• Role: UK Patent Attorney
  • Location: London
  • University: Imperial
  • Degree: MEng Aeronautical Engineering

Laurence Lai

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Why I chose to become a patent attorney

I studied engineering at university because I’ve always been curious about how things work. After I graduated, this naturally followed on to working in an engineering consultancy, although I did briefly consider becoming an intellectual property solicitor. After two years as an engineering consultant, I was still thinking ‘what if’ and found that becoming a patent attorney would be a route into intellectual property law with the benefit of on-the-job training rather than having to attend law school.

I began my training at another London firm of patent attorneys, moving to Kilburn & Strode after three years. The decision to move wasn’t easy, but what helped was that I had met other trainees from Kilburn & Strode through social events, inter-firm softball matches and organising the annual Intellectual Property Ball.

Why I chose Kilburn & Strode

Getting a job as a trainee patent attorney is as much about your skills as about you fitting into the firm you’re joining – each firm has a different culture. Everyone I met from Kilburn & Strode, including at interview, was friendly and personable, and this gave me the confidence that it would be a great firm to move to.

There’s a large cohort of trainees at Kilburn & Strode, with a lot of support and camaraderie. The partners are all very approachable, despite the firm having quite a traditional structure. I work for different partners, giving me exposure to a range of clients and styles of working.

Patent attorneys are always learning, not just through exposure to shifting technology trends, but also because of evolving patent law and different relationships with clients. Some of the work I find most interesting is when patent-savvy clients ask insightful questions and you need to work out what would be best for them, and translate legalese into commercially useful advice.

At Kilburn & Strode, trainees are trusted to take ownership of their work, and to manage their own workload. Trainees also get direct exposure to clients early on. There are opportunities to get involved in marketing to bring in new clients, as well as writing news articles for the firm’s website or various industry magazines.

My advice for anyone thinking about joining the profession

It might take at least four years of training to become a UK and European patent attorney; it’s worth being aware that this can feel like quite a commitment and as such you should choose a firm where you know you will be supported and surrounded by individuals going through the same process.

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