• Name: Conor McLaughlin
  • Job Title: Technical Assistant
  • Location: London
  • University: UCL
  • Degree: MSci Natural Sciences (Atomic & Particle Physics and Physical Chemistry)
  • Career Sectors: Patents
  • Areas Of Specialism: Physics

Why I chose to become a patent attorney and how I got my job

I was reaching the end of the second year of my degree when I came to the daunting realisation that I was not going to be a student forever. This gave me the required motivation to go out and explore my options. Having looked around several career guides and websites I eventually stumbled upon the IP Careers Guide to Patent Attorneys. It caught my eye as it promised a career with aspects of science, law and business all rolled into one. A bit more research led me to discover the two-week summer placement scheme at Dehns. I had previously read about Dehns so I decided to apply to become an intern within the engineering department as it presented a great opportunity to find out a bit more about the career at a top tier firm.

Though completing work experience with a firm is not a prerequisite for gaining a graduate position, I found the scheme offered a fantastic opportunity to find out whether a career as a patent attorney was a good fit for me.

After the two weeks I decided that a career as a patent attorney was definitely for me and, more importantly, I wanted to work at Dehns. The work I saw during the two weeks offered a new challenge with a scientific focus as well as a really friendly, social and supportive environment that I felt would be a great place to learn the trade. I was then lucky enough to be offered a job as a Technical Assistant within the engineering department.


Having joined Dehns in September 2016, I was sent on the Certificate in Intellectual Property Law course at Queen Mary in October of that year. This is a five morning a week course that gives a great grounding and basis in intellectual property law and it provides exemption from the UK Foundation Exams. It also offered me the chance to get to meet people from our other offices and other firms around the country.

For the duration of the course I was in the office two afternoons a week. This allowed me to stay in contact with my work life and to continue to ‘learn on-the-job’. After completing the course in January of 2017 I have been in the office full time and getting to grips with the everyday tasks of the job under the tuition and guidance of the Partners and Associates who I have been working with, as well as my fellow Technical Assistants, all of whom are more than willing to help out.

What I did today

First thing this morning, I got in and checked my emails and figured out what I had on for the day and what deadlines I had coming up. Then, my colleagues and I had a client meeting, at which I was introduced to one of the firm’s clients that I had been working for. After this was over, I was back at my desk reviewing and amending a couple of US patent applications (based on gas turbine engines) for filing at the EPO. I also spoke to one of the Partners about a query I had regarding a design for a toothbrush that we had filed. Later in the day, I sent a letter reporting that a search report had been issued for a patent application to another one of our clients and, finally, I tried to finish off a response to a search report that I had been working on the previous day. With lunch falling somewhere in the middle of the above, I feel my day today gives a good insight in to a day of the life of a Technical Assistant.

Advice for getting into the profession

I was told before I started working, and never appreciated it until after I had started, that the learning curve is steep. It can be a little disconcerting in the first couple of weeks when you feel as though you know very little, but I have since been told that everyone feels like this at first and learning about new technologies and patent law soon become the most interesting aspects of the job. The support and guidance offered from everyone at Dehns has also gone a long way in helping me to settle in quickly.

The job can feel a little intimidating at first. I was given a live case load to work on from day one which can seem like a lot of responsibility. However, I have come to the quick realisation that this is the best way to learn and there is always a support network to help you with your work; every case I work on I have a Partner or Associate supervising me. They are always willing to listen, help, guide and advise should I need or want them to.

Dehns has been a really friendly environment from the moment I walked in the door and everyone here takes a genuine interest in your development as a trainee patent attorney. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and I can honestly say I made the right decision in choosing to join the patent profession and become a Technical Assistant.

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