Deciding upon a career is an important and difficult choice to make. Within the intellectual property profession, work experience can offer an opportunity to gain a real insight into the work of a patent attorney, helping you answer the question – is the IP profession for me? Laura Collins, Senior HR Advisor with D Young & Co, offers her expert advice for both finding and making the most of IP work experience.

Benefits of work experience

Work experience will allow you to obtain invaluable knowledge about the IP profession and take part in a range of activities to give you a taste of the work of a patent attorney. You may be asked to draft a claim or prepare an argument for a mock hearing. You will have the opportunity to spend time with and put questions to current attorneys and trainees and you will gain an honest impression of the firm that you visit and a feel for the atmosphere and ethos. All of these elements will ultimately assist you in making a decision about your future career.

Following work experience, some firms may offer subsequent longer internships or even the opportunity of a trainee position with the firm so make every second count!

What will I do?

The specific nature of your work experience will differ greatly from firm to firm. You may have the opportunity to work on real cases as well as across teams and offices. You will almost certainly be able to work with various members of the team, including partners.

Some firms will place you in the position of an entry-level trainee patent attorney; here you could be reading patent applications, corresponding with clients and researching relevant legal documents. Other schemes will offer case lessons, workshops, group exercises, shadowing, mentoring and presentations. These sessions aim to build your technical knowledge and soft skills by analysing real IP problems with the support of fully qualified attorneys. Though your day-to-day tasks will vary, work experience in this sector will give you an understanding of what a patent attorney does and develop some of the key skills needed to succeed in the profession.


IP firms offering work experience opportunities are looking for candidates with a genuine desire to find out about the IP profession and to gain a real perspective of what life as a patent attorney is like.

Candidates will need an exceptional academic record in a scientific or technical discipline.

Some firms may have different work experience opportunities available for different departments so make sure to consider the criteria when applying.

As well as the above, other key skills that firms look for include:

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • The ability to work well in a team as well as autonomously.
  • Good time management skills and an understanding of the importance of deadlines.
  • Strong analytical skills.
  • Meticulous attention to detail.

To find out more, read our Essential Skills to become a successful Patent Attorney article.

The application process

Application processes can differ. For the first stage, you may be asked to complete an online application form or send a CV and covering letter. Vacancies are highly sought after and therefore you should try to include something in your application that will make you stand out. For a second stage, some firms may invite you to an interview, either in person or via telephone. During the whole process, it is important to show why you are interested in the work experience or internship opportunity and why you want to be a patent attorney.

Make sure that you complete some research into the firm that you have applied to, the work of a patent attorney and the process of training to become qualified. Some firms may also ask behavioural interview questions that require you to provide examples from your previous experience. You could be asked to describe a time when you have worked well in a team or a time when you have met an important deadline for example. In advance of your interview, consider the key skills that you need to be a patent attorney and think of examples of situations where you have demonstrated these skills.

To find work experience, visit the Job Finder section on our website for a list of the opportunities that each employer offers.

Some firms may advertise at different times of the year so, if an opportunity isn’t available when you first look, don’t give up.

About the Author

I joined D Young & Co in 2016 and, as a Senior HR Advisor, I am involved in the recruitment for our support, trainee and qualified vacancies. I also co-ordinate the internship and open-afternoon opportunities on offer at the firm. I thoroughly enjoy supporting candidates through the interview process and connecting with those interested in finding out more about the patent profession.

Laura Collins
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