Princess: I'm not the "host" here but I have been in IP for 26+ years in NYC so I can kibitz too. For patent law, one must consider where, what technology, the lucrative inventions are coming from or have come from. You say you are thinking about getting another degree with your ChemE degree. ChemE is great and you can probably handle anything in chemistry, but if getting a chemistry degree is a possibility, consider it. There is a GREAT deal of litigation in generic drugs (a field I have worked in for 17 years), and a chemistry degree will make you very marketable in that field, not only in patent "boutiques" (I hate that term, it's generally a term that BigLawFirms use to describe and put down smaller IP only firms, firms that they look to acquire), but in BigLawFirms that have patent departments. Litigation is the patent area from which you are most likely to get promoted because more money is made there to a law firm that in patent procurement. In the past, drug litigation focussed on patents covering drug formulations (tablet, capsule, timed release), or on methods of treatment (once a day with food). Now, generics are challenging the basic chemical patents themselves. So knowledge of the pertinent chemistry is needed to deal with the various issues that arise in a patent litigation involving a patent to the active itself.
Daniel: The patent law field has not been immune from the slow economy. Even large companies are complaining about bills from lawyers and are hesitant to start new expensive litigations. More thought is also given before spending money on new patent applications, and clients are routinely abandonning applications already filed if the technology is no longer too interesting so that patent prosecution costs are reduced. Many law firms, including patent firms, have been holding off on hiring new people and some have started trimming their ranks. Some law firms have told their September 2009 starters to show up in January 2011. However, things should be different in a year or two when you graduate. If not, I'll be looking for a job.