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Ben interprets science to a room full of lawyers. As a technical advisor, Ben spends most of his time critically reading scientific literature and writing reviews to help lawyers decide whether a patent application is novel enough to push through the patent office.
During his postdoc, he realized that the repetitive nature of benchwork dampened his passion for science. A bit lost, Ben had an informational interview with a patent lawyer friend and his passion for science reignited. Now he works as a technical advisor in a law firm–an interim position with the perk of receiving a full-ride to law school. Once he graduates law school, he will be a full fledged patent lawyer, transitioning from focusing on the science behind patents to case law.
In this episode of Translate Your Training, Ben took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his journey from the bench to his dual life as a law student and technical advisor. We learn about what a technical advisor does, how that job changes when becoming a patent lawyer, and the skills he was able to take from his experience in academia. At the end of the episode, Ben gives valuable advice to those interested in pursuing a career in patent law.
Main points and take-aways from this episode:
- Technical advisors are scientific experts that work alongside lawyers, communicating science behind patents to help determine whether they should continue with the patent process. In Ben’s case, his role as a technical advisor serves as an interim position while he gets his law degree. Once he graduates law school, he will be a patent lawyer and switch his focus from science to law—reading case law rather than science articles.
- As a technical advisor, you work in litigation and transactions as opposed to prosecution. You can work on a variety of patents in the life sciences such as medical stents, antibodies, DNA-based therapeutics, biofuel-producing enzymes, etc.
- Most law firms will pay you to go to law school in addition to your salary as a technical advisor or patent agent.
- If you’re interested in getting into the field of patent law, Ben recommends reading a patent to familiarize yourself with the jargon. He also suggests reaching out to the tech transfer office at your institution for gaining experience.
- You can also take the patent bar without going to law school and work as a patent agent through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) which focuses on prosecution rather than litigation.
- Ben told us that law is demanding. The main cons for a career in patent law are high stress and long hours.
- Critical reading, the ability to do literature searches, communicating science to a non-science audience, and teaching are the main transferable skills Ben told us helped him in his career as a technical advisor.
- Finally, be able to communicate your thesis research in a simple manner. You will most likely be asked to do this in an interview for a job as a technical advisor.
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