by Patrick Appel
I am a patent lawyer with a background in biochemistry. Most of the business people at my clients don't understand what I do, what the technology is that I am working on and generally look at us as being lawyers with "propeller" beanies on our heads and pocket protectors in our shirts. They can't judge me on what I actually do for them, generally, in the legal sense. No one can really judge the proficiency of my work product at the time it is delivered - it has to "bake" for many years before any actual decisions are reached at the US Patent Office. They can - however - judge how "good" something looks. Do I use correct grammar and punctuation? Do I use words that they can understand? Do I format my letters and applications in a clear manner that screams "organized and authoritative"?
They judge me not on what I obtain for them through my legal skills - they judge me as a copyrighter or a graphic designer. It is the hardest thing for me to teach my younger associates that they should spend as much time on their grammar and punctuation as they do on their legal research and brilliant legal positions. In the end - we get judged by our attention to detail more than our legal acumen.