• Role: Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Location: Leeds
  • University: York
  • Degree: BSc Chemistry; PhD Chemistry

Sarah Dobson

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About me

After completing my undergraduate degree, I was still excited about the prospect of a career in research and so started a PhD in Chemistry (although it had a significant biological slant!).  I really enjoyed it, the work, the lab and the people were all great, so, once I had graduated, I carried on with research and took a postdoc position at the Institute of Cancer Research in London where I worked in a drug discovery team.  Although it was a great and inspirational place to work, I soon realised that a long-term career in research wasn’t for me.  Short term contracts, moving around different labs in pursuit of grant money and the general uncertainty were not for me.  However, in the course of my work there I had some exposure to patents and now, three years down the line, I am exposed to them every day!

Getting the Job

Without wishing to sound strange, I really enjoyed writing my PhD thesis and, on the basis that patent attorneys combine a love of science with a love of the written word, I knew that it was the career that I wanted to pursue.  Once I had made this decision, I sent copies of my CV and a covering letter to a lot of firms, whether they were actively recruiting or not.  I found the Inside Careers website an extremely useful resource during this process.  I did get a lot of rejections and a few “we are not recruiting at the moment but we’ll keep your CV on file” responses.  Luckily, despite not having a position available at the time, a few months later I got a call from Appleyard Lees telling me that a position had come up and would I like to come in for an interview.  Of course, I said yes!  The process itself consisted of a couple of tests, one technical and the other a spelling/grammar test, and an interview on the day followed by three days in the office working on actual client files (which I wasn’t expecting but which was great in terms of experience).  At the end of it I was offered the job.  Again, of course I said yes!

Life as a patent attorney

On a day to day basis, I work closely with qualified patent attorneys in the Chemical team here in the Leeds office.  This includes everything from drafting, prosecution, instructing foreign associates and advising clients to helping with opposition proceedings, including occasionally going to hearings at the European Patent Office (EPO), and preparing infringement advice.  The work really is very varied and is always interesting.  The thing I like most about the job is that I get to use my scientific background every day in an intellectually stimulating environment.

Of course, there is the training side of it to worry about too. I am part-qualified now having passed all the UK foundation papers and half of the finals.  I am also working towards my European qualifying exams.  I am not going to lie, the revision is very hard work (there aren’t many people who would look forward to studying after a long day at work!), but Appleyard Lees are very supportive and I have no doubt that it’ll be worth it in the end.

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