Patexia Insight 9: The Probability of Landing an Inhouse Job
Every week our recruiting team at Patexia receives many calls and emails from those patent attorneys and agents who are interested in moving inhouse. A few weeks ago we analyzed the USPTO patent practitioner’s data and concluded that there were a shortage of patent attorneys. Our Data Science team decided to take a closer look at data again and find out the likelihood of landing an inhouse job for a patent attorney in the current market condition. As we expected, the data confirmed our assumption: currently the likelihood of getting an inhouse job for patent attorneys and agents is much lower than law firms and is about 25%. The exact number for each patent practitioner is different as it varies based on location, experience, market condition, etc. We have looked at this from multiple angles.
Based on the recent USPTO records for patent practitioner as of July 2016, one out of every four patent practitioners is a patent agent. Given that the probability is different for patent agents and attorneys, we decided to separate them.
We learned that approximately one out of every three patent agents works inhouse, showing patent agents are more popular for inhouse work. Large corporations that manage most of their prosecution work inhouse tend to hire many patent agents. For example, as we showed several weeks ago in our study of top 25 companies by number of patent practitioners, DuPont and 3M hire more patent agents than patent attorneys and handle their prosecution work mostly inhouse.
On the other side, while we have three times more patent attorneys than agents, the demand for inhouse patent attorneys is lower than patent agents in terms of the percentage. Less than 24% of all active patent attorneys work inhouse.
While the above numbers are the averages for all active patent attorneys and agents, the data showed us that companies prefer to hire more experienced practitioners. To better understand the issue, we analyzed the ratio based on years of experience, studying patent practitioners with zero to 30 years of experience. Based on our analysis, the highest demand is for patent practitioners with 15 to 16 years of experience, representing more than 35% of those working inhouse.
The likelihood of finding an inhouse job for patent practitioners with zero to two years of experience drops to about 10%.
One other important factor affecting the dynamics is location, as the numbers aren’t evenly distributed throughout the country. Some states hire more patent practitioners than others. Depending on the concentration of companies with large IP teams, the likelihood of landing an inhouse job will change.
We analyzed the top 10 states with the highest likelihood of landing an inhouse job. These states don’t necessarily have the highest number of positions available, but the competition for finding an inhouse job is lower.
Maryland topped the list with about 67% inhouse positions. More closely studying the entities with inhouse positions, we found some government agencies – such as the National Institute of Health, the National Security Agency, and the United States Army – among those hiring patent practitioners.
New Jersey ranks second with about 56% inhouse versus law firms. Many tech and life science companies have their IP divisions in New Jersey, including Alcatel-Lucent, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AT&T, and Johnson & Johnson.
In the near future, we plan to release more accurate reports predicting the trends based on historical hiring and retirement rates. Fortunately, the USPTO recently started releasing the list of registered active patent practitioners on a regular basis. Tracking this will give us a good sense about new hiring and retirement rates.
By combining this data with other data sets that influence the IP sector, we can build a relatively accurate regression model and predict the job opportunities in the sector.
Many variables affect the job market in the IP sector. For example, on the litigation side, the rise and fall of district court and PTAB litigation affect the hiring rates for patent litigators. On the prosecution side, an increase or decrease in the patent filing rate and ratio of foreign to domestic applications would impact the hiring rate for patent prosecution attorneys and agents.
Ongoing trends also affect the demand for both litigation and prosecution attorneys. For example, the hiring rate for a particular type of patent attorney, such as those with EE or CS backgrounds, is currently very high compared to those with life sciences background. The speed of innovation in tech, as well as patent wars between tech companies and non-practicing entities (NPEs), is driving this hiring rate.
On top of all of this, other variables will affect the job market, including an increase or decrease in the average number of hours each attorney works, their overall efficiency, and the average age of retirement for the IP sector.
We now can calculate very accurately many of the above variables using different data sources. And we can form a Regression Model (assuming the relationship between them is linear) using this data. Our predictions will become more accurate over time, as our Data Science Team trains the model with more historical data.
The demand for inhouse IP jobs is generally high. Every week we receive many calls and emails from those attorneys who are interested to move inhouse. This is exacerbated for those associates with 8-plus years of experience who do not see the possibility of becoming a partner at their current firms. We learned that while the demand is high, the supply is low. On average only one out of every four attorneys works inhouse. Numbers also show that inhouse positions usually require more experience, where the best chances are for those with about 15-plus years of experience.
About our Data: In order to calculate the above numbers, we analyzed the list of patent practitioners released by the USPTO on July 12, 2016. We looked at the top 2,000 entities, which hire about 23,000 patent practitioners. We estimate that this covered more than 75% of all active patent practitioners in the country.