My name is Lindsay, and I’m an Associate at Mathys & Squire. I’m interested in a wide range of technologies. These include gene therapy, microbial-based inventions such as probiotics, and genetically modified plants. I recently qualified as a dual-qualified UK and European Patent Attorney. I also won the Ballantine Prize for achieving the highest mark on a tough exam paper!
What inspired you to become a patent attorney, and how did you get started in this field?
I spent four years in a PhD programme at Cambridge. It was all lab-based, but lab work was not for me. I needed to think about what I was going to do instead and started thinking outside academia. I had a bunch of friends who were going on to be barristers or solicitors. Some of them said, “You should look into intellectual property law or patent law.”
Once I made up my mind, I applied for lots of trainee positions. I applied to most firms in Cambridge or London and had interviews. Then, I got a job offer, got accepted, and started about a year later.
Can you describe your educational and professional background?
I had a PhD in Microbiology that was very specific to a particular field. This is helpful for patent law. You need to know and understand the technical details of the inventions that you are working on. Before that, I studied genetics.
What does a typical day in your life as a patent attorney look like?
A lot of patent attorneys will say this but it does differ from day to day. I’ll start the day by checking urgent emails from clients, partners or associates that I work with. Some days, there might be quite a lot of urgent work. If only one or two emails need to be sent out, I look at my running to-do list of work. Some tasks things will be very brief, and some things might be a lot longer.
My line manager does a lot of work defending patents, or attacking other companies’ patents. That involves a lot of legal and technical arguments. We do a lot of research into scientific papers that will support the points we are trying to make.
How do you manage your workload and prioritise tasks on a daily basis?
This is where the internal deadline system comes in. I also use an Excel spreadsheet of all the cases I’m working on with dates of when I need to do things. We work in a hybrid way, where the minimum is two days in the office.
Can you share a memorable or interesting case or project that you’ve worked on recently?
They are all interesting in their own ways. A lot of the cases I work on now have to do with antibody treatments for cancers like Leukaemia. Seeing the impact that these new drug treatments can make for children with Leukaemia and give them a much better chance in life than they would have had otherwise. It makes the case a lot more interesting knowing that the inventions you work on have had an impact or will have an impact on people’s lives. It is nice to work on things that protect new medicines for ill people.
What advice do you have for individuals who are considering a career as a patent attorney?
- Try and get some extra information about the job.
- Go to open days or work experience at firms (they’re very competitive!)
- Check out the IP Careers website, and the CIPA Informals has a blog that is useful.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be more confident in asking questions early on. When I came into the profession, I was very nervous and not confident at all. I did not feel confident asking someone for help if I was not sure about something. But that initial year is so critical for asking questions. Have the confidence to go and ask someone if you are not sure about something.