I have another list in store for you today. It is a list of questions that I commonly ask on a informational meeting. Some of these questions are general and could apply to any job. But a lot of them are focused at a technical advisor or a patent agent position. So here are my top 10 list.
First, I ask about his/hers personal background. I suggest that you find a person that has a similar background to yours and are/where at some point in the same job you want. They will understand where you are coming from and honestly, they will be your best bet for advice and guidance.
- What was your previous experience from patents? Most of my interviewees are PhDs that transferred over to the law profession. This question gives my an idea about what I need to learn to successfully get the job. In many cases, my interviewees did not have any prior experience.
- Do you remember your major concerns when you started to consider the transition to patent law? This questions can ease my own mind. Everybody are anxious and nervous when changing their career. The best way to quiet those concerns is by hearing that someone else had the same concerns as you are having.
- What attracted your interest in becoming a patent agent? This is a general question. The answer gives my a lot of different things. First, it gives me something to think about, do I feel the same? Am I interested for the same reason? Secondly, it gives me reasons that I could further use as my reasons in interviews. Most people DO NOT say they were financially interested.
- How did you prepare for the patent bar exam and did you pass it before getting hired? The patent bar exam is a tough test and there are classes and books written about the best way to prepare for the test. However, classes cost up to $2000 and the books are around $20-110. Thus, I want to know if the interviewees spent their money on the classes or if it is possible to use only the books to prepare. The second part of this question relates to the fact that most firms pay for their technical advisors to take the class. I want to know if the specific firm might pay and if I would be better of taking it before applying to firms. Looks like an innocent question but it is huge.
- Did you apply for any technical advisor positions? How many positions did you (if any) apply for before getting your current job? This question is a measurement of how many positions I might need to apply for before even having a chance. In most cases, interviewees knew someone within the company but others applied to 7 firms or more (10 is currently the record).
- Did you have do adept your research reading or writing when transitioning from academia to law? I have dropped this question from my list of things to ask. Most responses were vague, little or no change or mostly just changes that were associated with the career change, i.e. writing science talk to legalese, whatever that is.
- What was (if any) the hardest part of the transition from academia to law? The answer to this question warns me of the “dangers” that lie ahead and further allows me to prepare myself mentally for those dangers. Common responses involved billable hours and pressure.
- Any word of advice on preparing my application to law firms? Did you include examples of technical writing or peer-reviewed articles? This is a open window to show the interviewees your resume (but only if they ask for it). Get their feedback and listen to their comments. Remember to proof-read your resume (over and over) and get at least two others to read it over. Then read it again. The second part is more specific, since most vacancies ask for a writing sample. This again helps you to specifically focus your resume and application to the specific needs and requirements of the firm your interviewee works for.Next, I focus on the specific position and the firm. Here you need to do a lot of research. You do not want to ask obvious questions about the firm that can be found on its website. The most helpful link to find out about the firm and its expertise is NALP. Find your firm and look at the hiring trends etc. Below are just a few questions that I include about each specific firm.
- How many billable hours are expected for the certain position? This is important and gives you an idea what is expected. If you do not know what billable hours are, look here.
- Does the specific firm help have a tuition program for technical advisors/patent agents. Some do, others do not. Some expect you to go to law school (e.g. Finnegan LLP) and others do not.
These are just ideas to get you rolling. If you have questions that you think I missed, especially when applying for a technical advisor/patent agent position, please comment.