Why did you choose to do an internship? How did it tie in with your overall career plans?
I had an introduction to intellectual property from an earlier stint at a University technology transfer office. While working as a patent analyst, I learnt that the business of translating ideas from the lab to the market was an elaborate exercise, carefully managed by several teams having different skill-sets. I was considering starting a career in intellectual property and realised several opportunities lay ahead for a person from a technical background such as mine. I could choose to continue as a patent analyst, work with an IP-focused consultancy or train to be a patent attorney.
I found the role of the patent attorney – capturing the essence of an invention in language – fascinating. However, I did have some reservations about this choice. It seemed quite daunting, especially since I would have to take a series of exams in a subject I had no exposure to – the law. While there is plenty of information out there about the role and what it entails, I felt that an internship would give me first-hand experience and help me decide if I should take the plunge.
Do you have any advice for someone seeking an internship?
Learn as much as you can about the firm you are applying to. The information can be found on the firm’s website and publications such as the EPO register, law firm directories and IP Careers. Firms have varying areas of expertise so seek out firms that best match your interests and technical expertise. Internships can be hard to find. If possible, try to get internships at a few different firms to find an environment best suited to you.
What was the application process like – any advice?
After submitting my CV and a cover letter via the website, I had a short Skype interview. I discussed my educational background and I was asked to describe any recent research developments that I found interesting.
Prepare well in advance for the application process and interview. This will give you enough time to proofread everything before submission. This will also help you avoid gaffes such as failing to attach a carefully proofread CV to your email, while making claims to great attention to detail (I did this once!). Pick at least one invention, area of technology, or a research article and prepare a summary that you can communicate succinctly in an interview.
What attracted you to your role?
There are particular aspects of intellectual property that make the role of a patent attorney exciting. Firstly, you will come across inventions that are at the cutting edge of their respective fields of science, well before publication in scientific journals. Secondly, an attorney needs to effectively advance nuanced logical arguments verbally and in writing when negotiating with the patent office to seek a patent. Finally, while the patent describes the invention at hand, it must also anticipate the general heading of the progress of that technology and how competitors might work around an invention. This requires creativity and forward-thinking by the attorney to make patent protection future-proof.
What were your main duties?
The internship at Carpmaels lasted two weeks – an unusually long time, considering similar schemes on offer at other firms. This allowed time to really experience what it would be like to work at the firm, without it being a rushed affair spread over just a few days. Learning over the two weeks was divided between introductory training, tutorials, work shadowing and group case study work. This made it possible to learn the basics of intellectual property law and how it is put into practice in the real world. Working with the same people over two weeks also presented a well-rounded idea of the flow of work on a typical day.
Additionally, this gave a glimpse into other aspects of the job including managing billing and administrative tasks. For me, the highlight of the internship was the case study which I worked on along other interns during the course of the programme.
What were the most important things you learned from the internship?
One of my primary concerns regarding this profession was the prospect of several exams looming large on the road to qualification. The meticulously planned internship served as an excellent introduction to the quality of training and support offered in-house and helped dispel these concerns.
I had read elsewhere that the role of a patent attorney is one where you train and work alone. I learned that this isn’t wholly true at Carpmaels. While you are responsible for managing your workload, having a group of peers working in your practice area can be very helpful – as a sounding board for discussions, for assistance on tricky cases or simply to keep an eye on things when you’re on holiday.
It is important to have colleagues who are friendly. Several events on the social calendar helped me to meet people throughout the firm, from trainees to partners, who all clearly enjoyed working at the firm. It is also important to me to find a workplace that places emphasis on employees balancing time between work and their personal interests.