During my final year studying Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, I realised that although I enjoyed science, working in a lab was definitely not for me. I decided that I wanted to find a job in the ‘real world’ that would enable me to develop other skills, such as writing and communication skills. The job of a patent attorney seemed to offer the opportunity to do this, whilst at the same time using the scientific knowledge I had spent four years building up. I joined R&G as a trainee after graduating in 2003.
Like most trainees in private practice, I was assigned to a particular partner, who has been responsible for my most of my training and supervision. A great deal of what I learnt during my training came from the day to day experience of preparing, filing and prosecuting patent cases under the supervision of my partner. Although my background is in chemistry and physics, I have worked on patents spanning a broad range of subject matters. This variety ensures that the work remains challenging and is one of things that appeals to me most about my job.
From a very early stage, I was given my own cases and was encouraged to interact directly with the clients. Much of my work has been for a few large multinational companies, which has enabled me to build up good working relationships with the clients and also gain an understanding of their business. In 2007, I was lucky enough to have the chance to work on secondment for one of our large clients and spent almost a year working at their patent department in Switzerland. This provided an invaluable opportunity to see things from the other side of the fence and I have no doubt that the experience has helped me to provide better advice to my clients.
It usually takes around four years to qualify as a patent attorney and to do so you need to pass a series of final exams in both the UK and Europe. There’s no denying that the exams are very tough and require a great deal of work and commitment. But at R&G my on-the-job training was supplemented by in-house tutorials, as well as external courses and seminars. These courses are valuable not only from a learning perspective but also because they allow you to make friends and contacts within the profession.