• Name: Joanne Pham
  • Job Title: Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Location: London
  • University: Cambridge
  • Degree: MSci Natural Sciences (Materials Science)
  • Career Sectors: Patents
  • Areas Of Specialism: Physics

I often get asked about how I found myself in the legal profession after graduating with a science degree. The profession is so technical that to become a qualified patent attorney, a science degree is either required, or strongly preferred. Since starting at Reddie & Grose, I have not stopped using my technical knowledge. Instead, I apply my technical knowledge in ways that may seem less traditional.

Why did you choose a job in this sector/profession?

I first encountered Intellectual Property through a short course offered as part of my degree. At the time, I was not yet seriously thinking about my career prospects. However, I did know that I did not want to stay in academia and becoming a patent attorney would tick that box.
When I eventually got round to it, I researched more about the profession and applied to attend an open day offered by one of the firms. At the open day, there was strong emphasis on how if you have a curiosity for ‘how things work’, then this could be the profession for you. Realising that I enjoy watching shows from ‘How It’s Made’ to cooking shows on how to make gourmet versions of childhood snacks, it became apparent that I do have such curiosity and that this actually could be the profession for me.

How did you get your job at Reddie & Grose LLP?

I knew I wanted to work in London and for a medium to large sized firm and started applying from there. The application process at Reddie & Grose was straightforward and started off with an online application form. Thanks to that, it turns out that Reddie & Grose was the first firm that I applied to.

The HR team at Reddie & Grose were very efficient and I quickly had a first interview lined up. On the day, I had to do a technical written task prior to the first interview with one of the firm’s Partners. Before I knew it, I had a second interview arranged. The second interview was more technical and the written task I previously completed formed the basis for discussion.

This was followed by coffee with some of the firm’s current trainees. Here, the tables turned and I became the one asking questions. The coffee was informal and I found out more about the ins and outs of working at Reddie & Grose. When the offer came around, I quickly accepted.

What are your main duties/roles?

As a trainee, you aren’t expected to know how to do everything from the get-go and largely train on-the-job. I work very closely with my supervising partner through the various steps of getting a real patent application to grant. It takes a while from drafting a patent application to getting the patent application to grant. As such, I get assigned cases at various stages in the patent application process.

With every case, I first start off spending time understanding the invention. Then, I would typically have a meeting with my supervising partner to discuss what action we need to take next. This may involve writing a letter to the client to advise them on what to do next, a letter to patent examiners responding to their objections, or a letter to foreign attorneys instructing them on what to do next. I would then go away and get on with it, before meeting up with my supervising partner again. We would review the work I did and discuss whether any amendments need to be made.

At Reddie & Grose, alongside training on-the-job with real cases, I also have regular in-house training days. On these training days, I work on hypothetical cases and receive feedback from a partner or qualified attorney. The training days complement my work with my supervising partner well and ensure that I am exposed to a variety of the core concepts of Intellectual Property law.

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

I found the open days offered by some firms very informative and you should definitely try to attend one of these. The profession is deadline driven and you will need to be able to prioritise workload in this type of environment. The job involves a lot of reading and writing (some people would call patent attorneys professional letter writers), so be prepared.

With regards to advice on the application process, the job is technical and you need to be able to break down ‘how things work’ in a way that is clear and precise. Practice doing this with everyday objects. It is very competitive to get a trainee patent attorney role, so do apply to many firms and tailor your application to that firm. Good luck!


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