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Patent wars boost patent lawyers

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David Brancaccio: What was once one of the country’s biggest law firms, Dewey & LeBoeuf, filed for bankruptcy last night. Among problems: big pay packages for top lawyers and lots of debt. Five years ago, 2,500 people worked at the firm. Now the staff is down to 90.

It’s a tough job market right now for many lawyers and paralegals, unless you happen to specialize in patent law, as Marketplace’s Queena Kim reports.

Queena Kim: Lots of lawyers can’t get a jobs, but for patent attorneys, it’s a seller’s market.

Julie Locke is a headhunter at Lateral Link.

Julie Locke: Everytime I get a firm calling us saying we need these people the first question I ask is what makes you different from any other law firm?

Locke says she has more than 20 firms looking for patent lawyers. Last year, it was half that. And it’s not just for tech, pharmaceutical and biotech companies want them too. 

Michael Rustad is a professor at Suffolk University Law School. He’s seen a big uptick in companies paying for engineers and scientists to become patent lawyers.

Michael Rustad:  Their entire law school tuition is paid, books, salary.

Rustad says that’s a big shift from the past.

Rustad: Some of the larger firms didn’t start intellectual property programs partly the image was that these scientific and technological types wouldn’t get along with corporate clients.

Now, it’s those corporate-types who have to get along — revenge of the nerds?

In San Francisco, I’m Queena Kim for Marketplace.

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