Parminder Lally is Honorary Secretary of the Informals for 2014-2015. She is an associate attorney with TLIP Ltd in Cambridge.
I knew I wanted a career which combined my interests in science and language, and I made the decision to study Physics (rather than English) at university. I realised during my research that I wasn’t suited to a lifetime in the lab, so when I came across CIPA at a careers fair, I knew at once that the job they described was perfect for me. Patent attorneys work with cutting-edge technology and have to choose words carefully and precisely when drafting patent applications to communicate effectively why an invention is novel.
I joined the Electronics group of Marks & Clerk LLP (M&C) in 2011. I have been able to work with a range of clients and inventions, where I deal with mechanical devices, display devices, algorithms and software. I also deal with inventions which are multidisciplinary, such as bioinformatics; this suits me well as my D.Phil research was in bionanotechnology. I spend most of my time prosecuting patent applications and advising clients on how we should respond to objections raised by the Patent Office. However, I have also helped to draft a number of new patent applications, which often involves working closely with clients to ensure the application provides them with the best protection for their invention.
M&C is one of the few firms to run its own comprehensive in-house ‘training academy’ to prepare trainees for the UK and European exams. From day one, new graduates attend a range of in-house lectures, tutorials and specialist revision courses. They are also assigned a mentor who will provide them with work and oversee their professional and career development. M&C’s size means there is a wealth of knowledge and experience to tap into. Qualified attorneys across the firm’s eight UK offices give lectures and tutorials, and support with revision of past papers. This is especially useful if you’re the only one in your office taking a particular exam.
A number of trainees, such as myself, are on the Informals committee (the student body of CIPA), and organise social events for trainees in their regions.
Trainees at M&C are given work on real cases, as soon as they start, which can be a bit daunting and means there is a lot to learn, but everyone in the firm offers their support. All trainees work for one or two partners, who assign work and supervise their overall progress.
Trainees have the opportunity to get involved with a range of different clients and gain varied experience. It’s not uncommon to attend meetings with clients (local and multinational) to discuss their patent portfolio. Trainees have the chance to attend hearings before the European Patent Office, and because of the link to Marks & Clerk Solicitors, may also have the chance to attend UK court proceedings.
The firm organises an annual networking and training day for all its associates and trainees in the UK. This encourages you to get to know other people in the firm, strengthens the relationships between offices, and allows you to discuss patent law changes or group-specific issues, which affect day-to-day work and client advice.