When Maria Laccotripe Zacharakis started her molecular biology PhD at Boston University School of Medicine, she never envisioned herself as a lawyer. But partway through her research on the structure-function relationship of one of the proteins in “good” cholesterol, she realized, “I liked the theoretical aspects of science, but not necessarily being at the bench doing the lab work,” she says. So she started investigating other options and stumbled upon the idea of patent law. Before she even defended her dissertation, she landed a job as a technical specialist at Lahive & Cockfield, LLP, a local patent firm—a position that required no legal training.
At the firm, she began drafting patents and responses to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, while studying for the patent bar exam. Without a law degree—but with the patent bar under her belt—she became a certified patent agent and could sign the documents she was preparing. At the same time the firm paid for her to go to law school at night, and four years later, after passing the regular bar exam, she became a full-fledged patent attorney.
“I just love this profession,” says Zacharakis, now a partner at McCarter & English, LLP, another Boston-based firm. “I feel very fortunate to work with these scientists and protect their products.”
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