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Q: I passed the NY Bar and the Patent Bar in 1993, but I have never worked in the field of intellectual property, and would like to enter it. I have been practicing insurance defense, mostly auto/personal injury cases. Do you have any advice on how to get into IP, with either a law firm or corporation? From PI to IP A: Dear PI to IP: If only your transition were as easy as reversing the letters “P” and “I.” Shifting gears from personal injury to intellectual property will take considerable time and effort. You must start with an examination of your career and then progress through all the steps necessary for a successful career move. You can anticipate being asked a variation of the question: “Why personal injury after you passed the Patent Bar?” Your inquiry does not give any hint of an answer. There are many causes for careers veering off the intended course including doubt about the initial choice of practice area; lack of firms hiring in the desired practice area; unrealistic expectations that results in applying to firms that are out of reach and missing opportunities at firms that are likely prospects; type of matters being handled by the firm with the effect of pegging an attorney as one of the experts in an area other than his or her first choice; and desperation to accept any job to pay student loans and other bills. A related question that you can expect is: “Why intellectual property now, after 11 years in personal injury?” Again, you do not explain your change of heart at this stage of your career. Once more, there can be a number of reasons including a return to what inspired you to become an attorney; disinterest in your current practice; lack of opportunity for advancement or financial reward; and termination of your current employment that has caused you to re-evaluate your options. Whatever the reason, or perhaps reasons, for starting out in personal injury, you must be able to discuss it with prospective intellectual property employers. The same is true with respect to your rationale for turning to intellectual property after so many years in another, unrelated field. Prospective employers will want to understand your career choice. It is up to you to put it in perspective without negativity or defensiveness or complaint. Before you embark on a transition, you must be prepared to present yourself in a positive light. Your job search will depend on it. Another possible issue is whether you would be willing to start over, as an entry-level associate, considering your lack of intellectual property experience. Related to that question is how you would respond when directed by an attorney who has fewer years of overall experience and more years of intellectual property experience. You have to determine your comfort with giving up your seniority in exchange for engaging in a practice area in which you have rekindled a long-dormant interest. Next, assess your marketability and take measures to improve on it. Consider the level of demand for your background in the sciences or engineering. Determine whether you are up-to-date on scientific and technological advances and the law related to the area. If you are behind on both counts, as is likely the case, bring yourself up to speed by attending relevant conferences and CLE programs, reading journals, and becoming active on a Bar association’s intellectual property committee. An organization that may be helpful is the New York Intellectual Property Law Association; its Web site is Now you are ready to tackle your r�sum� and cover letter. As you update your intellectual property credentials on your r�sum�, you may be able to create a separate IP heading to list and describe what you have done now and in the past in the field. You may also opt for an introductory section entitled “Intellectual Property Profile” that includes your passing the Patent Bar, your technical degree, and any other relevant information. Similarly, your cover letters will have to emphasize your intellectual property qualifications. You can also use it to describe your interest in the field and the specific employer. Conduct research regarding the employers that fit your background and interests. You express an interest in a law firm or a corporation. Explore opportunities in both settings. Keep in mind that it is usually more difficult to move to an in-house position; there are fewer openings and a lot of competition for them. As you probably already guessed, networking will be crucial to your job search. Your IP-related activities will provide contacts. Develop other new contacts by reaching out to graduates of your law school and university who are engaged in intellectual property law practice. You can also tap into the contacts that you have known over the years. All of these contacts will be able to give you advice on ways to improve your chance of finding a position. You may have to sift through words of encouragement and discouragement to determine whether you are on the right track and are pursuing a realistic goal. You may have to make adjustments along the way. After all, in moving from PI to IP, you are reversing the direction of your career. Sincerely, Linda E. Laufer Linda E. Laufer is a career consultant and former practicing attorney.

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