Upon first hearing of a career as a patent attorney, I thought it sounded fascinating; being able to marry disciplines of science and technology with law, communication and business, as well as other areas.
I was able to get an interview at a few firms, including D Young & Co, through a specialist IP recruitment agency. Having lived in Southampton at university for four years, the location was appealing, though it wasn’t until my assessment morning, where I met several partners and experienced their enthusiasm and warmth, that I knew it was my favoured destination. I was fortunate enough that I was offered a job shortly afterwards, and haven’t looked back since!
My favourite part of working at D Young & Co is undoubtedly the people I work with, although the variance of the job, the relatively low stress levels, the interesting technologies and the broad range of clients (I could go on…) all score highly for me.
A typical working day will often be filled with the prosecution of one or more patent applications in the UK or Europe, and often I'll have meetings with clients to give general advice, updates on their cases, and handle requests for drafting new patent applications.
Aside from the day job, I've been getting involved with the 'CIPA Informals', sitting on the committee as a representative for the South Coast and then treasurer and getting to know a number of my contemporaries around the country, which I love.
In terms of skills, particularly useful are those relating to written and verbal communication, which are vital for a good attorney, but general team working skills and analytical problem-solving abilities always prove important. In the next two to three years, I will (hopefully!) be a qualified attorney, and progressing upward in my career. I feel very settled both in my work and home life here at D Young & Co.
My biggest challenges have been exam related – when trainees say these are hard, they are right! However, the support here for training is brilliant, both in terms of in-house tutorials and advice, and generosity in paying and allowing time for trainees to attend external courses.
Overall, D Young & Co is a great place to work – especially if you value the people you work with as much as the work itself. I’d certainly advise any prospective attorneys to consider D Young & Co!
After finishing my Master’s degree, I was keen to stay involved in science but found the work I was doing in a laboratory unrewarding and so decided against doing a PhD. I really wanted a career which would both challenge and intellectually stimulate me.
I have found that a career as a patent attorney offers the unique opportunity to put your scientific and technical knowledge into practice in a legal and highly commercial context.
I joined D Young & Co in January 2014. From day one, I was exposed to real cases and given substantive work to get stuck into. My day to day work is very varied and can include any number of different tasks, from drafting a new patent application to opposing a competitor’s patent on behalf of a client. The bulk of my work is concerned with responding to arguments from an examiner as to why they believe an invention isn’t patentable. This is challenging but rewarding work as it requires an in-depth understanding of the technology involved, and the ability to formulate complex legal arguments and communicate them clearly and persuasively in writing.
I have been exposed to a very broad range of different technologies from the beginning, from cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to industrial chemistry and medical devices.
Part of the job that I particularly enjoy is visiting clients to speak to them face to face about their new inventions. During the course of my training, I have been lucky enough to attend a number of client meetings, where I have had the opportunity to see the new invention in process.
The route to qualification in the UK and Europe takes about four years, and the exams are notoriously difficult to pass. However, the training at D Young & Co provides excellent on-the-job mentoring from one or several partners for whom you work directly. In addition, an excellent schedule of in-house tutorials is offered, alongside external courses such as the Certificate in IP Law at Queen Mary University.
There is a fantastic work-life balance at D Young & Co, and many social occasions are organised throughout the year, including sporting events and the well-renowned Christmas party.
During my PhD I was part of a team developing and evaluating new molecules with potential anti-cancer properties. At this time I became exposed to and interested in the world of intellectual property.
The recruitment process to become a patent attorney was rigorous, but I came away from my interview at D Young & Co with a sense that I could feel at home there – the people were friendly but professional, the atmosphere was business-focussed but down-to-earth.
From the outset working at D Young & Co, I was exposed to a fascinating breadth of technology – I had soon dealt with everything from a high-heeled shoe to high-throughput DNA sequencing.
However, the majority of cases I see daily are in the fields of biochemistry, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, which gives me great satisfaction that I am putting the skills I learnt during my degree to valuable use.
I was given a lot of responsibility at an early stage, which helped to quickly immerse me in all the relevant aspects of the job and the law, including patent drafting, prosecution and opposition.
I particularly enjoy contentious work, and have represented clients at opposition proceedings before the European Patent Office in Munich and The Hague.
There are regular social events for the whole office, including barbecues, charity runs and our infamous Christmas party. If you’re looking for a job that’s intellectually demanding in an environment that’s supportive and sociable, then a career as patent attorney at D Young & Co may well be for you.
One of the things I quickly realised as I started at D Young and Co was that everyone else around me was also passionate about the science behind the inventions they were arguing for in front of patent offices worldwide.
If you had spoken to some of the people in my lab where I conducted my doctoral research at the time, they were probably relieved to hear I was leaving bench science. However, despite what may be described as a cavalier approach to practical biochemistry, my enthusiasm for the underlying science was as present during my PhD as it still is now training to be a patent attorney.
I was lucky in that I had encountered the intellectual property profession long before I had to make a decision on my career choice – in fact my PhD project was based on research that had been considered for patent protection. Thus it was always in the back of my mind as my own research was drawing to a close. While I certainly considered the other options available as a post-university profession, I did want to try and maintain a link with science.
For me, patent law ended up ticking a lot of the right boxes – as well as being quite literally on the cutting-edge of science, it provides good job stability and a good work-life balance. I also quite liked the fact that it is a bit of a niche field – as not only do you have to have the technical background, but you also can’t be fazed by the prospect of learning a bit of law!
Many people think that going from “science” into “law” represents a huge shift in the type and nature of the work that you do from day to day. This is far from the truth. You may not be on a bench but the scientific analysis and reasoning that you have to apply have to be just as thorough as if you were conducting research.
I would definitely recommend this career to any scientist who is just interested in developing these skills in a different setting.
Beyond the analytical skills which are almost expected from a technical background, I would consider communication and attention to detail the two most important attributes to my job.
One of the biggest challenges in this profession is being able to explain, in a concise and coherent manner, complex matters of both science and law. Most of the time, this will also be to people who are not familiar with the matter at hand. This could be your boss asking you to summarise a few pieces of prior art, or to a client when they ask you the legal reasons behind the suggested amendments you have made to their patent application.
Attention to detail, especially to language, can be crucial in the outcome of a case. I found this to be the biggest difference from academic science.
The fact that most scientific articles read by people in similar fields allows many more assumptions to be made, so small differences in how something is written down are usually overlooked. However, in patent law, while the science behind the invention is undoubtedly crucial when you argue for why it is novel and inventive, the invention is ultimately judged on the wording of the patent application.
As a trainee, I would say it would be unusual for normal working hours to deviate too much from 9-5. Deadlines at patent offices are reasonably generous so extremely urgent matters are rare. In any case, your work will be dependent on supervision from an associate or partner at your firm. This is not to say that long days won’t happen. This can happen most commonly when a client wants to file an application within a short space of time because they want to disclose their invention in some way (eg, at a conference).
I would also be aware of the fact that because of the number of exams that you will need to take to qualify as a patent attorney, there will often be times when you will need to spend time to study outside of work.
I am coming up to the end of my second year at D Young & Co. I recently took and passed the Certificate in Intellectual Property at Queen Mary University of London, which is a common way for trainees to become exempt from some of the qualifying exams.
By far the most interesting experience I have had is going to a hearing (oral proceedings) at the European Patent Office when we have opposed the validity of a patent. That really showed the level of knowledge and skill that patent attorneys must have, in order to make both legal and technical judgements on the spot.
I joined D Young & Co in September 2011 after graduating from university and completing a summer internship with the firm.
From day one, I was involved with working on real patent cases for real clients.
I quickly realised that being a patent attorney is a great way to stay in touch with the latest technology without having to be in a research and development role (which I had decided wasn’t for me).
I was very pleased to be offered a permanent job as a technical assistant / trainee patent attorney with D Young & Co when my internship came to its end, and have been here ever since.
Over the time I have been here, I have been involved in drafting and prosecuting patent applications for lots of different clients (ranging from individual inventors and SMEs all the way up to multinational companies). I am lucky to have had lots of direct contact with clients (including undertaking a secondment in the in-house patents department of one our clients), and very much enjoy meeting with clients to discuss new inventions. I have also travelled to the European Patent Office in Munich and The Hague on several occasions to help represent clients before the European Patent Office (EPO). I have experience in representing clients before the Examining Division, Opposition Division and Board of Appeal at the EPO.
The job can be stressful at times (patent attorneys all have to work to strict deadlines), but although I am expected to work hard, the office environment is very friendly and supportive. There are also great opportunities for progression within the firm as I complete my training and pass my exams.
Much of my training has been on-the-job under the guidance of several partners and other more senior members of the firm. Furthermore, I have received more formal training in the form of a structured program involving professional courses and exams. For example, during my time at D Young & Co, I have completed the Intellectual Property Law Certificate at Queen Mary, University of London, have attended courses for and passed the EQE qualifying exams and am currently working towards passing the UK exams. The exams and training courses have provided a great opportunity to learn about the nuances of patent law and to meet other trainees in the profession.
I very much enjoy my job as a technical assistant at D Young & Co. I find the day-to-day work interesting and rewarding and find the environment I work in very friendly and supportive.
I graduated in June 2015 from Durham University with an undergraduate masters degree in mechanical engineering.
Having undertaken a couple of engineering internships during my studies, I knew that I wanted to do something which used the technical skills I had acquired at university but not necessarily work in a purely engineering firm.
Although I knew of the existence of patents and their importance through my studies and internships, I hadn’t really considered a career as a patent attorney until I spoke to a friend from Durham who was a trainee. She was the first of my friends who I had spoken to who seemed to really love the work they were doing.
Having explored the career further, I decided it was perfect for me. It allowed me use my technical knowledge whilst considering the broader impact of inventions and their commercial value to clients.
I started work at D Young & Co in September 2015 and can honestly say I’ve never regretted choosing this career path. D Young & Co is a great place to train due to the support given to you both by the partners for whom you work, and by the firm as a whole in providing access to in-house tutorials and external courses to help in your route to qualification. I share an office with a recently qualified patent attorney who is always happy to help me if I need it.
I am in the electronics, engineering & IT team and given my degree subject I mainly work on patent applications for mechanical inventions. This sees me cover a broad range of technologies from sewing machines to driverless cars! This means I am always learning something new and no two days are the same.
Most of my time centres on the prosecution stage of the patent application process. This involves responding to communications from both the European and UK patent offices requiring me to analyse applications and prior art documents and formulate arguments as to why the applications should be allowable.
A work-life balance is considered very important at D Young & Co with regular social events and the well known Christmas party. If you are looking for an interesting, varied and intellectually stimulating job in a supportive and friendly firm, I couldn’t recommend a career as a patent attorney at D Young & Co more.