October 27, 2003

Thinking about the future

I went to a professional panel of IP lawyers today. Both lawyers who got into the field without a technical background came through the litigation door. Both had strong backgrounds in foreign language. All 3 indicated that other than a technical background, a foreign language is the next most useful skill an IP lawyer can have. (Unless, of course, you can come in with amazing people skills... but we all know that's fairly unlikely {evil grin--I can pick on geeks cuz I'm one of 'em}).

Why the foreign language? Two reasons:
1. The increasingly international nature of technology law
2. The ability to translate, learn new vocabulary, and explain things with a limited set of words are all very useful skills in the courtroom when dealing with technical jargon and trying to explain it to a jury or judge.

#2 surprised me. But it makes sense.

I also listened to the career services schpiel: Network, network, network. My friend, H, was offended. "I'm not excited about the concept of cold calling people and pretending to have things in common with them to set up an informational interview so that I might get a job with them this summer. That's not me. I'm not all about networking. I've never had to schmooze in my life. It seems wrong that annoying and questionably-qualified schmoozers will deprive qualified non-schmoozers of jobs."

I realized just how much the valley has changed me. I used to be offended by the concept of networking too--I wanted the world, and my career in particular, to be completely merit-based. But, every job in my post-college life has come through personal connections or word-of-mouth recommendations. This isn't due to lack of trying in companies where I had no connections. It's just the way of the world. There are too many resumes to sift through and nothing acts like a seive quite like words from the mouth of someone you know. I'm not sure that making connections isn't some sort of merit-based test--it tests your people skills and your communication skills. But, I remember feeling like H at other points in my life. In particular, I remember feeling animosity towards the stereotype of Ivy League schmoozing winning out over competence. Thankfully, in the tech world, the connections will get you the interview, but your skill has to get you past the first interviewer. If you suck, they won't even bother taking you out to lunch.

I assume it's the same in law, but perhaps it is more corrupt and all you need to know is someone with power. I hope I'm wrong. For H's sake and for mine. From what I gather from reading about OCI at the more prestigious schools, schmoozing is not involved--it's more like a round-robin jousting tournament. I can hardly wait for my turn on the horse.

No comments: