Sean Constable, trainee patent attorney in our life sciences patent team, joined Mewburn Ellis as part of our Graduate Training Programme in 2014. Below he gives us an outline of what working as a trainee patent attorney at Mewburn Ellis is like.
In what seems to be a similar story to many others who enter the profession, towards the end of my PhD I began to feel that a future in academia wasn’t for me. I started searching for a career that would allow me to remain connected to science and that would expose me to a greater variety of technologies than the narrow, specialised field that I had been working on. A friend I worked with in the lab had become a patent attorney and was thoroughly enjoying it, so I investigated the profession and was interested to find a career that would allow me to remain at the forefront of science but in a more commercial setting. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that I wouldn’t have to do a law conversion course and wasn’t expected to have any pre-existing knowledge of patent law; all of the training is done after starting the job.
One of the first things I came across when looking into the profession was the opportunity to attend an open day at Mewburn Ellis. This gave me an excellent introduction to the practical aspects of the job and the chance to speak with people at all stages of the career, from trainees right up to senior partners. I felt that this gave me a real insight into the day-to-day life of the job and what it would be like to work at this firm.
Right from the first day on the job I was responsible for work on real cases on a diverse range of different scientific areas and communicating directly with clients. At first this was quite a daunting experience, however there are always people around to offer guidance and patiently provide feedback. Within my first few months I was encouraged to get involved with all aspects of the job, including meeting with clients and inventors and even attending hearings at the European Patent Office in both Munich and The Hague. This all adds up to make an exciting, challenging and varied job.
Trainees here sit with a partner with a similar technical background for about 6 months at a time. This often requires moving between the firm’s Bristol, London, Cambridge and Manchester offices for about the first three years of your training. This means that you get exposed to a range of scientific topics and get to work with a variety of different clients, as well as providing an excellent opportunity to meet people across the firm. Each partner has their own way of working and so the idea is that by the end of the training process you will have put together a mixture of ways that work best for you.
Before I joined the firm, I had heard a lot about the training process and the efforts that Mewburn Ellis put into preparing you become a qualified and successful patent attorney. The training program is well structured and involves having regular tutorials with other trainees in my year. As well as this, some of the offices run more informal tutorials, where the trainees are handed an invention and have a go at finding the words to describe what makes it different to other similar objects. Learning how to do this is certainly challenging, but the idea of getting practice in early hopefully means you have a better idea of what to do when it comes to passing the exams!
If you enjoy the challenge of getting to grips with complex new technologies, understanding how things work and explaining concepts with effective use of language, then I would thoroughly recommend training as a patent attorney and wish you the best of luck with your application.
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