A Personal Story: My Path to Becoming a Patent Attorney (Part 1)
When I meet new clients, they don’t realize at first that being a patent lawyer is actually a second career for me. Since a lot of people find how I got to where I am today an interesting story, I’ve decided to share it with you, my readers.
When I was in high school, I was captain of the debate team, and I seriously considered going into law. But back in the sixties, there weren’t many women who were going into law, and the ones who did were exceptional, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Women were few and far between in the legal profession, so I chose another passion of mine to follow—chemistry.
I really didn’t know all of the different opportunities that were available to somebody with a science degree. I pretty much followed the usual path. In 1973 I began working in a lab of a pharmaceutical company, gradually working my way up. Eventually, I ended up working for one of the largest companies in the world, Bristol-Myers Squibb, for 20 years. I had three different research groups reporting to me and many different research labs within those groups. My staff continually won awards for achievement and performance; things were very good.
In 2005, we were informed that the company no longer wanted to be in the area of research, we were doing, and they were going to sell the business. That summer, I turned 55. Shortly thereafter, they told us who they had sold us to, and that the people weren’t included as part of the bargain. We would all be let go by the end of the summer.
I took this not as a door closing, but as a door opening. I said, “Well, I’m going to law school,” and that was where I began. I was very fortunate that I had left the company after 20 years as a retiree. I started to apply to law school for 2006, and found out that, because I had a science degree, I would be eligible for a very special license, in addition to the state license to practice law: a patent attorney license.
If you have a degree in science, math or engineering, you can sit for the exam and become what’s called a patent agent. It’s a limited license that allows you to prepare patents and file them. It also allows you to take care of all of the paperwork, responses, and interactions with the Patent Office. You can’t go to court, and you can’t go to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, but you can do a lot of the things that I am doing now.
In fact, when I was in law school, I applied and sat for the exam early. I became a patent agent before I finished my law degree, so I could start writing patents and helping people along the way to get a patent.
But that’s only half the story. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.
Patricia P. Werschulz
Werschulz Patent Law, LLC
23 North Avenue East
Cranford, NJ 07016