• Name: Sam Keyes
  • Job Title: Internship
  • Location: Southampton
  • University: Southampton
  • Degree: MEng Mechcanical Engineering, PhD Bio-Engineering
  • Areas of Specialism: Mechanical Engineering

Why did you choose to do an internship?

I became aware of the patent profession while working in postdoctoral research and teaching. I’d been led into academia by a fascination with cutting edge technology and the satisfaction of explaining complex things in a simple way.

A friend in the patent profession suggested the role of a patent attorney might scratch the same itches. My excitement with academic research had cooled as the day-to-day interaction with science dropped off, and I was starting to consider other options. The patent profession seemed to offer the opportunity to stay at the forefront of technology and really stretch myself on a daily basis. It also seemed that even at the highest level, attorneys never had to ‘graduate’ from that daily exposure to the interesting stuff. I knew if these impressions were right then I wanted in, but I also knew I needed to see it with my own eyes. The internship at D Young & Co offered the perfect chance to test the water.

How did it tie in with your overall career plans?

Although I was considering a career change, making the jump felt quite daunting as I was already settled professionally and geographically. Without the chance to see first hand what a career in intellectual property law involves, I wouldn’t have had the conviction to make the jump. I hoped the internship would reveal whether the role of patent attorney was a good fit to my skills and temperament.

D Young & Co has a large office in my city, and the internship was short enough to fit into a few days holiday, so it seemed a low risk way to answer my outstanding questions before making any life-changing decisions.

What was the application process like – any advice?

Applying was very straightforward. I submitted a CV and covering letter, and was later called for a fifteen-minute phone interview. What seemed to be most important on the phone was to show a genuine interest in the profession, with evidence I’d researched both the day-to-day role of an attorney and the details of the qualification process. Because internships are quite unusual, the Easter Internship at D Young & Co is very popular, and the firm rightly wants to prioritise applicants who stand to gain the most benefit from the experience. Only apply if you’re seriously considering the profession, and if so, make sure that comes across in writing and on the phone!

What were your main duties?

The internship is short, but it’s carefully structured to put interns through their paces across a number of activities. Most activities took place in a group setting with the other twelve or so interns, and included technical discussions, claim drafting exercises, and an oral advocacy exercise designed to simulate the cut and thrust of opposition proceedings at the European Patent Office. Most of these sessions were led by partners, who gave helpful feedback on our efforts. Between these windows into the role of an attorney and the necessary skills needed to thrive, we had a trip out to enjoy a fun activity together as a group. Lunch and dinner each day provided plenty of time to mingle in different settings with people at all levels of the firm, from new trainees to senior partners.

What were the most important things you learnt from the internship?

It didn’t take much time to realise the profession is full of rewarding opportunities for people who love technology and thrive on the challenge of making a good argument! After three days, the activities are likely to have either strengthened a hunch the profession is right for you, or made you want to run a mile. Either outcome is an invaluable insight for somebody weighing up their career options. Another key takeaway is the access the internship provides to people. It’s rare to be able to try the ethos of an employer on for size before applying for a job. Because the process of training as a patent attorney is a long one, choosing the right firm feels particularly important. One outstanding aspect of the internship at D Young & Co is the access it provides to people, enabling you to get an honest picture of both the profession and the atmosphere of life in the firm. No question is off limits; people want to be honest about what training and practicing as a patent attorney is really like. Personally, these interactions were the most impactful part of the whole experience. I finished the three days realising not only that I was ready to make the career jump, but that the culture of D Young & Co was where I wanted to land.

Do you have any advice for someone seeking an internship?

If you’ve heard about the patent profession and seriously think it might be a good fit, the internship is probably the best opportunity there is to take the next step. Whether you’re an undergraduate, or, like me, are at a slightly later stage in your career, the experience will reward you. Whatever the three days leads to, you will have been stretched, informed, and hopefully had a lot of fun. The internship is only three days long, but if you go into it full of questions and ready to engage and make the most of it, then by the end it’s likely you’ll have answered the question: do I want to be a patent attorney?

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