What do you do?
Broadly speaking, I spend my time getting my head around some of the newest (and usually pretty cool) inventions in the life sciences, analysing any objections to the cases that have been raised by patent offices and working out how to overcome them, either by amending claims or by constructing convincing arguments. To friends, I describe my job as like solving a sudoku – but with words … and with a far more interesting and satisfying outcome!
But there are other dimensions and subtleties to the job. IP Asset is very pro-active in advising their clients and discussing different courses of action with them, so there’s a commercial aspect to be considered when reporting back to clients. We frequently hold meetings or teleconferences with clients to discuss strategies, as well as hosting networking events, wine evenings and a fabulous Christmas party to get to know them better!
Despite being in my first year as a Trainee Patent Attorney, I also contribute to business development; it’s good to be able to intersperse the intense brainwork of cases with this different perspective.
How did you get here? Do you have any advice for those wishing to apply to patent firms?
As I approached the end of my degree, I knew I’d need a job that built upon the scientific understanding I’d gained but that didn’t revolve around research or the lab bench. I wanted a job that would challenge me and make me think, and in which I got to build relationships and meet new people. I’ve always enjoyed scientific journalism and did a lot of scientific editing at university which left me pretty passionate about the importance of clarity in scientific communication. I saw a career in patent law as ticking all of these boxes.
In the summer of the penultimate year of my degree I approached IP Asset to see if I could join for a fortnight of work experience. I found I liked the job – and that, luckily, the team liked me! Other trainees here applied speculatively or in response to advertised positions, joining after a couple of interviews and a written exercise. I’d definitely advise sending speculative applications for positions or work experience; it can often seem like the only starting point is applying for standard graduate programmes, but there’s no harm in (and everything to gain from) sending out extra emails.
Do you like it?
Yes! A lot, actually. I like the fact that from day one I got to work and take responsibility for live cases. I like the varied caseload: you get to know your own cases because they crop up again and again as they progress through the patent application process, and there’s a good amount of variation and diversity in the type of invention or in the requirements of a case which keeps it interesting. I like that I use my brain and my degree every day: it makes the last four years’ hard work worth it! And there’s nothing so satisfying as solving a problem that initially looked impossible.
The work-life balance and working style is also a major plus. You find high-quality patent law firms in cities all over the UK, not just centred in London: I enjoy being able to live in Oxford, and I can work in the London office for a day if I need or want to. Because I’m not yet doing the Bournemouth IP PGCert or any exams, once I leave work – at 17:30 – I’m done for the day, which I find very valuable. And a Trainee Patent Attorney role has good job security. All in all, it’s a very satisfying and rewarding job!