As part of the Inside Careers series of graduate Employer Q&As, leading patent employer Marks & Clerk will be answering questions submitted by you.

About Marks & Clerk LLP

As the leading UK and European partnership of patent and trade mark attorneys, the firm has a long history of providing intellectual property (IP) advice from its extensive UK and overseas offices.

Our size enables us to provide a full range of IP services as well as having specialisms in most areas of advanced technology. Our clients are a wide spectrum of national and multinational organisations, together with the latest start-up ventures. Apply for patent jobs with Marks & Clerk.

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The questions

I am in the middle of writing up my doctorate thesis in Chemistry and I am planning to submit the thesis in January. I am interested in applying for the Trainee Patent Attorney (Chemistry) position but am unsure if the doctorate has to be completed prior to the application. Will Marks & Clerk be recruiting in the chemistry area in the new year at all?

What types of questions, tests or written exercises can an applicant expect when attending an interview at your firm?

With regards to training, is there the opportunity to work with different attorneys and partners to learn about their different styles in order to tailor your own way of working?

Would you be interested in taking a 40 week placement student from Bournemouth University? Our LLB students have to undertake a placement of not less than 40 weeks and I know our students would be very interested in gaining work experience with you, especially as they have an IP module in their final year.

I did a biochemical engineering MSc in 2012 and I’d like to apply for a position as a trainee patent attorney in biotechnology. Would the fact that I completed my MSc last year affect my chances of being accepted?

Am I at a disadvantage in applying for trainee patent attorney positions because I am older than a typical graduate? I am 41 with a professional history in service industries and I am struggling to get interviews, despite having a recent PhD in physics from Cambridge.

I am currently doing my PhD in organic chemistry. How much training would I need to complete after this before I should apply to join a patent firm?

How essential is a PhD in gaining a position as a trainee graduate? I am currently undertaking a Master’s in Immunity and Infection but it seems that a lot of patent attorneys do tend to have a doctorate.
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Would I be at any disadvantage applying for a trainee position with an MEng rather than a PhD?

I am a PhD graduate with non-EU citizenship. Is it possible for me to get accepted on a patent attorney trainee programme with an EU-based patent firm?

Is coming from a theoretical physics background a disadvantage? What areas of physics are most desirable?

I am currently finishing my PhD in chemistry. What kind of skills are you searching for in people that do not have experience in patents?

Would you be able to offer any advice on gaining work experience prior to my graduation in 2015?
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Do I need work experience in my CV?

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The answers


I am in the middle of writing up my doctorate thesis in Chemistry and I am planning to submit the thesis in January. I am interested in applying for the Trainee Patent Attorney (Chemistry) position but am unsure if the doctorate has to be completed prior to the application. Will Marks & Clerk be recruiting in the chemistry area in the new year at all?
Freda, Queen Mary, University of London

Our current graduate recruitment programme is looking for people to join us in September 2014. Your thesis does not have to be completed prior to you submitting your application. We would hope to fill our Sept 2014 vacancies by January 2014 and then would start our next round of graduate recruitment for the Sept 2015 intake, in September 2014.

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What types of questions, tests or written exercises can an applicant expect when attending an interview at your firm?
Erik, King’s College London

We use a selection of interview formats and tests to examine not only your technical knowledge but also your written and verbal communication skills.

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With regards to training, is there the opportunity to work with different attorneys and partners to learn about their different styles in order to tailor your own way of working?
Victoria, University of Manchester

Yes. Whilst you will be allocated a specific mentor each office has teams of attorneys who work within the same technical area. As you work on different cases, receive in-house tutorials and will be exposed to all aspects of attorney work you will enjoy interacting with a lot of our fee earning staff both from within your office and the wider UK firm.

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Would you be interested in taking a 40 week placement student from Bournemouth University? Our LLB students have to undertake a placement of not less than 40 weeks and I know our students would be very interested in gaining work experience with you, especially as they have an IP module in their final year.
Jackie, University of Bournemouth

This would have to be reviewed on a case by case basis as it would depend on what role they were prepared to undertake and where they wanted to work. We have run something similar in one of our offices and both the firm and the student benefited from the experience.

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I did a biochemical engineering MSc in 2012 and I’d like to apply for a position as a trainee patent attorney in biotechnology. Would the fact that I completed my MSc last year affect my chances of being accepted?
Sama, University of Birmingham

No, this would not affect your application. However, we would be interested to see what you have been doing since completing your academic studies.

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Am I at a disadvantage in applying for trainee patent attorney positions because I am older than a typical graduate? I am 41 with a professional history in service industries and I am struggling to get interviews, despite having a recent PhD in physics from Cambridge.
James, University of Cambridge

No, you are not at a disadvantage at all. We would treat your application in exactly the same way as any other application. However, you should appreciate that on average it takes five years to become a fully dual qualified patent attorney.

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I am currently doing my PhD in organic chemistry. How much training would I need to complete after this before I should apply to join a patent firm?
Sebastian, University of Leeds

You do not have to do any training following the completion of your PhD. If you are successful in your application to Marks & Clerk we would arrange for you to attend the relevant and necessary training in order to qualify as a UK and European patent attorney.

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How essential is a PhD in gaining a position as a trainee graduate? I am currently undertaking a Master’s in Immunity and Infection but it seems that a lot of patent attorneys do tend to have a doctorate.
Christopher, University of Leicester
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Would I be at any disadvantage applying for a trainee position with an MEng rather than a PhD? 

Brett, University of Nottingham

It is not essential to have achieved a PhD. We are interested in the content and structure of your degree course and matching that to what our business needs.

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I am a PhD graduate with non-EU citizenship. Is it possible for me to get accepted on a patent attorney trainee programme with an EU-based patent firm?
Ekaterina, Medical University of Vienna

We would look at each case individually, but there are sponsorship programmes available to non EU citizens.

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Is coming from a theoretical physics background a disadvantage? What areas of physics are most desirable?
Amy, University of Nottingham

A theoretical physics background is not a disadvantage. We take on graduates who we believe would sit well with our current client portfolio. A lot of people who join the profession with physics degrees go on to deal with electronics and software work. It helps if you have a strong computing or solid state/electronics component in your degree. However, that said, there are still plenty of positions for general physicists and people who can handle very challenging maths.

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I am currently finishing my PhD in chemistry. What kind of skills are you searching for in people that do not have experience in patents?
Rubben, University of Cambridge

We require people with excellent written and verbal communication skills. We look for clear, logical and structured thought processes; an excellent depth of knowledge in their chosen field; people who are commercially astute and business focused.

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Would you be able to offer any advice on gaining work experience prior to my graduation in 2015?
Brett, University of Nottingham
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Do I need work experience in my CV?

Sama, University of Birmingham

Any work experience compliments and enhances a CV. Work experience in the Patent profession is hard to come by so we would suggest that you review all the websites for information on opportunities and keep applying.

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