I have always been a scientist, always with the ‘why why whys’, and probably drove my parents bonkers. After a random exchange with Children’s TV presenter Johnny Ball, I decided to study Biochemistry and Genetics at university, rather than astrophysics. I went on to achieve a PhD and undertook seven years postdoctoral research, all at the University of Nottingham. After letting myself accept that I didn’t actually enjoy lab work and maybe spending the rest of my life chasing the few experiments that actually worked was a bad idea, I set out to find something that would allow me to do all the things I enjoyed and was good at (without the lab work).
I can honestly say that I feel more like a scientist now that I am training as a patent attorney than I did as a postdoc. I am constantly using my brain, coming up with ideas, being creative and learning new things, not only the legal aspects but also cutting edge science that I would never have encountered had I stayed focused in my narrow area of research. I consider myself very lucky to work at Potter Clarkson. We are a big firm with about 14 trainees, and whilst I do undertake some work that doesn’t particularly fit with my background, we have a large and supportive biotech department, and so I can use my background to its full extent.
When I was considering a career as a patent attorney I wasn’t sure how ‘family friendly’ it is as a profession, which is important to me as not only am I on the older end of the new trainee scale (started when I was 34), I also have a five year old daughter. I am pleased to say that I’m finding it very ‘family friendly’ so far. I work regular ‘normal’ hours and have a shorter lunch break so I can pick up my daughter slightly earlier. I’ll admit that I was nervous about fitting in exam revision around looking after her, especially as everyone tells you that the exams are tough, which they are, but in reality they are actually only exams, like all the exams you’ve ever done before. So, please don’t let the exams put you off considering this as a career – they are things you just have to do and you can do them!
At Potter Clarkson we get a lot of support when it comes to exams. We have in-house tutorials, and attend residential courses in preparation for the exams. We also have time off per exam (on top of the day of the exam) for revision.
There is quite an active social life, both within Potter Clarkson and the CIPA Informals – all of which you can be involved with to the extent you choose. I am the East Midlands CIPA Informals social rep and we try to meet up every couple of months or so, which is particularly useful if, unlike me, you are from a small firm with no other trainees to chat to! Equally, it’s not a big deal if you don’t take up the chance to go out after work with colleagues (which is a good job when you’ve got kids!).