I came across the patent attorney career when I was in the final year of my PhD in Civil Engineering. I was really interested in a challenging career in which I could work long-term with one employer, and the synthesis of technical, legal and business development skills really appealed to me.
I can still remember the mixture of excitement and trepidation I felt on the morning of my interview at Swindell & Pearson. I knew that it would be a great place to work and train: Swindell & Pearson is a mid-sized firm with clients ranging from very small businesses to multinationals, so I knew that I would have opportunities to work on a diverse range of cases and benefit from the support and expertise of a close-knit team. I was initially concerned that the interviewers might be unfamiliar with my qualifications, but I realised early in the process that this worry was misplaced: the recruiting team are experts in figuring out whether you know enough and think in the right way to do the job.
The interviewers were my prospective supervisors, including the team’s most experienced and senior patent attorney. They made a real effort to get to know me and supported me to do my best. They didn’t just want me to show strong attorney skills – they also wanted to see that I was a reflective, enthusiastic and respectful person who could argue a point of view effectively and respond appropriately to all kinds of feedback. I am very glad that Swindell & Pearson requires all of those qualities from its staff – it’s why we have such a supportive, collegiate working culture where everybody understands what is expected of them.
In the time I have been at Swindell & Pearson, I have often thought about how fortunate I am to be training here. My supervisors are highly skilled, senior patent attorneys who have invested a huge amount in my training. I had daily one-to-one consultations with them to discuss my professional development as well as my cases, and I received weekly tutorials from the most senior member of the team, as well as specific exam preparation courses.
Since early on, I have been able to regularly represent the business as part of my direct contact with existing and prospective clients. For example, I took up the opportunity to work in-house with one of our largest clients for six months as a secondee. I am now the ‘face’ of Swindell & Pearson for that client. This involves visiting their site regularly and tailoring our service to their requirements. I get to run my own ‘direct client’ cases from start to finish rather than just completing piecework for senior colleagues, meaning I have been able to develop my reputation as a trusted advisor. Most of my cases are ‘managing associate’ cases for which I am entrusted to discuss a global patent strategy with the client and instruct foreign associates accordingly. This is an enjoyable and challenging process and there is no risk of the job becoming repetitive. Our business development manager also works with me to develop new and existing relationships, helping me to achieve my long term goals.
The examinations for achieving UK and European qualified status require an investment of personal time over the first three to five years, particularly in early Autumn and late Winter. I held off disruptive decisions such as buying a house, but otherwise the exams have not been too stressful. Fortunately, I have always had the option at Swindell & Pearson not to sit all exams at once. The in-house training has been excellent, with training courses being run by colleagues who performed exceptionally well in those exams.
I have also been able to attend external residential courses. I hope to have achieved European qualified status in 2018.
I also have been pleasantly surprised by how active and sociable Derby’s professional networking groups are. The trainees and associates at Swindell & Pearson regularly attend CIPA, Young Professionals and Law Society meet-ups, which are great opportunities to meet new friends and make valuable contacts.