Do you need a science degree to be a good IP lawyer?

This golden oldie comes in at number 20 in the hit parade of most popular articles on this blog. It was written before our IP transactions course started, and the course has recently had its fifth annual outing. Otherwise, the article stands up today. Penny Gilbert and Sally Field are still leading examples of the scientist versus non-scientist who becomes an eminent practitioner in IP litigation. Both are ranked in the gold category for patent litigation in this year’s IAM Patent 1000 rankings.

IP Draughts

Many good intellectual property lawyers have science degrees.  Some have several – IP Draughts can think of one well-known IP barrister who, in addition to his legal qualifications, has a PhD in applied mathematics and an MSc in economics, and is currently studying for a chemistry degree in his spare time.

For some areas of patent litigation, a scientific training can be useful.  Penny Gilbert (DPhil in molecular biology from Oxford), the doyenne of biotech patent litigation and co-founder of Powell Gilbert, springs to mind.  Some IP litigators consider a science degree far better than a law degree as preparation for legal practice.  However, opinions vary.  Some highly-respected IP litigators have (only) law degrees, eg Sally Field of Bristows.

In most cases, UK IP lawyers either have an undergraduate science degree or an undergraduate law degree, and not both (although, increasingly, non-law graduates who pursue the legal practice courses are…

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