An Indirect, Yet Unsurprising Path To IP Law – My Journey

“I assume you want to go into IP or patent law then”

– Everyone.

That’s the typical response I receive after introducing myself, a former engineer turned law student.  Yes, that assumption for the most part is true.  Here’s a little bit about the beginning of my journey into IP law.

Where the Fun Began – Carving Out My Interests in the Engineering Field

My interest in IP begins with my background.  I earned a degree in geological engineering before pursuing a career as a civil engineer, which means…..  I entered the field working at an architecture/engineering firm in Chicago.  Collaborating with a talented team of architects and engineers, we worked on projects throughout the U.S. – from the procurement process through the end of construction.  As a civil engineer, I designed site (plots of natural or already constructed land) improvements for clients, implemented stormwater management solutions, and looked at A LOT of concrete mix designs and reports.  I know, it sounds like a bit of an ancient art form, and in many respects it is.  But we also used modeling software and the latest stormwater management solutions to meet municipal requirements and satisfy our client needs.  We typically used AutoCAD Civil3D (link to an amazing project that relied on AutoCAD Civil3D) for our design and modeling needs.  Once the general design was understood, we would consult product/sales representatives to ensure we were implementing the best stormwater products for our site constraints.  More on this later.  Overall, I had the opportunity to work on some awesome projects during my three years as a civil engineer.  However, I often had another career idea in the back of my mind.

My Not-So-Surprising Journey to Law School

After receiving my engineering degree I knew I wanted to work in the engineering field.  At least for a few years.  But, I always considered the prospect of attending law school. It’s funny how growing up surrounded by lawyers can do that to you.  I was always impressed by how gratified and dedicated they were to be making a difference and the respect they have for the rule of law.  Often times family trips were organized around ABA and Uniform Law Commission events!  That is what I ultimately gravitated towards when I decided to enter law school.

Once I decided to take the leap and pursue a career in law, there were two main criteria that I looked at for prospective schools.  First, I wanted to stay in Chicago.  Second, I wanted to find a school felt like the right fit where I could see myself enjoying the law school process.  I wanted to find a school where I could see myself enjoying the three years of hard work and late nights with welcoming faculty and peers.  I attended a meet and greet at Loyola University Chicago School of Law with current students and faculty and was amazed at how they described the school’s culture and opportunities – particularly in the IP space.  Specifically, I had the opportunity to speak with Loyola’s Director of IP, Professor Ho, and she highlighted the IP legal writing course, IP Bytes (this wonderful blog), Loyola’s Intellectual Property Law Society, and the vast amount of IP courses offered.  I knew right away that I could see myself there for the next three years as soon as I went home that day.  And that’s how I ended up at Loyola!

Photo by Pedro Lastra on Unsplash

Why Patent Law?

I’ve always been interested in how things work.  I’ll leave you with a few examples.

  • I remember my grandfather and I spending countless hours putting together model airplanes. Though I’d often leave him with some of the tedious work while I went and played catch with a friend.
  • Ever looking for more excuses to why you’re being outdriven on the golf course? Other than the obvious reasons of your poor form? I suggest cutting open a golf ball and looking into the great complexity of the ball’s interior design.

These small curiosities have led me down endless rabbit holes of YouTube videos to learn why things work as they do.  I can only think these curiosities are what has led me down this path to first work as a civil engineer to now being a law school student looking to get involved in the patent law field.  From the seemingly most minute inventions to the inventions that can change the world, the applicant for a patent must provide the technical details to be granted exclusive rights.

Photo by Lily Farr on Unsplash

As a 1L, I’ve had the opportunity to get some exposure to IP law.  I’m currently in two IP classes: Global Access to Medicine – A Patent Perspective and Loyola’s IP Legal Writing Section.  Both classes have made me start thinking about how my past career is related to IP.   I’ve learned that there are patents on the very products I became so familiar with as a civil engineer such as concrete, admixtures, and sustainable stormwater management.  Though it may not be as technologically savvy as the new iPhone generation, the patents in my prior field not only incentivize those designing new products, but also advance society.  The improved concrete mixtures and stormwater products are often designed to improve efficiency and sustainability better suiting our environment – important issues that must be addressed.

Was this all at the forefront of my mind entering law school? Of course not.

Those who assumed that I wanted to go into patent law were correct.  My first year of law school has been a wonderful experience.  From my professors, peers, and engaging classes, Loyola’s culture has continued to impress me.  I’m excited to continue learning about IP law and stay tuned for more IP substantive posts from me in the fall!

Matt O’Boyle
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2025