Berkeley BigLaw/Tech Law w/ out STEM background

Discuss comparisons of various school choices and the various metrics that inform them, including rankings, student life, location, etc.
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Haunt
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Berkeley BigLaw/Tech Law w/ out STEM background

Post by Haunt » Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:25 pm

Hi all

Mid-cycle, no money offers yet, currently admitted to UVA and Berkeley which are basically my top choices anyway. Wanted to ask for any additional insight/info anyone could provide about Berkeley biglaw outcomes. I was looking at the sticky thread (viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1839) but since I don't have the subscription I can't look directly at the AmLaw 100, I looked at the ABA report and LST, seems like the generic/default answer is "yes Berkeley is good for biglaw" but I'm hoping for more insight/nuance from the board. Probably just paranoid because I'm older, gonna take on some debt (I have significant savings and family support, so I don't think I'm planning anything too dumb, but still debt will be a factor in the job search), and coming from the structure fire that is humanities higher ed.

Relatedly, I'm wondering about taking advantage of Berkeley's tech specialization without any kind of STEM background. I've been hearing in general that, yes, there are significant areas of tech law where you don't need any of that, but, again, looking for more detailed info. I went and looked at the 1L summer listings on the Berkley tech law center website and almost all postings there wanted a STEM background, so I was wondering if the more encouraging stuff I'd been hearing was off-base.

To summarize:

1. How good is Berkeley for biglaw? For clerkships?
2. How does it compare to UVA? (I'd rather be out west but if UVA's edge is significant I might change my mind).
3. Is something in the general area of tech law realistic without any STEM background? (willing to do some catch-up work in LS potentially but it's not like I'm gonna go back and get an engineering degree of course)
4. Am I "wasting" Berkeley if I a) am not PI-focused and b) don't have the STEM background/pursue tech law?

Just a little context, I'm pretty open to different legal careers although concerned about making enough, and so leaning towards biglaw (or clerking --> biglaw), at least for a few years. In theory location is not a top priority but Berkeley is extremely appealing because it's near family and I broadly prefer the west to the east.
Last edited by Haunt on Tue Dec 29, 2020 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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ymmv
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Re: Berkley BigLaw/Tech Law w/ out STEM background

Post by ymmv » Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:47 pm

I can't speak to the "tech law" question (idk what tech law means but my understanding is that the patent bar requires a STEM degree). But if you want to practice in California I don't think there's much question Berkeley makes more sense than UVA at the same price point.

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Slytherpuff
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Re: Berkley BigLaw/Tech Law w/ out STEM background

Post by Slytherpuff » Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:50 pm

I didn't go to either of those schools but I'll weigh in to the extent I can. Berkeley and UVA have pretty comparable big law placements. UVA seems to feed a few more people to big law and clerkships, but some of it might be self-selection - Berkeley's stats are still fine. Berkeley could be a good choice for you (and obviously it's great to be close to family and on the West Coast).

Haunt
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Re: Berkley BigLaw/Tech Law w/ out STEM background

Post by Haunt » Tue Dec 29, 2020 3:27 pm

ymmv wrote:
Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:47 pm
I can't speak to the "tech law" question (idk what tech law means but my understanding is that the patent bar requires a STEM degree). But if you want to practice in California I don't think there's much question Berkeley makes more sense than UVA at the same price point.
Yea, so patent prosecution is a no-go, but, or so I have read so far, basically everything else dealing with IP, trademarks, tech companies in general, is "tech law" and does not formally *require* a STEM degree. Question is whether someone without such a degree is at what kind of competitive disadvantage in going after that kind of work.

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pancakes3
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Re: Berkley BigLaw/Tech Law w/ out STEM background

Post by pancakes3 » Tue Dec 29, 2020 3:28 pm

Patent bar requires a STEM degree or equivalent coursework but that's only relevant for patent prosecution (applying for patents). You can work in soft IP (trademarks, etc), general corp (with tech clients/practice areas - Wilson Sosini for example), and patent litigation without patent bar but you'll be at a handicap in getting placed in those practice groups without a STEM background. it's a competitive practice area.

of course bay area offices that are closer to silicon valley have a leg up on that kind of work like how DC offices have a leg up on regulatory practices, that's a no brainer. I believe UVa places better into clerkships but that's off the top of my head and off old data. clerking might get you into patent lit better but it won't affect the corp/soft-IP practices.

ultimately, i agree that your best bet is to go west coast, use your ties, and get an offer with a firm with a robust tech practice.

you could also go to UVa and get have a better shot at a DC firm that does regulatory stuff like FCC, which is also "tech"

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Nony
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Re: Berkley BigLaw/Tech Law w/ out STEM background

Post by Nony » Tue Dec 29, 2020 3:35 pm

(Edit: pancakes scooped much of this while I was writing)

I took a quick look at the Berkeley tech law certificate. You don't *need* a technical background to succeed in any of those areas of law (with the likely exception of patent stuff), but I do think tech is one of those fields that attracts a lot of people with related experience who will come in with an advantage through past experience in the field.

Analogy: I went to a law school that tends to be well-ranked in environmental law (note: specialty rankings never outweigh overall rankings/employment stats), in a part of the country where environmental stuff is particularly hot. My law school was filled with people who had previous experience in environmental activism/issues/science/etc who flocked to those courses. It doesn't mean that I, who had no related experience at all, was doomed to fail if I had gone into that area of law. But there were a lot of people who were going to be better candidates than I was, right out of the gate, who were committed to that field of law and went all in on it. Personally, I decided I wasn't sufficiently dedicated to that field to want to compete with those candidates. But I certainly could have, if I had a basis for interest in that field rather than "my school is good at this." If you have a genuine interest in tech law that you can articulate convincingly based on your life experience, you'd likely be fine. If you're looking at tech as one of Berkeley's strengths and wanting to capitalize on that kind of regardless of the field, I'd maybe advise against it.

Here's some rambling on a question you didn't ask: you don't need to specialize in law school anywhere near as much as I think you feel like you do (knowing what humanities academia is like, where you carve out a specialization even before you go to grad school). If you have a previously-identified area of interest - you know you want to do tech, or environmental, or family law, or reproductive rights, or whatever - especially if it has some basis in your previous work/experience/education, then I think it can make sense to build on that specialization and focus in law school. But if you're trying to identify a speciality ahead of time that you haven't already developed in your work/education, I think it makes more sense to go in as a generalist, take a wide variety of stuff, and use that time to decide what you want to do. It is really hard to get out of the humanities academic mindset before you start, but it is really really different from law school.

Because really, the JD is intended to prepare you for any legal job once you get out. It's not that common for employers to look for specific courses, and to the extent they do, those courses don't normally pigeonhole you much (e.g. it's really really helpful for litigators to have taken evidence, but that's true whether you want to do criminal law or biglaw litigation. It's really helpful for people in fields with a lot of federal regulation to take administrative law, but it doesn't constrain you by practice area).

My bias here is that I now work in a practice area in which I took only the bare minimum required coursework in law school (I only realized I was interested in it after getting exposure through clerking). There's at least one major course that anyone planning to go into my practice area should have taken in law school that I haven't taken, and it has literally never come up. I spent a ton of time in law school taking employment law courses, which I found interesting intellectually, but then realized I didn't like a lot of things about employment law practice. I don't do anything related to employment law now.

In any case, I think you could probably spin a humanities background to tech law especially through intellectual property (I know former journalists who went this route, for instance) (and of course you may have other more specific things drawing you to tech law). So I don't mean to say that you can't do tech law, just that you don't have to just because Berkeley is good at it. (And apologies if that's not at all how you're approaching this, I just know it was something that affected how I thought about practice areas coming out of humanities academia).

And yes, Berkeley is a great option even if you don't want to do tech or PI.

Haunt
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Re: Berkeley BigLaw/Tech Law w/ out STEM background

Post by Haunt » Tue Dec 29, 2020 4:12 pm

Thanks everyone, this is very helpful.

Yes, I was basically wondering if it was a good idea to try to do some kind of tech law in order to capitalize on Berkeley's strength there, and, if the answer to that were "no" (as it seems to be), whether Berkeley is still a good choice for a generalist biglaw approach. To which the answer seems to be "yes."

Thanks again.

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