• Role: Assistant
  • Location: Nottingham
  • University: Nottingham
  • Degree: Biochemistry and PhD in Biochemistry and Genetics

Fiona Hey

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As a post-doc with eight years’ experience, the thought of starting in a new profession from square one was daunting, but after doing more westerns than John Wayne (western blots to those not familiar with biological research), I decided to leave the lab bench. My degree was in Biochemistry, and I went on to achieve a PhD, both at the University of Nottingham. I then undertook five years’ postdoctoral research on a Cancer Research UK-funded project at the University of Leicester. Whilst working on such a project can be satisfying, advancing through academia and achieving a permanent position is notoriously challenging.

I knew I wanted to stay in touch with biological research and enjoyed scientific writing, so a career in intellectual property seemed like it would tick all of the boxes. I was able to get some work experience with an in-house team for a large pharmaceutical company. This provided a valuable insight into the day to day life of a patent attorney, and I was confident I would enjoy working in the profession.

Since my first day at Potter Clarkson, I have been exposed to a wide variety of scientific topics, much more so than as an academic scientist. Another bonus is that every day I get to look at research that actually worked!

My first 12 months has been spent working on real cases under the supervision of a partner. In one week, topics can vary from probiotics to small-molecule drugs to protein engineering. There is no time to master the scientific field of every case, but that is why analytical skills are key. If I have questions, or need guidance there is always someone to ask, whether it be my supervising partner, or a knowledgeable associate or fellow trainee.

A typical day entails… well there isn’t really a typical day. The variety of technologies and types of work we are involved in, including prosecution in countries all over the world and enforcing/challenging IP rights, means no two days are ever the same. The great thing about a career as a patent attorney is that every day is like a school day, there is always something more to learn either scientifically or legally.

There are a number of exams that need to be passed in order to become qualified. Potter Clarkson is hugely supportive of trainees and I am currently attending a number of in-house tutorials run by a partner or senior associate – all of whom have been through the process! I will also attend a number of residential courses which will help me to prepare for my exams in October.

Potter Clarkson is also a very sociable firm, and there are lots of opportunities to get involved in social events, whether it be the office away-day or regular post-work drinks. The large number of trainees under one roof is definitely a positive from both a support and a social perspective.

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