Intellectual Property Lawyers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Because intellectual property often deals with creations in the scientific, engineering, literary, and music worlds, a background in any of those areas will be helpful. If you are interested in combining a certain area with practicing law, you should focus on that area while in high school. Take as many science courses as possible along with technical writing. An IP lawyer should know basic scientific principles in order to draft patent applications. It also helps to become meticulous in thinking and in keeping track of records. Take courses in business, accounting, English, computers, and government as well. 

Postsecondary Training

As in other areas of law, IP lawyers most often complete an undergraduate degree and then graduate from law school. For most types of intellectual property law, the undergraduate degree does not have to have a special focus. The exception to that is patent law. If you want to become a patent lawyer, you should major in science, engineering, or physics. Other technology-related courses will also be helpful.

To apply for almost any law school, you must first pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT is an aptitude test used to predict how successful an individual will be in law school. Most law schools teach courses in intellectual property law, but some have IP sections and degrees, such as Columbia Law School, Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property (at the University of New Hampshire), and George Mason University Anontion Scalia Law School.


Some lawyers choose to earn a master of laws (LL.M) degree, an advanced law certification that helps them advance professionally. LL.M programs, which typically last one year, are offered in many areas—such as business law, general law, intellectual property, international business and trade law, and litigation/trial advocacy. A first law degree is required for admission to LL.M programs. Visit https://www.lsac.org/llm-other-law-program-applicants for more information. Visit https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/llm-degrees_post_j_d_non_j_d/programs_by_school for a list of LL.M. specialties and the law schools that offer them.

Other Education or Training

The American Intellectual Property Law Association offers continuing education opportunities. Recent seminars covered topics such as basic and advanced patent prosecution, copyright and trademark litigation, patent litigation, and electronic and computer law. The National Association of Patent Practitioners offers teleconferences on topics such as honing one’s patent prosecution skills, and growing a successful patent practice. It also provides workshops and seminars at its annual meeting, including a short course titled The Nuts & Bolts of Patent Prosecution. The Association of Corporate Counsel, DRI, American Bar Association, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, National Association for Law Placement, and state and local bar associations also offer a variety of continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Additionally, most law firms provide in-house continuing education opportunities to their employees. Some offer mentorship programs that pair new lawyers with experienced lawyers to help them learn the ins and outs of the career.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

After graduating from law school, you will be eligible to take the bar exam in any state. After passing the bar, you will be sworn in as an attorney and will then be eligible to practice law. Patent attorneys who practice patent law before the United States Patent and Trademark Office must go a step further and obtain additional certification. Would-be patent lawyers must pass the patent bar exam. According to the American Bar Association, you must hold a bachelor's degree in engineering, physics, or the natural sciences (such as chemistry and biochemistry), hold a bachelor's degree in another subject, or have passed the Engineer in Training (EIT) test in order to be eligible to take the patent bar exam.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

As an undergraduate, try to participate in an internship at an IP law firm, courthouse, or other legal employer. While a law student, it's a good idea to participate in a judicial clerkship. A clerkship with a judge will provide you with a behind-the-scenes look at the court system and the issues lawyers deal with daily.

IP lawyers should have excellent written and oral communication skills. Also, having command of foreign languages is crucial because IP lawyers work with products and ideas in international markets.

A patent lawyer who practices solo must be a generalist who can understand mechanical engineering, basic electrical engineering, and rudimentary chemistry in order to draft the application and argue the merits during the amendment phase of intellectual law.