Jumpstart your career with LEAP!
Blog by Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO
Over two years ago, the USPTO introduced the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) to provide the next generation of patent practitioners with hands-on experience before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). LEAP is a career development program for patent agents or attorneys with three or fewer substantive oral arguments (not including pro bono) in a federal tribunal. Since the program launched, 135 practitioners have participated in LEAP arguments and more than 140 others have taken LEAP training.
LEAP stands out from other legal mentoring programs. It provides newer practitioners with experience arguing in both real and mock cases before PTAB judges. The mock arguments are in front of actual judge panels and are followed by one-on-one feedback from the judges. LEAP also provides informative webinars and numerous training opportunities, including the opportunity to speak with experienced practitioners, to assist participants to develop their advocacy skills and style. LEAP practitioners learn how to better advocate in ex parte appeals and post grant proceedings under the America Invents Act (AIA), such as inter partes reviews, on behalf of patent applicants, patent owners, and AIA petitioners.
I’m proud to say that I have been involved with LEAP since its inception, as I helped support its development while still in private practice. Now, as Director, it’s even more clear to me what a meaningful program LEAP is for everyone involved, from newer practitioners all the way up through LEAP sponsors, clients, and the whole intellectual property (IP) bar. I’m proud to see the growth of this program and its meaningful impact in the legal community. By promoting opportunity and advancement for all, it helps secure the future of our legal profession.
One LEAP participant said it best: “LEAP helped me become a more well-rounded patent practitioner. Not only did LEAP help me develop my oral advocacy skills, it provided additional perspective about the PTAB and the ex parte appeals process that I have carried through to other areas of my practice. For example, LEAP helped me understand important things to emphasize during prosecution that could later be helpful in an ex parte appeal. And I have applied what I learned about oral advocacy to other areas of my practice, from examiner interviews to interactions with clients and colleagues.”
The future success of the program depends on you!
The USPTO encourages all members of the IP community – lawyers, law firms, clients, etc. – to support and participate in LEAP. The LEAP program, and the experiences gained in it, can benefit the whole IP bar and its clients. The USPTO also asks law firms and law firm leaders to consider serving as sponsors in LEAP and think about including the LEAP program as part of your regular training.
To request a LEAP practitioner argue in a PTAB case, you simply need to fill out the form on our website and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org at least five days before the hearing. Learn more about the program by reading insightful testimonials from the sponsors and participants themselves on our website.
LEAP is an active and ever-growing program and we are continually looking for ways to expand opportunities for participants. We will be hosting a new “LEAP to Chambers” event on November 9 to allow interested LEAP applicants to visit USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia for a judge-guided tour of the hearing facilities and to learn about advocacy tips from PTAB judges. Although this event is at capacity, we have plans for future sessions in the Detroit, Denver, Dallas, and San Jose regional offices, as well as virtually. Subscribe to USPTO email updates to hear about these as soon as they are announced.
For more information or to offer suggestions on ways to improve the program, please contact us at email@example.com.