Law Practice

LegalForce is looking for a few good apprentices

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Lyn Salazar. Photography by Tony Avelar.

Raj Abhyanker's Trademarkia search engine has become a popular spot for inventors and entrepreneurs to learn whether their ideas have already been trademarked. Abhyanker estimates that Trademarkia draws 2 million visitors a month, 60,000 visitors a day or "one person every couple of seconds."

Some Trademarkia guests also become clients of Abhyanker’s Mountain View, California-based law firm LegalForce, which claims to represent more than 42,000 clients, adding about 500 a month. Abhyanker says LegalForce files the most trademarks of any U.S. firm—“four times as much” as the nearest competitor.

To handle the traffic, LegalForce has been training attorneys through its apprentice program. Abhyanker says the three-month, paid apprenticeship is a good way for LegalForce to find attorneys who “share our commitment to entrepreneurs.”

Lyn Salazar, LegalForce’s lead recruiter and HR specialist, says the 2-year-old apprentice program draws up to 200 applicants a year, from which five apprentices were chosen in 2014 and five this year.

Salazar says the firm looks for apprentices with a desire to practice in the intellectual property field who also display an “entrepreneurial spirit, are good with client relations and are able to handle a heavy caseload. They work with clients and learn firsthand.”

Under the wing of LegalForce senior attorneys, apprentices learn about the practice of a trademark/patent attorney, including time management and trademark prosecution, Salazar says.

“At the end of the three-month period, the apprentice can decide whether the practice is a good fit—and so can the firm,” she adds. “If they are offered a position with the firm, they become an associate.”


Of counsel Mitesh Patel, the apprentice trainer at LegalForce, says apprentices are versed in the prosecution and enforcement of trademarks and in the filing of copyrights. The program also stresses intangibles of the practice because “clients often need a lot of hand-holding, and apprentices need to know how to work with entrepreneurs.”

Apprentices can come from other legal disciplines, but they should be passionate about IP law, Patel says.

He adds that traditional legal education could benefit from programs that provide young attorneys with practical experience. “I have always been an advocate of something like a residency in medical school,” Patel says, “but the legal field has nothing like that, and I think this part is missing in current legal education.”

Brian Orion, a 2005 graduate of the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, is the founder of San Francisco-based Lawyers for Clean Energy. Orion says he saw how his practice had significant crossover with IP issues, so he applied and was accepted to the LegalForce apprentice program. Although Orion returned to his clean energy practice, he says the LegalForce program was “a tremendously valuable experience and completely unique from where I was coming from.”

Orion says the LegalForce apprentice program gave him the training to take on the IP work of his clean energy clients. “The program definitely fills a need; I use the knowledge I gained working on trademarks for existing clients.”

Jessica Tam, a 2013 graduate of Santa Clara University School of Law, started her apprenticeship in May and is now an associate with LegalForce.

“It’s been a great experience,” she says. “They start from the beginning and give you assignments, and they teach through the assignments. I learned a lot about trademarks in the three months.”

Tam believes law schools should offer a business of law course. “It would be really useful because [there are] a lot of business skills attorneys have to pick up on their own.”

In the meantime, Tam says, legal apprentice programs are a “good idea and more places should have programs like this. It’s just the start of something the rest of the legal field needs to adopt.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Job Corps: LegalForce is looking for a few good apprentices.”

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