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  • Name: Katherine Steer
  • Job Title: Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Location: London
  • University: Durham
  • Degree: MPhys Physics

I had always envisaged myself having a career involving science but, during my degree, I no longer felt sure that I wanted to do a PhD. I found that I preferred learning about a variety of topics to studying only one narrow research area. After stumbling across the patent attorney profession while doing careers research, I realised that it would suit me much better than doing a PhD. I did a week of work experience at a patent firm in Leeds, which confirmed that this was the career for me.

I applied for jobs after graduating, and began working at Venner Shipley in November 2012 in the electronics team. From the start I was given real cases to work on, as the training is mostly on-the-job. My work is reviewed by my supervisor, who then provides feedback. The work I do includes presenting arguments to help get a patent granted for a client’s invention, providing opinions on patentability of new ideas, assessing the validity of a competitor’s patent, and drafting new patent applications. As part of my training I attended the Queen Mary course which leads to an exemption from the foundation exams. The course is also a great way to get to know trainees from other firms. The firm encourages us to attend a lecture series at CIPA, and in-house tutorials complement the on-the-job training.

It is the firm’s policy to assign a different supervisor after returning from the Queen Mary’s course to increase the breadth of training. This has allowed me to gain exposure to a wider variety of technologies. This range of technologies and variety of work means that the job is never quite the same day-to-day. Swapping supervisors also means that I have benefitted from different styles of training which has helped develop my own style of working.

The office atmosphere at Venner Shipley is very relaxed and is a great place to work. I sit in an area with other trainees, so it is easy to ask each other questions and share ideas. As a new trainee there is a lot to learn, but luckily everybody is really friendly, and you can always find someone willing to help you out, from the partners, to other trainees, and support staff. Venner Shipley is a sociable firm, and we hold regular social events, go for drinks after work, and take part in inter-firm sports activities. The big events of the year are the Christmas party and the summer outing.

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