As a first-year law student, you learn almost immediately that your grades are extremely important. A strong GPA is undeniably one of the main criteria employers will use to distinguish job applicants. However, I learned this year that it’s also very important to begin building your professional network and making connections in the legal world as early as you can. I had the opportunity to attend several networking events this year, where I met practicing attorneys with a lot of valuable insight to share. Each time I left feeling glad I decided to attend, even if it meant I had to stay up a little later to finish my Torts reading.
IP Career Panel: New Insights and Lessons Learned
I recently attended an IP Career Panel hosted by the American Bar Association (ABA), specifically the ABA IP Group, where several lawyers with a broad array of experience, expertise, and interests spoke about their career paths. Each of them described the many forms that being an IP lawyer can take, which seems to be a common sentiment among those in the field. I had attended two other IP “Speed Mentoring” events earlier in the year, and I remember speaking with several lawyers who said that what they loved most about their jobs was that while they were “technically” IP attorneys, that could mean a wide variety of things depending on the day. They might be working on a licensing agreement with a client, sending emails to associates all across the world, or strategizing about the legal implications of a new marketing initiative—and that was just a handful of things they thought of off the top of their heads.
At the IP Career Panel, I learned even more about the many different kinds of work an IP lawyer might do. I also left thinking about ways to utilize the resources I have as a law student to build my professional network and stay informed about potential opportunities. Once again, I was reminded of the importance of attending networking and informational events to make connections and learn about aspects of being a lawyer I hadn’t even considered yet.
A Day in the Life of An IP Attorney
One of my favorite parts of the IP Career Panel was hearing each attorney talk about what a typical day looks like for them. As a former teacher and current law student, it’s sometimes hard to imagine what practicing law will actually look like, so these conversations have been very helpful. There were five attorneys on the panel who provided insight on the work they do and what we might have to look forward to in the future.
Two of the panelists were in-house counsel—one for McDonald’s, the other Constellation Brands—and their jobs sounded very interesting. They both described their work as mostly transactional, as opposed to litigation. They also both talked about the wide variety of work they get to do as in-house counsel, such as working with their creative teams to avoid any potential legal issues that could arise with new advertising campaigns or negotiating promotional agreements with a famous athlete or actor (which I thought sounded really fun!). Another aspect of their in-house jobs I found intriguing was that they both noted how much international work they do because of the nature of their companies. It also sounded like they spend most of their days working with people in teams, which they both seemed to enjoy, and I think I might too.
I also found it interesting to hear from a patent lawyer who started his own law firm. He had an engineering background, which is typical of patent lawyers, though not required. I don’t have this typical background, but I still found his comments interesting and seemingly relevant to IP lawyers generally. He noted a few things about his typical day that I hadn’t thought about. For one, he noted how often clients ask him for business advice, and the importance of their ability to trust his advice. He also said he spent a lot of time in court, and had in fact been in court that day. He described all that goes into engaging new clients as a solo practitioner, and knowing when you may not be able to help someone. He mentioned that just that day, an inventor had called him asking if he could help get him a patent, and how most people are not really sure what an intense process that is!
As I had heard at both IP Speed Networking events, the theme from every attorney on the panel was that each day was different, and it was certainly never boring.
Law School Success Tips: Beyond Case-Briefing and Outlining
Law school can often feel very busy and a lot of your time is, and should be, dedicated to studying. However, this event was a much-needed reminder of the importance of building a professional network and taking advantage of opportunities beyond the walls of the law school.
Each member talked about how valuable their participation in ABA opportunities has been. Some mentioned that they were recommended for jobs by people they met on the ABA committees on which they served. Others noted that their work with the ABA IP group has led to fellow attorneys sending business their way. Several noted how much they’ve learned just from being involved. They all encouraged us to take advantage of the ABA’s student membership opportunities. They added that they recommend not just showing up for meetings, but taking on a role within a specialized group or committee, and following up with people after events. It was clear they had really benefited from doing so while in law school, and I felt committed to doing the same.
It’s easy to feel like law school is too demanding for all of that, but the panel members emphasized that networking should be treated just as seriously as getting good grades. Everyone agreed that building connections can be just as important for future career success.
Key Takeaway: Attend Networking Events!
All in all, I walked away from this event reminded of how important it is to take advantage of these networking opportunities. Even with all the stressors of law school, these types of events need to be a priority. They’re enjoyable, thought provoking, and motivating. I look forward to seeing what other lessons I may learn at the next networking event.
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2022
Maggie is a 1L who is enjoying her new seat in the classroom after spending seven years as a teacher in New Orleans and Chicago.