Those wanting to become a patent attorney should have a desire to be at the forefront of scientific developments. Trainees need a robust understanding of their field and the skills needed to apply this knowledge to new scenarios and new technologies. Patent law sits at the interface of science, law and commercial business, and as such, patent professionals also need to have an interest in business, as they will be contributing to growing the commercial interests of their business and their clients. Trainee patent attorneys should also have a keen interest in economic developments relating to their sector, to best support and advise clients. Patent firms, will however help trainees develop these skills.
What are the academic requirements?
Most importantly, you have to have a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree as the job is about being able to understand scientific concepts, in order to be able to discuss the technology being developed by clients. It is also the requirement of IPREG, the regulatory board for the intellectual property sector, for taking the professional exams.
Most IP firms require candidates to have achieved a 2.1 or above and will accept candidates who have either a Bachelor's degree, Masters, PhD or PostDoc. Individuals who have spent time in industry after academia are also welcomed to apply for roles.
What skills do I need?
Beyond your scientific knowledge, there are a variety of skills you need to bring to the role. Typically, the day-job of a trainee primarily consists of: assisting with case-work, drafting and prosecuting patent applications, and learning the skills and techniques required to practise as a competent patent attorney.
For more information on the types of skills needed to be successful as a patent attorney, read the 'Essential Skills to Become a Successful Patent Attorney' article here.
What other considerations are there?
To become a registered patent attorney, you need to be prepared to sit more exams. Taking a professional qualification is very different from studying at university, as you have to study alongside a full-time job.
The professional exams are sat over a number of years, and take approximately 4 to 6 years to complete. Balancing the two components can be challenging. It requires a strong work ethic, excellent time-management skills, resilience and determination. Trainees undergo a substantial learning curve for a number of years, and continuously receive feedback and support in order to develop their skills. I would strongly advise that you prioritise exploring firms that actively invest in trainee development and promote a friendly, supportive training network. There is no doubt that the workload can be a lot at times and that the exams are difficult, however, the good news is that you will receive support and guidance from people who have gone through the same process and so understand the challenges you might be facing. I would recommend checking the Chartered Patent Attorney Careers Guide, or asking potential employers what study support is available (e.g. study leave, revision sessions or socials).
You can find out more about the qualifications and training to become a patent attorney by reading the 'Professional Qualifications & Training' article here.
Where can I find more information?
A wide range of resources are available to assist individuals considering entering the profession. I would advise using the careers advice section of IP Careers' website and the Chartered Patent Attorney Careers Guide to start – there are very helpful summary profiles of the firms and businesses with trainee positions.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.