Lawyers and Engineers, So Different Yet So Similar

Written by: Tom Kading
Thomas Kading Attorney at Fargo Patent 7 Business law, PLLC

When thinking of engineers and lawyers, their differences are more obvious when you compare them based on the tasks they perform and the reasons they get hired. But by looking a little closer, there are a lot of similarities between the two professions.

High-Level Education and Skillsets

Both engineers and lawyers must go to school to level up their unique skill sets to prepare them for their rewarding careers. Engineers are required to have sound mathematical and analytical skills to help them solve complex technical problems and build out solutions that serve a market need. Lawyers are required to have solid writing and argumentative skills to aid them in solving intricate legal matters when vigorously advocating on behalf of their client’s legal needs. Although the educational preparation coursework is vastly different, and oftentimes on opposite ends of the educational spectrum, both engineers and lawyers have earned a lot of knowledge and experience when it comes to their chosen profession.

Problem Solvers

A problem solver is someone who resolves issues using critical thinking, logical reasoning and analytical skills. In both of these professions, engineers and lawyers have to collect data and facts to frame the scope of the technical or legal problem. They use logical reasoning skills to analyze, extract and transform those data points and facts into useful information. From there, they use critical thinking skills by taking the useful information to analyze and isolate patterns to help them determine strategies and next steps. Therefore, both engineers and lawyers are problem-solving professionals, in their respective industries, because of the skills they acquired to resolve complex and unique issues.

Perceived as Not Approachable

Unfortunately, both engineers and lawyers are oftentimes perceived as unapproachable “Know-it-Alls”. Engineers have their own unique skill sets that help them solve complex technical problems. However, this advanced knowledge they have, that very limited professionals know about or understand, can cause engineers to be deemed unapproachable due to a presumed technical superiority complex. Although their technical knowledge is critically important in their line of work, the overvaluation of one’s abilities is often perceived as arrogant or snobby by the common person. Similarly, those who engage with lawyers often are intimidated because of their reputation of being elitists in the professional setting with their attire, large offices, nice cars, and the overall attitude of being better. Lawyers have unique skills in identifying legal issues, knowing how to apply the law based on their clients’ predicament, and then zealously advocating on their client’s behalf to achieve the desired outcome. The ability to think critically under time pressure is an exceptional skill to acquire. However, knowing that one has that skill can make someone unapproachable. This too is perceived by the common person as unwelcoming or unfriendly.

The general public nowadays is flooded with information daily and would prefer to understand content in its most basic form. Engineers often use their own technical jargon when explaining complex technical issues. Lawyers do the same with their own legal jargon to show that they know and understand the law. However, the general public prefers that both technical and legal jargon be simplified to content that is presented in a concise, minimal, and familiar way. Engineers and lawyers love to show extra “value” in their explanations because they are eager to show off the skills they’ve gained after many years of academic and professional training. Unfortunately, the general public does not see this eagerness in the same way because the extra value that is put in does not translate into a simple statement that is easier to understand. Therefore, it is critically important for both professions to understand their respective audiences before communicating their technical or legal knowledge. Although it may be impressive to show that skill set, it can be a bit annoying and intimidating to the general public when the vocabulary used is not understood.

Overly Diligent

Both engineers and lawyers have a duty to perform diligently in their respective professions to protect the public from unsafe or dangerous situations. Engineers are often perceived as overthinkers because they try to “overengineer” a problem and aim to identify every possible risk and an associated risk response plan. When this occurs, engineers spend a lot of time designing a solution that considers every possible risk that often is not necessary because the probability of that risk happening is very low.

Similarly, lawyers are tasked with conducting timely legal research, providing prompt opinions, and complying with statutory deadlines. However, there are times that lawyers are perceived as indecisive because they think in terms of probabilities and cannot provide a straight yes or no answer.


In relation to building new solutions and solving complex legal problems, both engineers and lawyers have a lot to offer the general public. To help put the general public at ease, both professions need to help their target audiences solve problems in a timely and understandable way. The substance of the issues presented in both the engineering and legal worlds is the heart of why engineers and lawyers exist. However, just as important, the way the content is delivered and presented needs to be executed in a way that allows the general public to feel is personable, timely, understandable and delivered with empathy.

Patent Attorneys “A Blend of Both Professions”

As of this writing, there are approximately 1.3 million active attorneys in the United States. However, there are only 36,578 registered and active patent attorneys. This means that less than 3% of all active attorneys practicing in the United States are patent attorneys. Patent attorneys are unique in the professional world as they are attorneys with a technical or scientific background with the goal of helping clients turn great ideas into protected intellectual property assets.

Based on this information, all the stigma about engineers and lawyers is further compounded because patent attorneys are often engineers who also became attorneys. Therefore, it is even more imperative for patent attorneys to remove the stigma of being unapproachable, indecisive, intimidating, and “Know-it-Alls”.

Fargo Patent & Business Law, PLLC
Phone: 701.566.7571
Email: [email protected]

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