In the patent profession, you could earn up to £45,000 before you’ve even finished your exams. Qualification increases your worth further and can be used as a passport to international opportunities. Fellows and Associates use the data from their annual salary survey to highlight what you could be earning from Trainee to Partner level.

Being a patent attorney can be a very rewarding career and the salary increases can be frequent and significant as you progress through the examinations. In UK private practices, salaries are by and large linked to qualification status up until the point you have qualified. Although in some instances, there can be differences in starting salaries for different technical specialisms depending on supply and demand.

Corporate vs. private practice

This article focuses on working in private practice for a firm of patent attorneys in the UK. Less and less corporations hire attorneys at trainee level, and a career in-house most frequently begins post qualification or at the very least when you have had a few years’ experience prior to qualification. Typically, attorneys can earn more in-house than they can in private practice for the years following qualification up until Partner level. However, once attorneys reach Partner status within a private practice their earning potential, in general, far outstrips what can be achieved in industry.

Average earnings

Patent attorneys do not move positions very frequently and salaries tend to increase in bursts. The market rate for a newly qualified attorney is around £60,000-65,000 but as you can see from the table below, salaries for attorneys who stay within the same firm can lag behind what they may be able to achieve on the open market. However, ‘newly qualified’ is to some extent ambiguous as some firms give a significant increase to their attorneys when they qualify in both Europe and the UK, and others when they qualify in just one of the two jurisdictions.

Patent salaries by seniority
Level In current firm* When moving firms*
Trainee £32,100
Part qualified £37,000 £36,000-45,000
Newly qualified £53,300 £60,000-65,000
2-3 years post qualification £68,700 £70,000-80,000
4-5 years post qualification £77,300 £80,000-100,000
Salaried partner level** £103,880 £110,000-140,000

* It is inevitable that one will achieve a higher salary when moving firms, rather than receiving salary increases within a firm as the hiring company will seek to make moving as attractive as possible. **Amounts are reflective of Partners on fixed renumeration.

Salary by region

Contrary to popular belief, salaries outside of London are broadly the same as those within London. Certainly, being a patent attorney in another part of the UK would put you at no career disadvantage whatsoever compared with those based in London and in some cases you may find the experience gained is more well-rounded during training as there may be more direct contact with clients from an early stage. Applying for positions in London is very competitive and it does not always occur to applicants to consider regional offices. As a result, those looking to enter the profession can have a better chance of succeeding when applying to regional firms, or firms with regional offices.

Benefits

In addition to the base salary, patent attorneys often earn bonuses and receive other financial benefits to complete their remuneration package. The ratio of additional benefits, predominantly bonus, to base salary tends to be the same across technical specialisms except for Chemistry and Pharmaceutical positions which generally have a lower base salary with a higher proportion via other benefits compared to others.

Patent attorneys’ average percentage additional benefits (added to base salary):

• Trainee – 7.9%
• Part Qualified – 8.5%
• Newly Qualified – 13.7%
• 2-3 Year Post Qualified – 9.5%
• 4-5 Year Post Qualified – 9.5%
• Partner/Partner Designate – 20%

Everyone now receives a pension by law but there are many other benefits available. 75% of employees have their professional membership paid for, and around 60% receive some form of private health care. On average, employees receive 25 days holiday per year.

Being a patent attorney can be very financially rewarding and the chances of reaching the higher salaries are very good in comparison with other professional services sector positions. There is excellent job security and more often than not, there are more open positions than there are people to fill them (although getting into the profession in the first place as a new trainee remains very challenging).

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