Case study

Trainee patent attorney — Stefan

Stefan uses technical skills from his physics degree to help him understand the complexities of new inventions. Discover more advice on how to become a successful patent attorney

How did you get your job as a trainee patent attorney?

Having graduated with a Masters in physics, I got my current job via Dawn Ellmore Employment, an independent recruitment agency specialising in the patent, trade mark and legal professions. They were looking to fill a number of graduate positions at different firms across the country and I secured a place as a trainee patent attorney.

Do your research on the firms you're interested in, particularly in terms of what technology areas and clients they have

What's a typical working day like?

I'm usually involved in reading patent specifications to understand how the invention works or what the inventive concept is, followed by preparing a response to examination reports arguing why the invention should be granted patent protection.

What do you enjoy most about being a patent attorney?

I love the variety of my work. It's quite common to be working on one type of technology in the morning and a completely different type in the afternoon. Not only is there variety in the technology, but also in the legal situations that I can face. Both need to be taken into account in order to provide my clients with the protection they're entitled to and it's interesting to consider all the possible ways in which this can be achieved.

What are the challenges?

When you're working with information from a written document, it can be difficult at times to grasp what the actual invention or inventive concept is, which makes preparing a response time-consuming and difficult.

Dealing with clients from all over the world can present some challenges, particularly with regards to the considerations that are required for different national patent offices, e.g., the manner in which specifications are drafted.

In what way is your physics degree relevant?

I use aspects from my degree most days to help me understand the technical subject matter of the invention. In addition, a technical degree is required for entry into the profession.

How has your role developed?

The role has developed primarily in terms of the amount of responsibility I'm given and the time demands placed on me. Once qualified, the amount of responsibility I have will increase further.

What are your career plans?

My ambitions are to qualify by passing the various required exams and ultimately progress through to a partner of my current firm.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

I chose my Masters degree based on my interests and the fact that it was a natural progression from my bachelors. I think my top tip would be to do something that you find enjoyable as Masters degrees can be challenging and require a detailed knowledge of the subject area.

What advice can you give to others?

Look at patent specifications to get an idea of what they are and how they're drafted, as this will get you in the mindset for how a patent attorney thinks.

Do your research on the firms you're interested in, particularly in terms of what technology areas/clients they have as these will be the technology areas you will work on.

Make sure you're happy working on your own for most of the time and spending large periods of time sitting at a desk reading.

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