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Are Patent Lawyers in High Demand?

The traditional legal community of rainmakers, ambulance chasers, and sharks excludes patent lawyers. On the other hand, Patent attorneys are in high demand, in contrast to the glut of different types of lawyers.


The economy's constant expansion and a scarcity of skilled patent lawyers are the key drivers of demand. A patent attorney often caters to clients who received a trademark office action, making them critical business figures.


Why are they in demand?


At least 669,434 patent applications were filed in 2019, which was higher than the previous 643,303 applications in 2018, as reported by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).


And among these numbers, a minimum of 391,103 successful applications were approved by the department, thanks to the service of patent lawyers.


In fact, more than 15% of law firm employment opportunities may be accounted for by their specialty, which only represents 3% of all attorneys in the United States.


Typically, these attorneys have a degree in engineering and a law degree. T. J. Duane, a partner at a legal recruiting service, Lateral Link, noted that some law firms are now charging roughly double the rate to hire intellectual property (I.P.) professionals, especially in technology.


America Invents Act, the greatest revamp of the United States patent system in six decades, is partly blamed for increased demand. Law firms are vying for the best patent attorneys due to new rules governing the filing and approval of patent applications.


As many as 230 patent attorneys in the San Francisco Bay Area are among the more than 1,400 available jobs throughout the country, according to Mr. Duane.


Since July, there have been around 60 available positions. Last month, he claimed, there were an extra 25 new employees on the payroll.


After a two-year downturn, law firms are once again increasing the number of lateral hiring. After a 52% drop from 2008 to 2009, they rose 38% last year, based on the National Association of Law Placement.


Large legal firms hire fewer employees, so hiring recent law school graduates is less than before. The Association of American Law Schools shared that the percentage of American law grads finding work declined by 4.7% last year.


Meanwhile, the USPTO disclosed that around 40,000 registered patent attorneys and agents had completed a separate patent bar examination.


Even though patent agents have passed the patent exam, the USPTO clarified that they aren't attorneys who have passed state bar examinations.


Even if these agents can represent clients and file patent applications before the Patent Office, they can't write up agreements nor litigate in court.


What's the impact of this data?


Mark J. Itri, the head of the McDermott Will & Emery intellectual property practice department, says that law firms are under pressure from technology customers that have moved into new growth sectors like cloud computing.


Based on Mr. Itri's statement, several corporations have also reduced the number of patent attorneys they use to save money. He said that shortly, you'd see a significant need to employ to address some of those customer demands.


This year, Mr. Itri's business has added 28 patent attorneys and agents, with around a dozen new hires in the past month alone. In the spring of next year, he said that the company aims to recruit 20 more employees.


Mr. Duane added that patent lawyers are keener on getting their hands on degrees like computer engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering.


He also indicated that the ideal applicant would have a law degree from a top 10 university, four years of experience at a prestigious legal firm, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.


Mr. Duane believes that such individuals could secure a position anywhere with these qualifications. Not to mention that some firms may even wind up eliminating their jobs or repurposing the general practice lawyers to concentrate on the non-technical parts of these problematic matters.


Summary


Patent law is a relatively unknown professional option for graduates, although demand for services grows. However, the patent profession is still beneath the radar a little bit, given that it's not well-publicized.


Some may even stumble on this career by mistake or by joining a buddy in the field.


Thus, increasing the profession's visibility on college campuses is essential since most patent attorneys are hired based on their technical competence—whether in engineering, chemistry, or physics.

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