How to Find Your First Job as an Intellectual Property Lawyer

IP law in the computer and video game industry is a perfect career for someone who is interested in both science and technology of games and law. Because of this duality, you can explore the career by focusing on the legal side or on the science/technology side. To get experience on the legal side, seek summer jobs and internships with law offices where you live. You may be able to get a part-time job as a legal assistant.

Any experience you can get writing technical or legal documents can also help, so don't rule out temporary jobs in any kind of business office. Also, check out your local business college for special prelaw programs that offer introductory law courses to the public. If you can't get any hands-on experience right away, ask your guidance counselor for help in setting up a tour of a local law office or arranging for an interview with a law professional.

To get experience in the science/technology side of the computer and video game industry, you can ask for a tour of a computer and video game company or arrange for an interview with a professional in the industry. You can also join your school's computer club and check out computer and game publications at your local library and on the Internet.

Intellectual property lawyers are in high demand with many types of employers in the computer and video game industry. IP lawyers are employed at law firms, hardware manufacturing corporations, design studios, and software publishers. IP lawyers may also own their own businesses.

The main employer of IP attorneys outside of the computer and video game industry is the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is part of the Department of Commerce. The USPTO employs lawyers as trademark examiners, patent examiners, and more. Other departments in the government that employ IP lawyers include the Departments of Defense, Interior, Justice, and Energy. IP lawyers can also find employment in the United States Copyright Office.

Although IP lawyers are in high demand all over the country, most work in large cities where the major corporations are headquartered. Other hot spots for IP lawyers include Washington, D.C., because of the government agencies located there, and the West Coast-like the Silicon Valley area in California, and in and around Seattle-because of its concentration of computer and video game-related industry.

As in any area of law, internships and clerkships are usually the path to a quality job. For those interested in patent law specifically, applying for a clerkship in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Court in Washington, D.C., is a great way to gain experience. To apply for an unpaid, part-time internship during law school or soon after graduation, you should write directly to the court about six months in advance.

To gain a full-time, paid clerkship position, law students should inquire sometime before the end of their second year. You can also apply for clerkships and internships with law firms. Another way to break into the IP law field is to get a job at the USPTO. Working directly with patents will put you in a better position for an IP job later in your career.

Most IP lawyers start out with internships and clerkships at firms or courts. In law firms or large corporate offices in the computer and video game industry, IP lawyers start out as low-rung associates and then advance as their experience and track records allow. Associates with successful reputations and many years of experience can become partners in the law firm or advance within the legal department at a computer and video game company.

Whether in corporations, government agencies, or law firms, most IP lawyers, like other types of lawyers, are given more high-profile cases and more important clients as they become more experienced.