Choosing the best intellectual property (IP) law school is usually a matter of choosing a school with the right balance of overall ranking and strength of IP programming. Personal feel and professional reputation are also very important. Very few schools advertise themselves as specifically intellectual property law schools. Nevertheless, some schools necessarily have stronger IP programs than others. The best way to choose the one that is right for you is to determine which school will best suit your specific educational needs while providing top-notch IP opportunities.
One of the best places to start looking for an intellectual property law school is in commercial law school guidebooks. Guidebooks typically break law schools down into several categories, including strength of coursework in certain practice areas, including IP. Making a list of all schools with notable programs in intellectual property law may help you better visualize your options.
There is some debate with respect to whether it makes more sense to choose a well-ranked school with a weak IP program, or a lesser-ranked program with a renowned intellectual property curriculum. In many settings after graduation, you as a lawyer will be judged on the overall caliber of your law school. Not all employers care if your school boasted the number two intellectual property law program in the country if the school itself does not even make the top 100. Other firms may be more persuaded by IP-specific strength, but overall rank is nonetheless something to consider.
You can make some assessments about whether an intellectual property law school is a good choice for you by doing a bit of research into each of your options. Begin by evaluating the different intellectual property course offerings of the various schools, including the credentials of the professors. This information is usually readily available on a school’s website, but is also in most admissions prospectus materials. If in doubt, call the admissions office and ask for a copy of their current course offerings and instructor biographies.
Speaking with alumni who went on to become intellectual property lawyers can also give you a good sense of how practical a given school's IP program really is. An intellectual property lawyer who has been in the field for a few years will be able to tell you if she felt her education adequately prepared her for the rigors of her job, or if she encountered any difficulties on the job market. It is often also worth it to ask prominent intellectual property attorneys in the community where you hope to work what their opinions are of a given intellectual property law school.
Choosing the best intellectual property law school is the first of many steps you will take to become an intellectual property attorney, but it is arguably one of the most important. Take the time to do research, ask the right questions, and if possible, visit the schools you have been admitted to before enrolling. Regardless of rank and program strength, an intellectual property law school will only be the best one for you if you feel like you would be happy spending a number of years studying and living there.