Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Engineering Lawyer

People haven often told me that I should be a lawyer. I really don't know what it is about my personality that motivates them to the point of vocalizing their opinion, but it happens... frequently. I have to admit that I have thought about it, and it would probably help me in my run for the presidency. But, considering that running for president may just be a dream, perhaps my limited time is better spent on a Master's in Mechanical Engineering, or Engineering Management, or even an MBA.

Speaking of litigious email situations, I recall an instance when working at a small aerospace company in the Pudget Sound area. I was a fresh grad, only working there for a few months, maybe a year. I was in the Tool Design department and kept busy. Our department did the original conceptual design and released drawings. We then threw the drawings over the wall for manufacture and the Tooling Liaisons took over. Once it hit the floor, the Manufacturing Engineers worked with the Liaisons to troubleshoot any issues. Rarely did the original designer or engineer get a follow-up call. Until one day...

This particular Liaison was known to be difficult. Of course, being new, I wasn't aware of the fact. She calls me up one day and starts ripping me a new one. I politely request information in an email since I wasn't able to get an answer right away, and that would have to ask my Lead how I proceed (as there were specific rules on how to charge to jobs and I needed to learn). He enlightens me and I politely respond to her email with all the answers I am able to provide. She writes back, again with an attitude. Let me tell you, she portrayed emotion in her email just fine. I answer back again, politely, and CYA by copying my Lead. It wasn't really CYA, because I needed to inform him of my actions anyway as well as have him give a sanity check. She would reply just to me, I would reply and copy my lead. This happened several times. We get to the a point where her only reply is "You should be a f'in lawyer." I dutifully brought that one up to my Lead and he just laughs, finally filling me in on the well-known personality of this particular person. She's lucky that I wasn't overly offended by her emails and that enough people within the company knew her in person. I'm not saying she couldn't use a lesson in email ethics, but a simple phone call or walk up from production (or vice versa for me to take the initiative to walk to her area) would have resolved the issue much quicker.

So perhaps I would make a good lawyer. Perhaps having a law degree is beneficial for an engineer. I have pointed out obvious areas where knowing legal precedence would benefit an engineer, especially a self-employed one. Here are some more examples:
contract law
conflict of interest resolution
business law
patent law

And if you decide that being a self-employed contractor isn't for you, I hear patent attorney's make good money. Of course, they aren't really engineers with law degrees so much as lawyers with engineering degrees. Is there a difference?


  1. Lawyer + Engineer = One Badass

  2. A legal adviser to US engineering firm Kellogg Brown & Root pleaded guilty Friday to charges stemming from a long-running probe into bribery to obtain contracts for a multibillion-dollar natural gas venture in Nigeria, officials said