Studying Patent Law

Blas P. Arroyo describes his decision to attend law school at Washington and Lee University following graduation from NC State and how his engineering degree complimented his interests in patent law.

Interview on 2012-09-20


00:00:00.000 After graduation I went to
00:00:03.141 law school at Washington & Lee in Lexington.
00:00:08.511 I mentioned Dean Hawkins before as someone who had a lot of influence on me
00:00:13.765 and who was a great mentor really to me on campus
00:00:19.057 and gave me a lot of good direction and feedback.
00:00:21.613 I was talking to him about law schools and what I might do,
00:00:26.279 and also at that time I didn't know whether I could get into any of them.
00:00:29.339 And I didn't know where I wanted to live ultimately, had no idea.
00:00:36.269 So he mentioned Washington & Lee to me. I'd never heard of it.
00:00:39.605 He had lived in Lexington for a time working for Sigma Nu, the national fraternity.
00:00:49.705 [They] had a headquarters in, of all places, Lexington, Virginia,
00:00:51.767 and it was a small place, the mountains. He talked about the school
00:00:55.100 and he said that the law school was very small
00:00:59.478 and that the thing about it was the people that knew about W&L had very high respect for them-
00:01:04.603 a lot of people didn't know anything about them but those that did-and that
00:01:07.914 their graduates generally came from a large number of different places,
00:01:12.217 so that got me interested in W&L.
00:01:15.795 I looked into it and I applied there along [with]-I thought Florida,
00:01:19.291 being from Florida and in state, and that always helps how many students you could admit,
00:01:23.688 and I applied to different law schools,
00:01:26.745 and thankfully I got in to W&L and they were very gracious and provided
00:01:31.736 scholarship money so I was able to attend there.
00:01:35.945 So I went to W&L, and it was aside or co-equals with State.
00:01:43.381 It was a great experience.
00:01:46.652 I wanted to try something small after having been at State
00:01:53.330 and the small law school in particular really appealed to me
00:01:59.070 because at that time I could read
00:02:02.452 and I would look at the catalogs and the section I would look at was the section that described
00:02:06.325 how many seats there were in the first year classrooms
00:02:10.108 versus how many seats there were in the second year classrooms,
00:02:12.589 and if I was able to get into a law school and do all the work of a first year student
00:02:16.299 I did not want to go somewhere where it was planned that only so many are going to come back for their second year.
00:02:23.325 I wanted somewhere that was going to stick with you, and W&L more than delivered on all those things.
00:02:28.406 I felt academically prepared. I was concerned about the stereotypes about engineers or chemists,
00:02:36.503 that the English language is a mortal enemy in terms of how much experience I'd had in writing,
00:02:42.640 and knowing that in law school the other students-.
00:02:46.790 I think I was the only person in my class who had a technical background.
00:02:52.281 But the background of State
00:02:55.156 relative to the performance in law school and career,
00:02:58.272 it ended up having a huge effect
00:03:00.041 because what I do today is I practice in the field of patent law
00:03:03.303 which is focused and is obviously technology oriented
00:03:09.855 and in order to be admitted to the patent bar
00:03:13.031 you must have a technical degree.
00:03:15.287 So while what I do is primarily contested cases, litigation,
00:03:21.574 where you do not actually have to be admitted to the patent bar to do what I do,
00:03:27.322 the part that I do in the patent field,
00:03:29.437 in order to be a licensed patent attorney in the patent office
00:03:32.738 you have to have a traditional technical background.
00:03:35.632 So it was really the background.
00:03:38.758 The decision in the first place to try something technical and to do it
00:03:42.166 in what I felt might be a friendly environment like NC State
00:03:44.505 directly influenced ultimately what my career ended up being
00:03:48.119 in the legal field, because when I started at W&L
00:03:51.382 I did not even know patent law existed,
00:03:53.745 so there was no grand plan that I want to go and get a technical degree
00:03:58.512 because I'm going to pursue-as some people do now,
00:04:01.646 and know about it.
00:04:04.382 Patent law was just not very well known at the time,
00:04:07.418 so it's just sort of something that happened.