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Small Business Legal Clinic

Interview with Patent Attorney Volunteer Joseph Makuch

April 10, 2018

1) Why did you decide to volunteer?

About a year ago, I launched a new IP practice, and I was looking for ways to give it a sense of meaning. While I was setting up practice management systems for my new firm, I began thinking about the disciplined mindset that was instilled in me while I was an intern at the legal clinic 23 years ago. It occurred to me that helping at the clinic would have a multiplier effect–not only would I be training new lawyers, I would also be helping an underserved part of the business community.

2) What were the biggest challenges?

It was challenging trying to provide a good clinical experience for interns in view of the nature of patent law practice. The core educational goal of a teaching clinic is to provide an opportunity for law students to interact directly with clients. Applying for patents, however, tends to require long stretches of solitary research and writing. We were fortunate that our last few cases took some unexpected turns requiring direct client counseling.

3) What has been the most positive surprise to participating in the program?

I was surprised by how business savvy our clients have been. This makes the experience more fulfilling for interns at the clinic because most patents have very little value outside of a successful business.

4) What are your future goals?

I’m hoping to make the clinical experience more rewarding for interns while still maintaining a high level of service to the clients. We have some plans for taking on more one-time consultations to provide more direct client interaction.