Transitioning from Employee to Student

Transitioning from Employee to Student

Sep 24, 2013

The most rewarding endeavors are those that are the most challenging. When I left my job to attend one of the premier intellectual property law schools in the nation, University of New Hampshire School of Law (UNH Law), I had no idea just how rewarding ­– and challenging – the experience would be.

Prior to enrolling at UNH Law, I was a patent agent for a biotechnology corporation in North Carolina. In that role, I was responsible for prosecuting patent applications, meeting with inventors, requesting and analyzing their data, and generally advancing the patent protection position of the company. The job was interesting, challenging, and thoroughly enjoyable; the department was friendly and energetic; and the hours were great. I hardly ever had homework.

But I seriously wondered whether I could effectively transition from employee to student. It had been nine years since the last time I attended a graded class. Did I remember how to study, how to be a student, how to take an exam? Will my wife still like me at the end of it? In reality, however, my fears were overblown. Being in a professional setting and being responsible for projects and deadlines actually made being a student feel natural. I hesitate to say that being a student again came easily, because the work required to succeed in law school is enormous. But in my case, staff meetings became classes, departmental meetings became study groups, and work product became homework. And my wife has been wonderfully supportive throughout.

The summer between your first and second years is a time to explore your interests as a future lawyer, and I was lucky enough to land an internship with the UNH Office for Research Partnerships & Commercialization. In this role, I am able to experience firsthand how an institution leverages its intellectual property in the marketplace in order to generate revenue. It represents the other side of the coin, so to speak, of my previous experience. In a way, it is also wonderfully familiar: study groups became departmental meetings again, and I never had any homework!

Now, as I return to law school for my second year, my school load has increased, and I am responsible for editing scholarly law review articles. I also continue working with ORPC one day per week on some fascinating projects for UNH. It’s the best of both worlds as much as it’s the most of both worlds. And even though I’ve never before done anything as difficult as law school, the rewards have been worth every challenge I’ve encountered.

If you have any questions about returning to school as an older student, or the general impact of law school on personal life, please feel free to contact me at

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