Job Title: Legal Assistant
Type of Company: I work for an intellectual property (IP) firm. We mostly handle IP litigation, US and foreign patent prosecution, and trademarks. Our areas of practice include computer science, electrical/mechanical and biotechnology.
Education: AS, Paralegal Studies Certificate, Legal Secretary
Previous Experience: I worked as a secretary in a small family law firm. Currently I work in a large law firm as an assistant.
Job Tasks: I work for a partner and an associate of the firm. My main responsibilities include maintaining their dockets and initiating paper work to be filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (US PTO), preparing correspondence to our clients that relates to the status of their cases and working with clients to coordinate applications or potential applications for patents.
As boring as this may sound, it is not. IP work has a lot of deadlines and word processing. Most of the time we are at our clients beck and call and so "last minute" filings or issues happen frequently. Each day brings a different set of issues or demands. I can start out my day thinking I will get caught up with correspondence which needs to go to the client and get an urgent fax or email that something critical is happening and never even touch a letter.
Some days are harder when both attorneys have critical deadlines to meet, or something urgent comes up. At that point, I have to request specific timelines for when their work needs to be done. I have to tell them what I'm doing and ask them what is more important to get done.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is that each day is different and that my job is challenging. I have been at my company for 13 years and I still love the work. I love working on my own and prioritizing workflow.
The worst part of my job is that I end up staying late frequently. Some days I feel like I am going in circles and don't know which way to turn. It can be overwhelming sometimes. I think this job takes a personality that can handle stress.
Job Tips: I would advise people to keep an open mind. IP work isn't something that you can learn out of a text book. If you make it through the first year you are on your way. The first year is confusing because you can't grasp the whole picture of what is going on. You need to be detail-oriented. You need to be able to fill out paperwork to be submitted to the US PTO and know what is "required" to accompany it. Also, I think a good word processing background is extremely helpful.
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