Shortly before finishing my PhD, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to undertake work experience at Venner Shipley. This was extremely valuable because it enabled me to confirm that I would enjoy working as a patent attorney. I then applied directly to Venner Shipley and was offered a position as a trainee patent attorney. I have now been at the firm for around four years and I am well on the way to becoming fully-qualified.
Although my academic roots lie in chemistry, I am very fortunate to work in a very broad range of technologies. For example, one day I could be drafting a patent application relating to a complex medical device, whilst the next day I might be working on a case that relates to chemical catalysis. This diversity has always been one of my main attractions to the job because my natural curiosities extend beyond chemistry to many other areas, such as mechanical engineering, physics and biology.
My work often involves working directly with clients and inventors and this is encouraged at Venner Shipley from day one. For example, in my first week in the role I prepared a detailed letter to a client providing advice, and in my second week, I met with the client face-to-face at our offices to discuss that advice! As well as working directly with inventors, I also spend a lot of time working with other IP professionals. Patent rights are territorial and in order to achieve overseas protection for our clients it is necessary to work with IP professionals from all corners of the world on a daily basis. Indeed, I believe that there are very few jobs that involve working with professionals from such a broad range of countries!
There are essentially two facets to becoming a fully qualified and independent patent attorney. These are: (i) learning to do the day-to-day job; and (ii) passing the European and UK examinations to become a Chartered and European Patent Attorney.
Learning to do the day-to-day job essentially involves continuous improvement. All of my work is reviewed by my supervisor, who then provides detailed feedback. It is very important to carefully consider and learn from this feedback, and then ensure that the next piece of work is even better. Aiming to get things “right first time” through experience is key.
The exams are extremely challenging and often take more than one attempt to pass. In addition to the one-on-one training and support provided by my supervisor, Venner Shipley offers regular in-house group tutorials and external training courses are also available. Although preparing for and sitting the exams involves a huge amount of work, Venner Shipley recognises and rewards exam success. Comprehensive support is also offered for any resits that may be required.
I enjoy working at Venner Shipley because of the variety of work that I am exposed to, the independence that I am given and, most of all, the people that I work with across all areas of the firm. As a trainee, you build up a great deal of camaraderie with your peers as you prepare for and sit the examinations over a number of years. I also like the open door atmosphere and I am never afraid to ask questions and share ideas.
The firm also has a very active Social Committee, which organises a large number of fun events, such as the annual summer outing, the Christmas party and regular games nights. A particularly memorable summer outing involved a treasure hunt in Cambridge followed by an afternoon of punting!