Henry is a trainee in the firm’s tech and engineering practice groups. He joined S&P after graduating from the University of Cambridge with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
It’s very much a cliché, but there’s no such thing as a typical day for a patent attorney. Life in private practice is especially varied; over the course of a week I’ll be working on cases across a wide range of technological fields for a variety of different clients, from renowned multi-national companies to universities and individuals.
Below, I’ve tried to give an impression of some of the things that I can end up doing on any given day in the office:
I arrive at the office. One of the great things about Derby is its size; it’s big enough that there’s always something going on but it’s small enough (and accommodation is cheap enough) that I can live 5 minutes’ walk from the city centre.
I like to get my head down first thing in the morning and crack through my main task for the day. Normally, the last thing I do before leaving work is plan out what this task will be, so the next morning I can get going straight away.
Today my morning task is to analyse an examination report which the European Patent Office has issued on a patent application that has been made by one of our multinational clients. This is the first time I’ve worked on this application so my first job is to familiarise myself with the invention and gain a good understanding of how it works.
Next, I read through the examination report and consider the objections that have been made. The examiner has argued that the client’s invention is not new and cites a number of ‘prior art’ documents in support. I read through these documents to gain an understanding of how the devices in the prior art documents work and how they differ from the client’s invention. After I’ve done this, I normally have a good idea of how to respond to the examination report. I’ll discuss my proposed arguments with my supervisor in the afternoon.
I get a call from reception saying an individual has called who wants to ask about obtaining a patent for an invention she’s come up with. The inventor talks me through her idea and we discuss the basics of patent protection and the process of applying for a patent. After the call I send her an email with some more detailed information on a couple of areas we spoke about and offer for her to come in for a free consultation meeting if she wants to move forward.
Interacting with potential or existing clients adds another dimension to your work and it’s one of my favourite parts of the job. Dealing with new enquiries like this is also a great way for trainees to develop as it tests the legal concepts we study, in a practical scenario.
A number of the trainees often head into town over lunch. Our head office is only a short walk from the famous Derby Cathedral Quarter where there are a range of eateries to choose from. This area is also the heart of Derby’s bustling evening scene, and colleagues are often found in these bars and pubs after work on a Friday.
First thing after lunch I always take some time to action any post that has come in during the morning and I make sure that everything is up to date in my work schedule. At S&P trainees aren’t just given piecemeal items to complete for more experienced colleagues; we’re immediately given the responsibility to manage our own cases. This is great experience but it takes a lot of organisation, so it’s vitally important to have a good system in place that allows us to keep on top of all our deadlines.
I see my supervisor to discuss the examination report I analysed this morning. One of the most important skills here is the ability to condense all of the information I read into a concise summary that contains all of the key details.
We talk through the case and I present my proposal for responding to the examiner’s objections. My supervisor has some comments and suggests a couple of things to think about, but overall, I’m on the right lines.
I head back to my desk to draft my response. I’ll make the finishing touches tomorrow morning and write my letter to the client explaining our proposal. I’ll then go through what I’ve written with my supervisor in the afternoon and, after some small tweaks, we’ll get it sent out to the client. Then it’ll be onto the next case!
Today we have one of our weekly training sessions. As well as exploring key legal and technical skills, these sessions cover topics that are crucial to trainees’ overall development, such as client care, time management and communication skills.
In today’s session, one of the directors is taking us through trade marks. As patent trainees we don’t deal with trade marks very often so it’s really interesting to get some insights from one of the firm’s most experienced trade mark attorneys. It’s also useful prep for those of us who are sitting the trade mark foundation exam this year.
I’ve got to be out of the office quickly today as we have one of our company netball matches after work. We only started playing netball recently but it’s already become one of our favourite events, even if those of us who are keen footballers sometimes struggle with the footwork rules!