We know that there are more lawyers than there are good jobs in law, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some areas of growth. New technology begets new behaviors begets new laws, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the wild world of patent law as a result of the America Invents Act. It’s the most significant reform to patent law since 1952, and it will have far reaching effects in the legal profession.
According to Bloomberg, “Patent attorneys, who typically have degrees in fields such as engineering as well as law, are in such demand that their specialty may account for more than 15 percent of law firm job openings while representing just 3 percent of U.S. lawyers.”
The majority of these jobs are popping up at the heart of the tech-patent world: Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bay area. Specifically, startup tech companies and established giants need to beef up their in house patent team in order to react quickly to new research and innovations, as the US new patent law changes the focus from “first to invent” (always tricky to prove) to “first to file.”
The legislation is both new and complex, which in a way levels the playing field for younger attorneys who can become subject matter experts.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Barton E. Showalter, chairman of the IP department at Baker Botts LLP, says, “It’s an exceedingly complex law now with a number of new procedures. That puts a premium on highly technical-skilled patent lawyers.”
Of course, there were already a ton of IP lawyers working on tech patents, the specific patent that this overhaul addresses. It’s just that they were suing companies for patent infringement, rather than filing new patents.
While opponents of the bill argue that it does not sufficiently protect small start-ups, no one is arguing whether this represents a future growth area.
So, to the law students worried about finding a good job upon graduation: get thee a specialization in patent law. The one sure bet in the future of our recovering economy is that technology firms will continue to pioneer new technologies just as fast as people can write them down.
That will mean they need people to do just that.