My interest in this career was sparked by the careful use of language that’s involved in drafting a patent application. I had enjoyed the technical side of my physics degree course but liked the idea of producing more written work, so this kind of linguistic challenge really appealed to me.
The aspect of the job that I find most engaging is clearly communicating complex technical information to different audiences. It’s important to be able to explain legal concepts to clients with little or no knowledge of patent law, but also to argue persuasively against experts like patent examiners and other attorneys representing your clients’ competitors and to work effectively with attorneys in other countries. It’s also exciting having the opportunity to keep in touch with developments in science and technology, but it would be unfair to say that the only interesting cases are those at the leading edge of research – one of my most memorable cases so far was about a new knitting tool.
I spend most of my time at my desk on tasks like drafting new patent applications, corresponding with clients and responding to letters from patent examiners. This certainly means lots of reading, but you shouldn’t see it as just paperwork – these things all involve doing a lot of thinking to get your head around new technical concepts and to pitch your writing for its particular purpose, which I really enjoy.
On top of this kind of deskwork, you will often need to get out of the office and meet clients face-to-face. GJE is keen to get its trainees used to facing clients as soon as possible, and I’ve had the chance to meet inventors from small enterprises as well as teams of researchers from our larger corporate clients. It’s also sometimes necessary to travel to the various branches of the European Patent Office (EPO) in Germany and the Netherlands to represent your clients in person – and because GJE makes a point of exposing its trainees to every aspect of the job early on, I have attended three hearings at the EPO in my first year and a half.
If you’re looking for a career that’s intellectually stimulating and this mishmash of scientific, linguistic and interpersonal skills sounds like your niche, I would encourage you to think seriously about a career as a patent attorney (and to put GJE at the top of your list!).