December 1 is the first day that 1L students can apply for jobs, and many IP firms expect students to apply at that time. Below are tips from the Student Intellectual Property Property Association on ways to bolster your IP-specific resume and cover letter. (Your non-IP resume and cover letters will not necessarily emphasize the same things!).
1. If you are a registered patent agent, include that information in your heading. Especially in Utah, where an estimated 3% of attorneys are registered patent agents, having this distinction can make the difference in a hiring decision.
2. Include a brief list of relevant undergraduate courses either as a bullet point under your undergraduate degree or in a separate section. Also include design projects if applicable. Why? Your application should show the strengths of your technical background. When you research firms prior to applying, note their practice areas and highlight the courses/experience you have that will be applicable to these areas.
3. Include your undergraduate GPA until you have established a law school GPA. Even then, students may still want to include their undergraduate GPA. IP firms may also be interested in unofficial copies of your undergraduate transcripts. Make sure you have access to these transcripts.
4. Regarding both undergraduate and law school unofficial transcripts, clean up the format when you create these documents so that they are easy to read. Especially with law school transcripts that are copied from the CIS system, you can improve the readability of the document by reformatting it. Include your name, semesters/courses/grades and GPA.
5. The length of the resume should be one page. However, an additional page is permissible for Publications–use the same heading as on your resume. For interviews, have references available on a separate page using the same heading as your resume.
6. For initial applications, IP firms usually expect a cover letter, resume, and unofficial transcript (undergraduate transcript until you get your law school grades is acceptable.)
In the opinion of one local IP attorney, the most important items for legal employers are where you went to school and how you performed. After that, show how your technical expertise meets the areas the firm may be looking for. Additional credentials like Law Review and judicial clerkships also make a difference. When you list your activities/interests, don’t list embarrassing activities that make the potential employer question your judgment.
SIPLA cover letter tips:
1. The key is readability, attractive format, and consistency. Proofread your cover letter and resume carefully and have at least two other people read them, too!
2. Let them firm know that you have researched them by adding something unique to your cover letter that is specific to that firm.
Remember, although a good cover letter may not help you get an interview, even a single mistake can torpedo your chances of an interview. (Again – proofread!) If you don’t find legal employment next summer, don’t let the process get you down! Many students who have gone on to obtain IP jobs after their 2L year or graduation took classes or did things like the Judicial or Appellate Clinics their first summer—not exactly IP-specific—but which provided great writing experiences. Just do something meaningful and interesting.