An eight-year research career across three industries following a PhD puts me at the more mature end of the age range for new patent trainees. I look back fondly on those years and, for me, it ensured that the lab bench and any ambition to be the next Jobs or Einstein had been fully exhausted.
I applied to Potter Clarkson and one other local firm. Potter Clarkson was my clear preference. The interview was fairly relaxed, and I got a strong impression of a friendly top-class team. I snapped up the resulting offer, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have lingering doubts about the career change.
Working at Potter Clarkson
Eighteen months in and I can honestly say working as a trainee at Potter Clarkson is terrific! Potter Clarkson is a top tier firm with over 160 staff and with its principal office in Nottingham. There are over 60 attorneys including approximately 10 trainees – and 6 IP solicitors. This results in an excellent training environment. There is a collegiate culture among the trainees which provides great support through the exams and a strong social atmosphere. The large number of professionals creates a knowledge sharing culture amongst attorneys. Seminars and practice meetings give practical advice into all aspects of practice, including less common post-grant and litigation proceedings.
All trainees are mentored by a senior attorney and work on real cases from day one. Common tasks include responding to patent office exam reports, drafting new patent applications and communicating with clients about such activity. I have also had the opportunity to work on an opposition (attacking a granted patent for invalidity) and preparing arguments prior to oral proceedings (when the Examiner has had enough!). The senior attorney supervises and signs off the work. The evolution of my drafted work into their polished product is the “on the job training,” and the process becomes leaner as you progress. The mentors are great at providing constructive feedback and encouragement and saying ‘good job,’ when appropriate.
After 12 months, trainees are given responsibility for responding to new general enquiries, a daunting experience! Trainees at PC are also encouraged to participate in business development and I have attended a few exhibitions and events.
Senior attorneys run tutorials to help trainees prepare for exams. The exams are a pain, but if you’re good enough to be recruited you’ll be fine. Last year, I had to prepare for my exams with three pre-school children and a wife sitting harder medical exams at the same time. I passed all three and even won a prize!