Technology-law related jobs in DC other than patent law?
February 9, 2007 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Technology-related legal positions in DC for new attorney that are not patent prosecution?

I recently received my JD from a decent state school program, passed the NY bar examination and was admitted to the NY bar. (I have a pending waiver application to the DC bar too)

I double majored in Computer Science and Economics prior to going to law school, and one of my interests is technology-related law. I know there is a good deal of patent law work in DC, however I am not currently eligible to take the patent bar without some supplemental undergrad coursework. (and, after 7+ years of school, I really want to start gaining legal experience immediately)

I'm curious as to what options are out there for someone with my interests and experience. To give some further background on myself, I clerked at a NYC personal injury firm after my 1st summer of law school, and at a large District Attorney's office the 2nd summer and all through my third-year of law school.

Thanks for any ideas! I'll be around for follow-up responses as needed.
posted by dcjd to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you interested in transactional work, or only litigation? I don't know about the DC market in particular, but I do know that there are transactional practices out there that specialize in tech firm M&A and the like. I'm not sure if there are entire law firms devoted to this, but you might look around at transactional attorneys in the area and see if any have significant experience closing deals with tech firms. I have a vague suspicion that in DC a lot of the work would also be regulatory, but that's pure speculation on my part.
Sorry for not having anything specific, and it looks from your clerking experiences that you are litigation-focused, but it might be an avenue to explore.
Another idea- joining a firm with a strong technology/IP practice as a commercial litigator. If you tell the partners about your interests and experience, you might get to join onto technical cases as a litigation team member even though you aren't an IP attorney. This is an indirect route, but might get you close to the technology-law work without having the patent bar.
posted by ohio at 1:03 PM on February 9, 2007

I practice in this area (I generally call what I do "intellectual property transactions," but I'm much more of a generalist than most similar attorneys are), and the number of different things that you can do that don't require you be a member of the patent bar are staggering.

They include all sorts of other "intellectual property law," like litigation and transactional work related to copyrights, trademarks, patents, software and all sorts of services. Note that this kind of work takes all kinds of different substantive areas - I do this kind of work for newspapers, manufacturers, retailers, pharmaceutical companies, web developers, telecommunications companies, etc. They include all kinds of work related to the internet, hardware and software. They also include all sorts of transactional work and litigation related partially to technology or technology companies or concepts, while still being substantively "corporate law" or "litigation."

Large firms in DC do some of this work, but DC is a tougher market for it than almost any other big city. The DC legal market is heavily litigation, agency and government oriented. Even the more standard corporate and litigation work that goes on there is more government-related than in other cities, and technology law in general is much more market-driven than it is statute- or agency-driven. I would start to look for specific firms that do any sort of technology work and try to find out more about what they do. In particular, be careful about telecom work, as telecom work in DC is going to be heavily regulatory and not much like other non-regulatory telecom work.

Your CS major will be an asset, but so too will your economics degree, but more important than either is your ability to understand the fundamental business of your clients (at least for transactional work - that might not be as important in litigation) and understand what you can do to help them in that business. Just like any other legal work, though, the most important skill is to communicate well in spoken and written work (including e-mails) and listen to what your clients want. Your CS major will be useful, but maybe not as much as you think. It would be most useful in work related to large-scale software development and implementation and maybe IT outsourcing. Since you haven't already secured a job, you should look more to smaller and mid-size firms.

Good luck - post an e-mail if you want to chat more offline.
posted by jcwagner at 1:03 PM on February 9, 2007

To qualify for the patent bar you might consider the FE exam (previously), which is probably less work than the college courses.

Also, since you mention state school, maybe your student loan balance is low enough to consider doing policy work at one of the many nonprofits in town.
posted by exogenous at 1:32 PM on February 9, 2007

Thanks everyone for the replies!

To add to what I posted above: I am interested in both transactional and litigation options. While my practical experience in school was limited to the litigation environments I mentioned, I also took transactional courses. I've also heard that transactional law might offer more opportunities for future career advancement.

jcwagner: I'd love to take you up on your email offer. I can be reached at washingtonjd at gmail dotcom.

exogenous: thanks for the pointer to the FE exam option. That might be something I should look into, however it would require a lot of study since I did not take engineering courses while in school!
posted by dcjd at 2:35 PM on February 9, 2007

My mother, who is a legal recruiter specializing in people with science degrees, suggests: "technology licensing jobs --check lawcrossing.
posted by crayolarabbit at 4:06 PM on February 9, 2007

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