Are you a second or third-year law student or an attorney at the beginning of your patent law career? Have you ever thought about clerking for a team of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) administrative patent judges?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program is for you!
The PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program is designed to give recent law school graduates and junior attorneys hands-on and behind-the-scenes experience working with PTAB judges on America Invents Act (AIA) trials and ex parte appeals. PTAB judicial law clerks become familiar with all aspects of a PTAB trial and gain in‑depth knowledge of appeals from adverse examiner decisions. In addition, when our law clerks leave PTAB, they join a collegial and growing network of former PTAB law clerks.
Like traditional clerkships, the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program provides clerks the opportunity to work directly with judges and learn about the adjudicatory process, but it is also unique. It focuses exclusively on patent matters—thus providing valuable insight into both prosecution practice and post‑grant proceedings.
Responsibilities of a PTAB judicial law clerk
A PTAB judicial law clerk will be assigned to work primarily with three PTAB judges. A PTAB judicial law clerk assists PTAB judges with PTAB trials and ex parte appeals. Specifically, our law clerks typically review the arguments and evidence of record, analyze pertinent legal and technical issues, and recommend to the PTAB judges how to resolve various issues. PTAB judicial law clerks also attend case conferences, observe oral arguments, and complete a variety of writing assignments, such as bench memoranda, opinions, orders, and summaries of prior art and technology.
Our law clerks also work with others at the PTAB and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on special projects and initiatives concerning patent laws and policy. For example, current and former PTAB judicial law clerks have worked with the Director on a variety of agency-wide issues.
A PTAB judicial law clerk gains significant legal skills, such as legal writing, legal research, and communication about complex issues of law and technology. A PTAB judicial law clerk also hones technical expertise by working in a vast array of technological fields. Over the course of the clerkship, PTAB clerks build a wide-ranging professional network through interactions with other law clerks, USPTO and PTAB staff, and patent practitioners. Most importantly, PTAB judicial law clerks work closely with PTAB judges, who may become lifelong mentors, and provide advice and guidance long after the clerkship ends.
Description of the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program
The PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program is a paid clerkship at the GS-11 level, typically beginning and ending in September, and is designed for recent law school graduates and other attorneys early in their career who want to gain valuable experience in patent law. The program currently runs for a one-year fixed term and is based at the USPTO's headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Applications to the program are generally taken in July/August of each year for a start date in September/October of the following year. This timeline facilitates applications for those between their 2L and 3L years of law school, while also aligning with candidates who are junior practitioners at law firms.
A PTAB judicial law clerk can take advantage of working at a federal government agency with one of the nation’s highest ratings in job satisfaction. Among other things, this includes work-life balance, while still gaining vast substantive experience by working with PTAB judges and other PTAB employees. Spending the one-year term in the Washington, D.C. area makes it even easier for judicial law clerks to build a strong network in the heart of the patent world.
To be considered for the position, each applicant must be a U.S. citizen and obtain a law degree prior to the start of the clerkship. However, a law degree is not required to apply for the clerkship. Admission to a state Bar is encouraged, but not required. Similarly, admission to the Patent Bar is encouraged, but not required.
How to apply
The posting for the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program typically opens in the late summer and closes in the early fall. We hire a year in advance, which allows for those between their 2L and 3L years of law school to apply.
The job posting for the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk program is available through USAJobs.gov. To receive a notification when that the posting becomes available, you can set an alert on USAJobs.gov. For information about the posting, check PTAB events section of the USPTO website and follow @USPTO Jobs on Twitter.
To learn more about the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program, watch our PTAB Boardside Chat from August 19, 2021.
Can a law student apply for the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program?
Yes. A law degree is required for the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program, but it is not required to apply for the clerkship. Between the 2L and 3L years of law school is a great time to apply for PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program. Hiring usually begins in the summer of the year before the start of the clerkship. Thus, a law student can apply for the clerkship at the beginning of the last year of law school, and the clerkship would begin after graduation in the fall of the following year.
Do you need to pass the Bar exam before being a PTAB judicial law clerk?
No. Although encouraged, admission to a state Bar or the Patent Bar is not required for the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program.
Does the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program count as time in federal service?
Yes. The PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program is a GS-11 position.
Can a patent examiner apply to be a PTAB judicial law clerk?
Yes, if the patent examiner meets the eligibility requirements for a PTAB judicial law clerk position, including a law degree earned prior to the start of the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program.
How long is the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program? Is it extendable?
No. PTAB judicial law clerkships are for a fixed one-year term. They are not extendable.
For questions about the PTAB Judicial Law Clerk Program, please send an e‑mail to PTABLawClerks@uspto.gov.
Meet former PTAB law clerks