This week I am in Chicago teaching the PLI Patent Bar Review Course at John Marshall Law School. It is about that time of the year where our calendar really starts to heat up. This course, which happens every year during law school spring break, finds us in Chicago during St. Patrick’s Day festivities and the start of the NCAA College Basketball tournament. In April we do not have a course scheduled, but we typically are out on the road going to as many law schools and engineering schools as we can to talk about patent law as a profession, the patent bar exam, finding a job and, yes, the PLI Patent Bar Review Course. So if you are interested in a presentation let us know and we will see if we can work it into our schedule, or try and get something planned for the Fall of 2010. Once our Spring school tour is over then we will be back on the road teaching courses in New York City (May), Southern CA (June), Boston (July), Chicago (August), New York City (September) and San Francisco (November). We are indeed heading into our busy season!
According to Mark Dighton, PLI Director of Law School Relations and Director of the Patent Bar Review Course, “word of mouth has always been the biggest source of our enrollments. So there’s good reason to encourage our ‘grapevine’ to make sure everyone knows we’re the best course for the Patent Bar Exam out there.” I can tell you that Mark is not just tooting the PLI horn. I have been affiliated with PLI now for 9 years and over that time I have seen the PLI patent bar review course grow to become the premier patent bar review course. Our students do extremely well on the exam, and every year we have approximately 1,000 individuals take either the home study course or the live course, and our first time pass rate is close to 90%. When you factor in that the pass rate has historically been in the 50% range for this exam, it certainly seems that PLI is doing something right.
One of the ways that PLI gets the word out is by cooperating with Career Services Offices. Dighton says: “Career Services Offices at the law schools (and now the engineering and science schools) have always been very supportive: they know that we give an informative, encouraging presentation, and they know that our course is great. But it’s always nice to have a student helping out, to help get the word out and to make sure that our plans don’t conflict with extracurricular activities at the school. So, we’re reaching out to expand our network of student reps in the schools.”
Student representatives, sometimes just referred to as Student Reps, can be very helpful because they work with PLI to plan presentations and to get the word out to other students who are interested in patent law that we will be on campus to give a talk. Dighton says that Student Reps “also help us keep an eye out for other ways PLI can be of service in the schools: scholarships to our programs for students, free IP books for clinics, sponsorship of IP group events, etc. PLI is anxious to make sure students know what a great resource we are of IP knowledge for their entire careers.”
In fact, whenever I speak to law students one of the things I promote heavily is the PLI student scholarship program. PLI has some of the best patent, antitrust, licensing and intellectual property Continuing Legal Education presentations you will ever attend, and students can attend for $25. All you have to do is fill out a scholarship form. This, in my opinion, is the best thing that PLI does for students, and unfortunately not as many students take advantage of it as should. In today’s job market you need to go the extra mile and networking is critical. When PLI hosts a live CLE event those in attendance are typically senior partners and senior in-house attorneys. If a law student shows up and mingles everyone will be intrigued and want to find out why a law student would attend. I wouldn’t suggest going resume in hand, you want to play it cool for sure. But having business cards to hand out is appropriate. Have you ever known someone to hand out a business card and not get one back in return? Worst case scenario, students get exposed to cutting edge legal issues, best case you make a contact or two and strike up a dialogue.
So what is the benefit in becoming a Student Rep? Dighton explains that “aside from the intangible benefits of representing a highly regarded nonprofit, networking with your IP professors and fellow IP students, and the like, student reps get money off their Patent Bar Review course price (or other PLI resources) and scholarships to our other programs.” He goes on to say: “And we try not to be much of a burden. We won’t have you sitting tables for hours, like other courses do. We’re not for everyone. So we trust that you’ll know who to talk to and when to talk about us (at the IP student group meetings, to IP professors, in IP classes, etc.). In short, it’s a great deal for relatively little effort.”
For any students interested in becoming a Student Rep please visit Become a PLI student rep.