Getting Intellectual Property Jobs: A How-To

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Intellectual property law is a legal field that specializes in creations of the mind, including inventions, designs used in business, and creative works. These works and properties include artistic creations, such as musical scores, songs, and literary works.

Intellectual property jobs and other openings for attorneys can be found at various online job posting sites. is among the best of these sites. Both attorneys and paralegals can conveniently search the site’s listings and find the job openings that they are most qualified to apply for.

Intellectual property law covers trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. Under the statutes of intellectual property law, the holder of any of these properties also holds certain exclusive rights to the given creative work. Creators also are entitled to property rights for commercial symbols and inventions.

Intellectual property jobs are available not only to expert attorneys who specialize in this field, but to many paralegals as well. People who are interested in careers in intellectual property areas should be prepared to deal with intense scrutiny and competition. Anyone who wishes to apply for one of these attorney jobs should begin by applying for admission to the best law school they can find.

While still in law school, students should take courses in patents, trademarks, and copyrights. They will also have to take courses that deal with conflicts, advanced civil procedures, and critical thinking. People who have their sights set on jobs in intellectual property law will often take additional courses on their own, including lengthy seminars.

Interning at an attorney’s office will also provide some valuable legal skills. If a student can intern at the office or firm of lawyers who deal with intellectual property cases on a daily basis, this will be even better.

Interns are often among the first to be considered for openings. Some new law school graduates want to work in this field so desperately that they will make the rounds of the top firms that deal with this type of law. IntellectualPropertyCrossing makes it easy for job applicants to post and submit their resumes right online. There are even some choice openings for IP docket supervisor jobs that are available for attorneys with the necessary experience.

Intellectual property attorney jobs will involve a lot of writing — contracts, patent applications, and many other documents — so good writing skills are necessary. Written and oral communication must be your strengths if you hope to become a star in this legal niche.

Once out of law school, graduates must successfully pass the given state’s bar exam. They will then be licensed as attorneys who are able to practice law in that state. In addition to the bar, an intellectual property attorney must also successfully complete a national patent exam.

Attorneys who specialize in intellectual property are sometimes employed by large corporations as in-house counsel. These lawyers develop incredible expertise in the technologies used by their corporations, and they work hard and long hours to protect the intellectual property that belongs to the companies for which they work.

Some law firms specialize in dealing firsthand with many issues that relate to intellectual property matters. Some even have entire departments that are devoted to this area of legal concerns. Law firms will handle most intellectual property litigation because they have special courtroom and trial expertise that a corporate legal department may not have developed.

Government agencies — especially the United States Patent Office — also employ a large number of IP attorneys. Colleges and universities, especially those that are heavily involved in research and development, employ their own intellectual property attorneys as well. These lawyers work with university researchers to identify inventions and innovations that may have present or future commercial potential. They then assist the institution with the legal steps necessary to patent and sell the invention or technology.

There is no “typical day” for an intellectual property attorney, and the tasks vary with the type of employer. Some attorneys, especially at large firms, may focus on patent litigation and the preparation and prosecution of patent applications. Other tasks include drafting contracts for licensing, helping clients avoid copyright infringement, and advising clients on issues related to trademark and copyright protection.

A 2004 survey by the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) found that the median income for attorneys in this area was about $187,000 a year. The median starting salary for a first-year associate was about $125,000 per year. The pay for these positions is a measure of how valuable these services are.

The American Bar Association anticipates that the need for intellectual property attorneys will continue to grow. As ideas, technology, and information become increasingly important, the market for intellectual property attorney jobs is expected to gain even more prestige.

Opportunities also exist for intellectual property paralegal jobs. In large law firms that have intellectual property departments or that specialize in that area, paralegals’ duties may focus exclusively on researching intellectual property. In small and medium-sized firms, the work will usually be a bit more varied. Paralegals help attorneys prepare for hearings and trials, conduct on-going research, and help prepare many of the necessary legal documents and reports required for courtroom presentations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently forecast a positive outlook for paralegal jobs, expecting the number to rise by at least 22% through the year 2016. This growth in paralegal employment will be a result of more employers seeking to reduce costs by hiring paralegals to perform tasks once done by attorneys. The BLS also reported a median salary of $43,040 for paralegals.

Intellectual property is a challenging and diverse field. As long as the human mind continues to invent, create, and innovate, there will be a market for qualified applicants who can handle the multitude of details that accompany intellectual property law positions.

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