As part of the IP Careers series of graduate Employer Q&As, we asked leading patent firm Carpmaels & Ransford to answer some key questions about the intellectual property profession.
About Carpmaels & Ransford
A full-service European intellectual property firm, Carpmaels & Ransford have been at the forefront of handling intellectual property for over 200 years. The firm has a large (currently over 250 employees) central London office and manages clients’ intellectual property from inception to commercialisation within a wide range of services and areas of specialism.
Thanks to their large size, Carpmaels & Ransford are able to take on up to 10 trainee patent attorneys every year, with training offered on the job. For undergraduates keen to gain valuable experience in this niche industry, the firm offers a 2 week summer Intern programme as well as spring and autumn Open Days, aimed at students in their penultimate or final year of study.
View and apply for the latest opportunities with Carpmaels & Ransford and kick start your IP Career today.
Carpmaels & Ransford Employer Q&A
What would a typical day working at Carpmaels & Ransford involve?
A typical day can vary considerably. Most attorneys begin their day by checking emails and reviewing their to-do-list for the day/week; the profession is very deadline driven so a certain level of organisation is crucial to ensure work is submitted on time.
From day one, trainees work on live cases. For patent attorneys, this involves reading and reviewing applications and documents in fine detail, and writing arguments and technical statements for submission to the relevant IP office or client.
Throughout the day our attorneys are encouraged to discuss their work with other attorneys and bounce ideas off one another.
The more senior our attorneys become, the more autonomy and responsibilities they take on which include more direct interaction with clients, training/coaching less experienced attorneys and so on.
I have the option to do a post-doc after the completion of my PhD. Should I apply to become a patent attorney now or wait until I have completed my post-doc? How much do you value this experience?
We will always encourage you to follow your inclinations; whether it be walking away from the lab or going on to do a post-doc. A post-doc can be useful for developing written and verbal communication skills but this is not a prerequisite for training as an attorney at Carpmaels: an excellent first degree in a broad discipline can be just as acceptable.
I am a second year student and have a year in industry as part of my course. Do you offer internships or industrial placements at all?
We offer open days (“insights”) in spring and autumn, and a two-week summer intern programme each year. Interested students can register for Job Alerts via our website that will alert them to when these opportunities become available.
Could you tell me a little bit more about the opportunities for internships and insights with Carpmaels? For example, how do these two schemes differ?
Our open days (“insights”) start in the early afternoon and include presentations giving you an introduction into the profession, the day to day aspects of the job, an interactive workshop and an opportunity to talk to a variety of people at different stages of their career.
Our intern programme runs for two weeks during the summer (normally around June/July). The comprehensive programme gives interns a rare opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the profession and what it is like to work at Carpmaels, including its social side. Our internships include seminars, case studies, work shadowing, involvement in client meetings, the opportunity to contribute towards active cases and plenty of opportunities to talk to people at different stages of their career.
What is career development like in the profession as a whole, and at Carpmaels & Ransford? How often do you see trainees move to management positions?
Generally, trainees pass the qualifying exams around four years after entry into the profession and become qualified patent attorneys (“associates”). After a period of building their experience as qualified professionals, associates can apply to become senior associates. From there, for those keen to be involved in managing the running of a business, partnership is the next step. Typically new partners join from about 10-12 years into the profession. We support our attorneys through their career development at Carpmaels and encourage them to apply for more senior roles when they are ready to do so (generally as part of our appraisal process). We provide support and training through each transition.
What are your requirements at A-Level for non-UK EU students? Does this change if you have further education qualifications such as a PhD?
We look at the overall academic history and apply the same academic standard to all applicants, irrespective of their background and range of qualifications. The standard we expect is equivalent to three grade As at A-Level.
Are there any specific scientific backgrounds or disciplines that Carpmaels are always particularly looking to recruit from?
For trainee patent attorneys, technical disciplines sought include Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Pharmacology, Chemical Engineering, Material Science, Electrical/Electronic Engineering (highly sought), IT/Computer Science, Physics and Mechanical Engineering.
For trainee trade mark attorneys, there are no specified degree subjects. However, disciplines such as law, history or languages are highly valued.
What key skills do you look for in a candidate hoping to train as a Patent Attorney?
There are numerous skills and attributes we look for in our applicants including excellent academic qualifications, excellent understanding of their technical field, excellent command of both written and spoken English, an ability to analyse and conceptualise complex matters and extract relevant information from the irrelevant, excellent interpersonal skills, excellent time-management, and a passion and aptitude for problem solving.
What key skills do you look for in a candidate hoping to train as a Trade Mark Attorney?
We look out for an enthusiasm for brands along with a feel for language and an interest in how people perceive and understand it. You will be working across many market sectors and you will need to develop an understanding of how those sectors work and what drives your clients. So inquisitiveness is also important but our work is not just an academic exercise; to be really valuable our advice needs to be tempered by a grasp of commercial realities.
It is also essential to be able to communicate clearly both in writing and verbally, for example, in constructing a reasoned legal argument or having to explain complicated concepts to a client in an easily understandable manner. Of course, we would not expect a new entrant to the profession to possess all of these skills from the outset. They are acquired and refined over years of training and experience, but we will be looking for potential to develop these attributes.
Do you need any prior knowledge of law before applying to become a patent or trade mark attorney?
Knowledge of the law is not a prerequisite for training as an attorney. The training process will encompass the necessary aspects of the law that attorneys need to know.
How does working as a trade mark attorney and working as a patent attorney at Carpmaels differ? For example, is the support offered during training different? Are the two departments very separate or do they complement each other’s work?
The training for patent and trade mark attorneys is different insofar as the subject matter of patents and trade marks is very different. However, in both fields, we offer our trainees extensive support through sending them on external training courses, providing internal tutorials and guidance, but most of all involving them in a full range of patent or trade mark work from day one. Furthermore we do not confine our trainees to working with a single partner; a trainee at Carpmaels can expect to work with multiple partners, thereby experiencing different styles and approaches to the job and hopefully enabling them to cherry pick the best elements to develop themselves as an attorney.
All of our teams, from patents and trade marks to dispute resolution and transactions, work closely together across shared clients. That gives our trainees the opportunity to experience the whole spectrum of IP, for example, by supporting litigation on a patent they have drafted, working on a due diligence or licensing project involving multiple IP rights, or by seeing the branding process for a pharmaceutical product that we have supported on the patent side.
What training and support do you offer to trainee patent and trade mark attorneys at Carpmaels?
For patents, we offer a comprehensive training package which starts from day one and continues beyond qualification. Our training package consists of a series of tutorial programmes pitched at beginner and intermediate levels, in-house seminars and external revision courses.
In addition to the training provided at Carpmaels, we are fortunate that each year group becomes their own study group who support each other through their training/exams. Our new trainees sit in small groups together and can bounce ideas off one another. We have an open door policy and all members of the team are encouraged to discuss their work with others.
For trade marks, before starting formal training, we encourage new trainees to spend some time in the office getting a grounding in the basics of the job. By gaining some prior practical experience, we find that trainees derive most benefit from the subsequent external training courses that we send them on. Of course there is also plenty of support available internally throughout the process.
Ultimately though, our view is that the best way of learning is doing and this is reflected in the way that our trainees will be given all types of work from multiple partners and senior associates.
After qualification, training continues for all attorneys and includes training in advocacy and soft-skills.
What is your recruitment process like?
It is predominately a two-stage interview process between December and January. Candidates must initially submit a CV and cover letter. If shortlisted, candidates will be asked to submit some written work ahead of the first interview stage. The first interview stage consists of a formal technical interview, informal chat with fee earners and a couple of exercises. The second interview stage consists of a formal technical interview with a panel of the partners from the relevant practice group.
Learn more about Carpmaels & Ransford via the IP Careers’ Employer Directory.