I started with Abel & Imray in September 2013 after finishing my degree in Chemistry at the University of Oxford. For a while I considered continuing in academia, but eventually realised that, while I had enjoyed my degree and liked understanding technology, I didn’t enjoy being focused only on a single technical area. I particularly like that, in this job, I am required to quickly pick up how inventions in very different fields of technology work, and identify the commercial and technical drivers underlying them. One day I may be dealing with a new drug, while the next I could be looking at an innovation in an industrial chemical process.
I regularly work with a number of different partners, which provides the opportunity to work with a broad range of technologies and clients. Trainees are involved in client cases from the very first day, albeit with a lot of support and supervision initially. All your work is discussed with your supervisor to make sure it is technically and legally correct as well as commercially relevant to the client, before it is sent out. This level of feedback is a great way of training and really good preparation for working independently once you have qualified.
Typical tasks include drafting patent applications, communicating with the UK or European patent offices, instructing foreign attorneys on patent prosecutions abroad and providing advice to clients on infringement issues. While most of my work is in the chemical field, I also have exposure to mechanical inventions (simple enough for me, as a non-engineer, to understand). The work is predominantly desk based, although I also get to meet clients, allowing me to gain business experience and develop my ability to advise clients on the best course of action for their business.
Many of the partners started as trainees with the firm themselves, and all are happy to pass on their knowledge and experience. As a medium-sized firm, Abel & Imray provides a great training environment; there are lots of experienced attorneys to learn from, but the partners are very accessible. There is also flexibility as to how you go about taking your qualifying exams. Abel & Imray trainees attend the Queen Mary course after about a year in the firm, which gave me an excellent grounding in the relevant law, and was also a great chance to meet trainees from other firms. After this, you can choose to sit the final qualifying exams when you feel ready to do so. I will be taking two of the UK Advanced Papers in the autumn of 2015, after about two years in the profession, and the EQE Pre-Exam, towards qualification as European patent attorney, in early 2016. In preparation for the exams I have participated in both in-house and external tutorials and revision courses. I will also have the chance to go to Munich, to observe hearings at the European Patent Office.
The ability to combine technology, law and language is what attracted me to the patent profession initially, and so far I have found it to be a rewarding career that I would definitely recommend.
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