Nationwide Survey Shows High Expectations among STEM Professionals Seeking Law Degrees

Legal credential seen as boosting careers and earnings

Technology specialists, patent agents, and other STEM professionals expect a law degree will accelerate their career paths and boost earning power within law firms, according to a Suffolk University Law School inaugural survey of those professionals.

Law.com's coverage of the Suffolk Law STEM Professionals Survey [PDF]

Suffolk Law surveyed legal professionals in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related fields who are working at law firms or in-house legal departments across the country and who are currently attending or contemplating law school. The Intellectual Property S.T.E.M. Professionals Survey [PDF] found that 70 percent of respondents expected to receive some kind of advanced standing within a law firm upon graduation. More than half of respondents expected to be placed as a third-year (42 percent) or fourth-year (9 percent) associate. Another 19 percent expected to be placed as a second-year associate.

The survey also found that when it comes to choosing a law school, STEM professionals value location over reputation. When asked which factors would influence their choice of law school, the most-cited factors were location (36 percent) or proximity to work (34 percent). This compares to 22 percent of respondents who cited the reputation of the school’s Intellectual Property program, or 8 percent who cited cost.

One reason cost may not be tops on the minds of many tech specs and other STEM professionals attending or contemplating law school: Their employer may be paying for it.

According to the survey, more than half (55 percent) of respondents said their employer was picking up the full cost of their law degree. Another 16 percent said their employer was paying part of the tuition.

Suffolk Law launched the Intellectual Property S.T.E.M. Professionals Survey to help these professionals and their employers, along with law schools across the country, better understand the demographics, motivations and treatment of this specific population.

“By polling current STEM legal professionals, we are taking a step toward identifying, and better understanding what drives this population,” said Leah Chan Grinvald, associate dean and professor of Intellectual Property Law at Suffolk Law. “STEM legal professionals are highly sought-after employees. This survey provides insights into their expectations, as well as their financial, logistical and educational concerns.”

Survey respondents were those identified as technology specialists (tech specs), patent agents, patent engineers, science advisers and other STEM-related professionals working at law firms or in-house legal departments. All respondents were located in the United States. The survey focused on professionals in law school or contemplating law school, but practicing attorneys were not included in the survey.

About 41 percent of respondents were based in the Northeast. Another 20 percent were in mid-Atlantic states. About 15 percent were in western states; 13 percent in the Southwest; 9 percent in the Midwest; and 2 percent in the southern states. Respondents who elected to disclose where they went to law school indicated they were attending Boston University School of Law; California Western School of Law; DePaul University College of Law; Fordham University Law School; Suffolk University Law School and the University of Houston Law Center.

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