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Eric Madigan ‘12 Finds Success Working With Cutting-Edge Technology

September 8, 2015

Eric Madigan ‘12 Finds Success Working With Cutting-Edge Technology

Eric Madigan’s ‘12 focus and dedication paid off when he secured his current position as patent counsel at Knobbe Martens Olson & Bears’ Intellectual Property Law, a national firm located in San Diego. “I started out going to school for electrical engineering because I knew it was a field that employers were constantly seeking out candidates for work in,” Madigan admitted. It was Madigan’s interest in electrical engineering that led him to an internship at Northrop Grumman, one of the leading global security companies, where he worked on devices that went through the patent process. “During this process I became friends with the patent attorney at my site and talked to him a lot about the profession,” Madigan said. “I didn’t even know there was such a profession, but it seemed interesting so I decided to pursue it.”

After graduating from California Polytechnic State University Pomona in 2007, Madigan did not set his B.S. in electrical engineering aside. Instead, Madigan worked at Northrop Grumman as an electrical engineer, systems engineer and eventually as a project engineer. As lead project engineer, Madigan was able to play an important role in projects such as the air vehicle segment of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance project, projects involving unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles and long-range strike weapon systems. Even through law school Madigan continued working at Northrop Grumman, sharpening his skills as an engineer while implementing the skills he was developing in the classroom. “I found that I was able to apply a lot of the reasoning and communication skills I learned in law school to my professional life,” Madigan said. 

A passion for technology allowed Madigan to succeed as an engineer. However, a J.D. led him to a more satisfying career working with a broader range of new technologies. “As an engineer you can spend years on one particular piece of tech but as an IP attorney you can be exposed to new tech that no one has ever heard of on a monthly basis,” Madigan explained. “I am able to work with a large pool of cutting edge technology. I’m a big fan of technology, the hardware and software involved, and learning about the upcoming devices. Working in a legal field where I am able to apply technical knowledge is very rewarding, as both are very interesting fields with their own sets of distinct rules.”

“Although it may seem like there is very little common ground between an aerospace engineer and an attorney, or an artist and an attorney, or even a sales job with a legal job, don’t get discouraged – a legal education will make you stand out if you practice the skills you are taught,” Madigan encouraged. 

For recent grads and current students, Madigan suggested the best way to pursue a career is to decide the type of job you want. “First, if you’re looking for a legal job: talk to everyone, tug on every thread, show enthusiasm for the work. Get an internship somewhere every year and stand out. To stand out, get in earlier than the boss, leave after the boss, and try to learn every aspect of whatever they put in front of you. If you can spend the time you go to school working either full time or part time for a law firm, the pressures of finding employment will be much less. It also shows enthusiasm and drive, and puts you way ahead of the curve in terms of recent grad opportunities,” Madigan explained. “Second, if you’re not interested in a legal job: find something that you enjoy doing and go full throttle in that direction. Law school doesn’t just teach you the law; it teaches you how to be an effective and efficient communicator, how to critically analyze both sides of an argument, how to be convincing, and how to objectively approach difficult subjects. Use those tools and you will stand out.”