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  • Name: Hugh Thompson
  • Job Title: Patent Assistant
  • Location: London
  • University: Cambridge
  • Degree: PhD Chemistry

During my PhD studies it became apparent that it was the learning of new ideas that I really enjoyed, and a career in research didn’t really appeal. I therefore decided to look for alternative careers that allowed me to stay in science. The obvious answer was teaching. The less obvious but in my opinion more interesting option was, and still is, patent law.

The welcoming, inclusive and friendly atmosphere at Boult Wade Tennant is what makes this firm stand out from the crowd. When I applied, even though it was a speculative application, a partner from the Chemical and Materials Group took the time to call me and subsequently invite me to the London office for an informal chat.

I subsequently attended the firm’s voluntary vacation scheme, which gave me a fantastic insight into the day to day work of a patent assistant. Therefore when the Chemical and Materials Group decided to take on a new trainee, it was an easy decision to apply. The interview was very much a two way process allowing me to meet members of the Group I hadn’t met on the placement, as well as for them to assess me.
For any patent firm interview you should prepare by learning about the job and the firm, but also by expecting to be surprised by some questions. They will want to see you think on your feet and show that you can explain complex ideas and argue a point. IP firms seem to hire when they need someone, rather than hiring ‘x’ people every year. This does mean it is a fairly stable job, but also means it may take longer to be recruited.

Unlike studying at university, where you gradually become increasingly specialised, patent law requires variety. In addition to learning all the law, you will have to get to grips with a broad range of subject matter. This may include technologies you had never considered as part of your subject area. In my short time here I have worked on everything from plasma waste disposal to chocolate biscuits to baby formula, and enjoyed every minute!

This job does require you to be able to work on and think about a large number of diverse projects every day. It is, however, immensely rewarding and it is an exciting and satisfying career. From day one you will be assisting on real cases, getting insight into brand new technology.

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