• Name: George McCanney
  • Job Title: Part Qualified Patent Attorney
  • Location: York
  • University: Glasgow
  • Degree: PhD, Neuroscience
  • Areas of Specialism: Life Sciences

Why did you choose a job in this sector?

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my degrees in science, it became apparent that life as a career scientist would not be for me, and I had always liked the idea of a career in law. I looked into intellectual property, which would allow me to use my background in science whilst pursuing my dream of saying “objection!” in court. In seriousness, I liked the idea that you are constantly learning and researching new things; whether it be trying to understand how an inventor’s new technology works (and what the inventive concept is) or reading up on UK/European case law to see if or how any recent decisions may affect a client’s pending or granted IP rights (or a client’s general IP strategy). Every day is a school day. Plus, the prospect of being exposed to cutting edge science, and protecting it, sounded great.

How did you get your job at Secerna?

Lots of searching! I began my search by looking at cities that I could see myself building a life in, and then searched for firms around that area to contact. I settled on the idea of the north, being from here myself and sent out a number of cold emails to northern firms. My first choice was Secerna, who is based in York but have an international reach and luckily, they were looking for a biotech trainee at that time; It must have been meant to be. I applied and got the role in 2019 and the rest is history.

What was the application process like – any advice?

The process was relatively straightforward. I sent my CV and a covering letter, detailing my experience and why I wanted to work in IP and for Secerna. There were then two interviews, one that was more general and one that was technical.

My advice would be to prepare. It is critical to have an idea about patents and potential questions that could be asked. There were a few curveballs in there, so cover your bases so that you can go in confident.

It is also vital to have good attention to detail, for example being well researched and ensuring there are no mistakes in your paperwork. This will be part of your job if you get it.

What are your main duties/roles?

I assist the qualified patent attorneys with their work while learning as much as I can. The day to day bulk of my work relates to patent prosecution. This involves reviewing technical documents cited as prior art against a pending patent application and preparing arguments in response to any objections raised by an Examiner from the relevant patent office. My role also includes assisting in the drafting of new patent applications, this work comprises of client meetings to discuss the invention and how it should be best protected, and preparing a claim set, and accompanying specification, defining the invention and the protection sought.

Is it a 9-5 job?

Generally, it is. There may occasionally be important deadlines to be met that require an earlier start or later finish, but they do not occur very often. An example is when a client tells us that they are planning on disclosing a new invention or launching a product in the coming days and we have to quickly get a patent application covering the invention drafted and filed before this disclosure.

However, I think if you have good time management and plan properly, you should be able to stick within your working hours for the most part.

What skills are useful in this sector/profession?

Time management, honesty and integrity, and attention to detail.

Time management is important for managing caseloads and ensuring your practice efficiency.

In terms of honesty and integrity, I feel it is essential to speak up if you do not understand anything or if you think you may have made a mistake. Everything needs to be correct in this line of work else it can have serious legal ramifications or affect your company’s reputation. Dealing with this in the early stages before it reaches a client, or the patent office, is an absolute necessity; it is also how you learn. Attention to detail feeds into this, hopefully, if you have it enough you won’t make any mistakes.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I would like to be a great patent attorney and to be well respected by the people I work with and for. To have the knowledge and ability to produce top quality work for clients is all I can ask for.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?

I would say do your homework on what a career as an IP Attorney entails. It is important to be honest with yourself early doors. It is a really rewarding career with lots of benefits to be had if you are willing to take on the challenge, but it is not for everyone. There are a lot of exams that can put people off or get too much for some throughout the process, however, the rewards of seeing cutting edge science, new inventions, and gaining insight into how big businesses works makes it more than worth it, for me anyway.

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