Let me try that answer again.

Last month, I was invited to speak to the USF Law School Intellectual Property and Cyberlaw Association. A nice group of students all with a shared interest in intellectual property law. I'm not a big fan of presentations, so I spent a few minutes talking about Sun and then opened it up for questions. And, there were many ranging from "how do you monetize products that you give away" to "what is the Peer to Patent project" to "what's your job like"? It was a very fun session.

But as I drove back to the office, I reflected on one particular question and wished that I had handled it differently. It was asked by a 3L (third year law student graduating this year) who wanted to know whether I thought the current macro-economic conditions were going to impact employment opportunities for this year's graduates. My response was that I've seen several of these downturns in my career and that they are cyclical. I also pointed out that the current economic conditions will likely impact every industry - except perhaps the energy sector. All in all, not a very comforting response on my part.

Here's what I should have added.

Despite the present economic environment, I can't think of a better area for future legal career opportunities than intellectual property law. Consider for a moment a few of the recent and more interesting IP cases like Viacom v. Google, Eros v. John Doe, Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roomates.com and A.V. v. iParadigms. Then realize that the technologies and business models underlying each dispute haven't existed much longer than you have been in law school. The pace of innovation around us is accelerating - not declining. Each year the universities of the world graduate even more engineering and computer science students with the facility to manipulate 1s and 0s in inventive ways. Every day there are new businesses emerging based on the digital economy that will touch every aspect of our lives whether it be in health care, entertainment, politics or consumerism.

And, there's something else to consider. What I have described here are U.S. examples. Current estimates are that only about 20% of the world's population is connected to the internet. Without doubt, when the rest of the world is fully able to participate in the digital community, even more innovation will result.

So, Mr. 3L. Take a deep breath. Spend the next few months preparing for finals and the Bar Exam. And, take comfort in the fact that even during this short period the intellectual property landscape will have changed - creating opportunities that you haven't imagined.

Comments:

I have had the opportunity to talk to quite a few law students, and this is a time, more than ever, that law students should pay more attention to their grades. Having good grades opens more doors and gives you the opportunity to be considered and hired by more employers. Large law firms, especially, have gpa or class ranking cut offs that are difficult to overcome.

Posted by Wei Wei on April 14, 2008 at 07:51 AM PDT #

Wei Wei apparently holds the view that large law firms is the way to go. Since the article addresses future legal career opportunities and innovation, it will be wise to consider whether BigLaw firms are mindful of innovations not only in legal specialties but also in the areas of human resource issues, management and marketing. BigLaw may be impacted quite negatively by innovations and I'm not necessarily talking about the technological kinds.

Posted by Daille Nation on April 15, 2008 at 09:55 AM PDT #

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But as I drove back to the office, I reflected on one particular question and wished that I had handled it differently.

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