With the start of the new academic year, here are eight things that I wish I had known while I was a law student. Of course, since this is an intellectual property column, much of the advice below is related to some aspect of intellectual property law or practice, though the last half of this column applies more broadly.
Here’s the advice I would give to any law student interested in IP:
1. You can still practice IP law — even patent law — without a hard science or engineering background. I’ve covered this topic before in a couple posts , but I’ll say it again. One of the big myths regarding intellectual property is that you must have a technical background to practice in this field. While you do need a hard sciences or engineering background to sit for the patent bar and work in patent prosecutions, you absolutely do not need this background for copyright, trademark, or trade secret law. Even in the field of patent law, you can represent clients in patent litigation or work on patent policy. Do not let a lack of undergraduate degree in hard sciences deter you from IP.
2. Think broadly about IP when selecting classes. It’s easy to target classes with the names “Intellectual Property” or “Copyright” or “Patents” or “Trademark” and assume you’ll cover all your bases, but there is so much more to the world of IP. Related courses include trade law, advertising, cyber/computer/technology law, entertainment, antitrust, communications, administrative law, and more. In my own career, in addition to copyright and patents, I’ve encountered all of these related areas and having at least some basic knowledge can be useful. And pay attention in contracts during your 1L year.
3. It’s okay if you don’t take a specific IP class. Have a conflict and can’t take copyright law? It will all be fine. I did take copyright law and while this background is helpful, I have learned so much more since then, diving deeply into very specific aspects of copyright. I did not take patent law, but my first IP […]