Deciding upon a career is an important and difficult choice to make. Within the intellectual property profession, work experience can offer an opportunity to gain a real insight into the work of a patent attorney, helping you answer the question – is the IP profession for me? Laura Collins, HR Advisor with D Young & Co, offers her expert advice for both finding and making the most of IP work experience.
If you’ve heard about the patent profession and seriously think it might be a good fit, an internship is the best opportunity there is to take the next step.
Sam Keyes, Technical Assistant,
D Young & Co.
IP firms offering work experience opportunities are looking for candidates with a genuine desire to find out about the IP profession and to gain a real perspective of what life as a patent attorney is like.
Candidates will need an exceptional academic record in a scientific or technical discipline. Some firms may have different work experience opportunities available for different departments so make sure to consider the criteria when applying.
As well as the above, other key skills that firms look for include:
– Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
– The ability to work well in a team as well as autonomously.
– Good time management skills and an understanding of the importance of deadlines.
– Strong analytical skills.
– Meticulous attention to detail.
The application process
To find available work experience placements, visit the careers pages of different IP firms and also IP Careers’ Job Search pages to see what opportunities are on offer, or refer to the Job Finder table from page 186 of the 2019/20 Chartered Patent Attorneys guide. Some may advertise at different times of the year so, if an opportunity isn’t available when you first look, don’t give up!
Application processes can differ. For the first stage, you may be asked to complete an online application form or send a CV and covering letter. Vacancies are highly sought after and therefore you should try to include something in your application that will make you stand out. For a second stage, some firms may invite you to an interview, either in person or via telephone. During the whole process, it is important to show why you are interested in the work experience or internship opportunity and why you want to be a patent attorney. Make sure that you complete some research into the firm that you have applied to, the work of a patent attorney and the process of training to become qualified. Some firms may also ask behavioural interview questions that require you to provide examples from your previous experience. You could be asked to describe a time when you have worked well in a team or a time when you have met an important deadline for example. In advance of your interview, consider the key skills that you need to be a patent attorney and think of examples of situations where you have demonstrated these skills.
Good candidates will have an excellent knowledge of technology. However, we also want to see that candidates have the same passion that we do for clever ideas and invention.
Alan Boyd, Partner, D Young & Co.
Work experience will allow you to obtain invaluable knowledge about the IP profession and take part in a range of activities to give you a taste of the work of a patent attorney. You may be asked to draft a claim or prepare an argument for a mock hearing. You will have the opportunity to spend time with and put questions to current attorneys and trainees and you will gain an honest impression of the firm that you visit and a feel for the atmosphere and ethos. All of these elements will ultimately assist you in making a decision about your future career.
Following work experience, some firms may offer subsequent longer internships or even the opportunity of a trainee position with the firm so make every second count!
What do I do if I don’t secure work experience or an internship?
As previously mentioned, vacancies are highly sought after and there will be a lot of competition for places. It is important not to stop looking for opportunities if you are not successful in obtaining a place first time and remember that, if you have not managed to obtain a work experience placement, you are not precluded from applying for a trainee position with a firm.
You can also try to find out about the profession from other sources. Some universities invite patent attorneys to visit and give talks on the profession. You may also have the opportunity to visit a careers fair where you can meet representatives from different IP firms. Take every opportunity to speak to patent attorneys about the profession to assist you in answering the question – is the IP profession for me?
Laura Collins is an HR Advisor with leading IP firm D Young & Co.