Patent Jobs and the Myth of the Employment Hypothesis

38 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2017

See all articles by Kenneth L. Port

Kenneth L. Port

Mitchell Hamline School of Law; William Mitchell College of Law

Lucas Hjelle

Independent

Molly Littman

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 7, 2017

Abstract

In our prior work on this topic, we have established that patent bar eligible students (students who possess the appropriate science or engineering degree that makes them eligible for the paten bar and to become patent attorneys) who attend law school are declining precipitously in numbers that far exceed all potential law students in general. We have also claimed that this fact will have a deleterious effect on the United States economy. In this article, we establish that the usual argument for why patent bar eligible students are not coming to law school, that is, that there are too few jobs (we call this the Employment Hypothesis), does not apply. In fact, patent attorneys with the appropriate background (mechanical, electrical, chemical or computer engineering degrees or “MECC Engineers”) are quite attractive on the employment market. Yet, they still do not come to law school.

Most people in law do not realize that there is a double standard in reporting the employment data upon which prospective students might rely. According to our research, no other field of study is analyzed, scrutinized, and made to justify itself as law. Other doctorate degrees or even most MBA programs are not scrutinized to determine if some specific job is in the graduate’s near future and whether the education was “worth it” — whether the student’s return on investment supports obtaining the degree in the first place. Law seems to be the only subject where an entity (like the American Bar Association) collects and reports out data to make these types of conclusions possible. In many graduate degrees, rather, employment in anything other than teaching is not mentioned even though only some 45% of PhD holders in History, for example, ever obtain a tenure-track teaching position. That is, 55% of History PhD holders may be employed but not at History professors. If 55% of JD holders never obtained a job as a lawyer, it would be remarkable indeed.

In the end, this article concludes that the very Employment Hypothesis that many in the media claim accurately describes the enrollment crisis in American legal education actually contradicts why MECC Engineers are foregoing a law school education. With this article we attempt to pursue many explanations for the public’s reliance on the Employment Hypothesis, and in particular, why MECC Engineers might choose a Ph.D. in their science over a J.D. — as they seem to do. In the end, this article concludes that MECC Engineers are very employable as patent attorneys. However, the very rationality that leads them to a degree in MECC engineering may be the rationality that diverts them from law school.

Keywords: patent, employment, enrollment, stem

Suggested Citation

Port, Kenneth L. and Hjelle, Lucas and Littman, Molly, Patent Jobs and the Myth of the Employment Hypothesis (October 7, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3049275 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3049275

Kenneth L. Port (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mitchellhamline.edu/biographies/person/kenneth-l-port/

William Mitchell College of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mitchellhamline.edu/biographies/person/kenneth-l-port/

Lucas Hjelle

Independent

No Address Available

Molly Littman

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
680
Abstract Views
2,861
rank
36,909
PlumX Metrics