How I got my job: Trainee Patent Attorney

Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a final year PhD student, studying Medical and Biological Engineering, and has just secured a training contract with Urquhart-Dykes and Lord LLP, at their Leeds office. In this post she outlines how she found out about the profession and secured her role

Career inspiration

With a year to go of my PhD, I started investigating new career paths, after deciding continuing in research and academia wasn’t for me. I attended a University of Leeds Careers Centre conference, ‘Gown to Town: Alternatives to an academic career’, and whilst there heard a talk by a patent attorney – the job description seemed to tick every box, including science, writing, client interaction, some travel and what seems to be a good work-life balance (once you’ve passed the exams!).

In the November of my final year, I attended a patent firm’s Open Day. Not all firms offer events like this, but if you get the chance to go on one, I would definitely recommend it. In one day you experience what a patent office is like, meet staff, and attend talks and interactive sessions. Although my interview was with a different firm, it was really useful to be able to talk about the day and show some more first-hand knowledge that I wouldn’t have been able to mention otherwise.

Making applications

Lots of big firms have deadlines in December & January for positions starting the following September, so it’s important to get organised early. I researched the role online as much as I could and wrote a first draft CV. I then took this to the careers centre for a drop-in appointment and got really useful feedback. I was also given the Inside Careers Handbook for Patent Attorneys; this was incredibly helpful, providing great tips and advice. I read lots of company websites – especially the People Profile sections – these are really helpful for info on why people chose their career and what they like about the job. In one week I went back and forth to the Careers Centre three times with different drafts of my CV and a cover letter until I was happy with them, in addition to asking advice from friends and family.

Being found on LinkedIn

I applied to the firm whose Open Day I had attended, but didn’t get through to interview. I was busy writing more cover letters for other advertised roles, when I was contacted by a recruiter through my LinkedIn profile. I had followed some Intellectual Property firms and had a fully updated profile, but nothing explicitly stating I was applying for jobs in the field. The recruiters asked for my CV – so I was relieved I had a fully updated, patent attorney focused, one to hand. A month later, I had completed my first interview and was being called back for a second! It seemed to have all happened very quickly.

Interview support, networking and securing the role

To prepare for my interview I arranged to have a mock interview with the Careers Centre. This was great; I was able to pass on the job details so the interviewer had researched the role and asked very relevant questions, he also made notes which we went through afterwards and I was able to keep. The process helped me understand what parts of my answers had stood out and where I needed stronger answers. The mock interview gave me a huge confidence boost and certainly helped me feel more relaxed in the real thing.

Having got through the first interview, I had to do a written task for the company over the weekend. I spoke to my supervisor, who put me in touch with one of her contacts, and I also got in touch with a friend’s brother who is a trainee patent attorney – make sure you ask around, you’ll be surprised what contacts are available to you. Both of the people I contacted gave me some great interview tips and pointed me in the right direction with the written task. I fully threw myself into the assessment and really enjoyed it, which I think came through in my work. As the task was related to the role, it was great to see that I was still enthusiastic about the job having completed it!

The second interview involved meeting two of UDL’s employees for coffee and an informal chat, then I went back into the interview room to discuss my assessed work and go through in more detail why I was interested in the role and where I saw myself in the future.

I can’t wait to start my new role in October, and it’s given me even more motivation to have finished writing up my PhD on time!

If you would like to find out more about a career as a Patent Attorney, take a look at this post. Remember we are here to help you whatever your next steps; whether you have no ideas, or need help fine-tuning applications or interviews, talk to us to find out how we can help you.


Filed under How I got my job, Postgraduate study

5 responses to “How I got my job: Trainee Patent Attorney

  1. All the best in your new job Jenny, I’m glad we could be of assistance.
    From the team at Dawn Ellmore Employment Agency (Patent, Trade Mark & Legal Specialists)

  2. Julie

    Great post 🙂
    I was wondering what the interactive session involved on the open day. I am attending an open day at a patent firm tomorrow and they have said it will have an interative session. Is there anything I can do to prepare for this session?

    • Hi Julie. Is this part of a selection process or just an open day to find out more about the firm? If it’s just an information day, I don’t think there’s any need to prepare (other than obviously reading up on the firm and the work). If part of a selection process, I would suggest more preparation. Are you a University of Leeds student or graduate? If so, you can contact our reception on 0113 3435295 and we can see if anyone is available to discuss (although there may not be at this short notice as this is our busiest time of year).
      Hope that helps! Jess

  3. Julie

    Hi Jess
    Thank you for responding so quickly.
    I’m currently a postgraduate at the University of Manchester, however, I googled ‘how to prepare for a trainee patent attorney open day’, and your blog was the first to pop up. Have you started your new role now? If so, how are you finding it?

    • Hi Julie,

      I work at the Careers Centre at University of Leeds, I’m not the person who wrote this blog post (lots of our students & graduates guest blog for us).
      Jenny wrote the piece about 18 months ago so I imagine she will have started by now, but I only had her student contact details, so can’t pass on your enquiry I’m afraid.
      Hope it goes well tomorrow! You could ask at your Careers service if you would like advice on preparing
      Best wishes


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