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  • Name: Katie Howe
  • Job Title: Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Location: Birmingham
  • University: Birmingham
  • Degree: PhD Chemical Engineering

As I was finishing my PhD at the University of Birmingham, I debated which career I should choose. I decided that the key factors for me in a job are that it involves science, offers variety and is both challenging and rewarding. Being a patent attorney allows me to be involved in many different aspects of cutting-edge science and technology, so ticks all the right boxes.

I started working at Barker Brettell in September 2013. Barker Brettell was established in c. 1850 and is now one of the largest intellectual property firms in the UK, as evidenced by the depth and breadth of experience present and the wide variety of clients. It was reassuring to know that I would have opportunities to work in a broad range of technology areas, and with clients varying from sole inventors to universities, to multinational corporations.

As a trainee, much of my time is spent with my supervising partner, and with other attorneys and support personnel who are actively involved in my development. I am involved in all aspects of the profession, ranging from meeting inventors to establish what they have done that is new and inventive, and how best to protect it, to responding to objections raised by patent offices and considering patenting strategies and cost timelines to meet the needs of different clients.

There is a great atmosphere amongst the staff – you are encouraged to learn, and I have never been laughed at for asking a silly question, despite asking some! There are social events, both organised by Barker Brettell and by the Informals (the student body of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys), which allow you to meet other trainees at various stages of training and qualified attorneys.

A career as a patent attorney offers life-long learning in a combination of scientific and legal fields. Your communication skills are also crucial – ranging from meetings with inventors to hearings with examiners, in which the fate of patent applications can be decided.

The profession is certainly challenging and there are exams to take in order to qualify as a Chartered Patent Attorney, but a good work/life balance can be maintained – there is no expectation to work the long hours which seem normal for various financial and legal companies.

I recommend the career to you – and recommend Barker Brettell as a place to start it.

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