The recent shootings at a Chicago law firm by Joe Jackson, a disgruntled and crazed client have spawned a search for reasons behind the tragedy. This article, Lawyers balance inventors’ hope (12/17/06) explores one rationale: that Jackson, like other inventors who seek patents, hold an unrealistic hope of success. According to one patent attorney quoted in the article, “probably less than one in 100″ will ever make money on an invention. As the article describes:
Attorneys tread a fine line between being upfront with clients and killing their dreams. “If everyone took a negative attitude, if they said, ‘It’s too hard, or it will take too long,’ then where would our society be?” said Paul Juettner, another patent attorney. “Then Thomas Edison wouldn’t have done the things he did — or the Wright brothers.”
In patent law, as in other fields, attorneys must act as the bearers of bad news, the ones who put a damper on expectations. It’s probably one of the worst parts of being an attorney, but if we don’t occasionally tell our clients “no,” or at least ask them to consider a variety of different options, who will?