don’t sacrifice content in pursuit of a one-page resume—firms will not throw it out just because your list of relevant experiences or publications goes onto a second page. Lastly, during your interview, you could be asked a question on any topic on your resume, so be prepared to discuss its contents in detail and with enthusiasm.
Use on-campus interviews and career fairs. Use career services and other resources at your school to identify interview opportunities. Apply for on-campus interviews as early as you can using the stellar resume that you prepared. And since you have a specific practice area goal—IP law—do not hesitate to participate in career fairs and job events outside of your school. There are many career fairs for law students who want to practice IP law after graduating. For example, if you are interested in patent law, the Loyola Patent Law Interview Program in Chicago is a great opportunity to meet many employers (law firms and IP departments from companies) at one place. For more information, visit https://www.luc.edu/law/currentstudents/careerservices/patentprogram/. The career services at your law school should be able to provide you a full list of relevant events. Also, don’t forget to check out the career information websites of law firms you are interested in. Many law firms provide a way for law students to directly submit a resume.
Prepare for your interview. Once you get an interview scheduled for your dream job, it is research time again! When you are buying a car, you spend time to research the car and the manufacturer of the car, check out the car magazines for the reviews of the car, and read discussions on the Internet forum for the current users of the same car. Do the same here. The firm profile on the Vault Law is always a good starting point. It gives you lots of information about the firm, such as the firm statistics (number of attorneys, number of summer associates, salary information, etc.), the office locations, the practice areas, etc. Check out the firm’s website for additional information so you understand the firm’s key practice areas, major clients, and recent notable cases. Look up your interviewing attorneys’ bios so that you can ask specific questions about their practices and recent experience. This may look something like “I noticed that you have represented many pharmaceutical companies. What do you find most interesting in your work for them?” Ask genuine questions that interest you—while the firm is interviewing you, you are also interviewing the firm, so it’s important that you get a full picture of what your career in that firm would be like.
Send a thank-you note. After the interview, follow up with the interviewers. A short thank-you email is always a nice gesture reiterating your interest in the firm. It may feel like a formality, but it is always appreciated. It also helps the interviewers recall particular discussions from your interview that may differentiate you from other candidates.
IP law is fun! You have made a great decision to pursue one of the coolest careers in the world. Good luck and we hope to see you soon in a future interview!