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 Choosing a Law School 
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Joined: 2012-02-10 17:37:23
Posts: 2
Good evening everyone,

I'm currently looking at law schools to begin a path towards becoming a patent attorney, and I'd greatly appreciate any advice this board has to offer. I've got a BS in Chemistry from Notre Dame and will have a masters in Materials Science and Engineering from a major (top 5) research university (which shall remain nameless) this spring.

I'm looking primarily at schools in two geographic areas, NYC and DC, strongly preferring NYC due to my wife's schooling situation (i.e. she has the opportunity to transfer to a much better school in NYC but is currently at school in the DC area and wants to take advantage of that opportunity, plus tons of our friends are there/none are here).

I got a 171 on the LSAT the second time I took it (98th percentile) and have an undergraduate GPA of 3.32. I've also got excellent recommendations from professors who have 3+ years with me and summers filled with varied and impressive research experience, so I hope that I'm correct in thinking that I have a decent chance at somewhere good.

I've applied to the following schools (all by Jan.6th) and have begun to hear back from some of them (I'll note next to them):

Brooklyn Law - Accepted, $38k scholarship (which makes tuition $6K a year)
St. John's - Accepted, full tuition scholarhip

DC area:
Georgetown - Invited to interview
George Washington - Accepted, awaiting financial aid award.
Maryland, Baltimore

Eventually, I'd like to practice in NYC, but I don't want to just blindly chase after NYC schools because of supposed "better prospects" for NYC firms, if in fact the patent firms in NYC would be more likely to look favorably on a degree from one of the DC schools. Could anyone help point me in the right direction here as to where I reasonably have a shot/which schools I should consider superior to others in preparing me for my future career? Thanks.

2012-02-10 18:32:36

Joined: 2012-01-30 01:41:51
Posts: 22
well the general rule is to go to the highest ranked school you can get into, regardless of the costs associated with obtaining the degree. This was considered important for another reason, too: if you get into law school and decide there's another area of law that you'd prefer to practice other than patent, you'd have a better chance in this field as well. However, this was the rule back when job opportunities that paid fabulous salaries to recent grads were a lot more plentiful than they currently are.

I think these days it would be wise to factor in how much debt you'd graduate with. But this is just a single factor, not the entire equation. So if you get into 2 really good equally ranked schools, go to the cheaper one. But if the choice is between a really good (and expensive school) vs a significantly lower-ranked, but cheaper one, the really good school might be a better choice. On the other hand owing $18K to Brooklyn vs ~120K to another institution does seem to have some merit. Keep in mind, however that patent law is getting more and more competitive, so the cheapness isn't the only factor.

Are NY firms that hung up on the NY school? I can't image that with a Georgetown degree you'd have problems solely because is was Georgetown and not a NYU/Columbia degree.

As to which schools: generally speaking, what you learn in law school patent classes and what you do in real life are rather different, so I don't think there's any advantage to going to the highly-dedicated patent schools. But others differ.

2012-02-13 01:46:11
IP Attorney

Joined: 2012-01-24 14:53:15
Posts: 13
IF you're 100% sure that you're going to pursue a career as a patent prosecutor (not patent litigator), you should really balance debt vs. school rankings, as suggested above. What lawl school you go to is less relevant for a patent prosecutor than for other legal careers. In fact, provided you don't go to somewhere like Cooley, I'd say that the pedigree of your undergraduate degree is more important.

Although I guess this concern about debt is somewhat mitigated by the more readily available employment opportunities for patent prosecutors than other attorneys.

However, all that said above, if you want to get into any other area of law, ever, you really should go to the best law school you can get into. You have to look at your earning potential over the long term vs your debt. When you consider it that way (provided you are someone who will get a job, and not bottom of your class from a tier 4), the debt is fairly irrelevant.

I'm in my 6th year as an attorney now, and by the end of this year, will have made almost $1mil (total) in my career as an attorney thus far. Whether I paid $100k, $200k, or even $300k to enable that... so what?

2012-03-11 16:02:29

Joined: 2012-02-10 17:37:23
Posts: 2
Thank you both very much for your insight. So, the excellent news is that I've gotten into Georgetown Law. I'm really hoping that NYU also says yes since my wife is going to be enrolling at Columbia University this fall, however, no word yet from them or Fordham. Speaking of Fordham, do you think I'd be shooting myself in the foot too much if I went there over Georgetown, or am I crazy for even considering it?

Thanks again!

2012-03-11 18:11:11
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