University: University of Edinburgh
Year of qualification: 2016
Department: IP litigation
I came to the idea of a career in law quite late during my time at university. As part of my degree I did an industrial placement year at a healthcare company, where I attended monthly team meetings. I started talking to other members of the team, outside the research team, including patent attorneys – my interest grew from there. I decided to investigate different careers in law where my science background would be helpful. It was interesting to think about being a problem-solver for legal issues that might arise for companies who were working in areas I was familiar with from my degree.
Being a barrister was not something I really considered. I wanted to be able to train in different areas, as I wasn’t necessarily set on litigation from the start. The other thing that appealed to me about the solicitor route was the opportunity to work with companies who were research-based and have a long-term ongoing relationship with clients.
Although I applied to a range of firms, I looked mainly for firms that had the client base I would be interested in working with. Bristows is known for having an excellent range of clients who work in life sciences and technology.
My experience of working at a global healthcare company was very valuable as I had an awareness of the industries in which some of Bristows’ clients are operating. I didn’t do any kind of vacation scheme or formal work experience, but I attended a lot of open days and some workshops with an IP focus. It’s very important to get that bigger-picture view and work out what firms might suit you, and where you should be focusing your efforts on applications. I took the view that work experience was for thinking about where I might fit in as a lawyer, rather than just trying to build my CV.
I did a six-month seat in IP litigation, which is a guaranteed seat at Bristows, as well as six months in regulatory, six months in competition, a three-month secondment at Google and three months in commercial IP, IT and data protection.
During both my competition and IP litigation seats I worked on the Unwired Planet, Huawei, Samsung and Google litigation case, which was a patent case with competition aspects. It was really interesting to work on this case from both a competition and patent side. My role in competition included helping to prepare for applications, including bundle updating and client reporting – which meant emailing the client every week to let them know what correspondence had been sent and the various steps that had been taken in the case. On the patent side of things, I was heavily involved in the final expert meetings which involved going to meetings, taking notes and helping to prepare expert reports. Eventually I was also involved in preparing for the first patent trial as well.
There is no formal interview process at Bristows, but there is a meeting where you chat to the graduate recruitment and training partners about what department you would like to qualify into. We’re a medium-sized firm so the general consensus is that when you spend time in the departments as a trainee, people get to know you well enough to make a decision about your qualification.
I’m an associate in the IP litigation team and since I’ve qualified, I’ve worked both on patent and trademark litigation. I also do some work involving plant variety rights.
It’s difficult to say what might happen on a day-to-day basis. In patent litigation, working with experts is a big part of any case. That requires seeking experts, discussing their background and working with them to think about the technical background and patent infringement and validity. Generally, a lot of meetings with experts take place where we’ll work with them in preparation for drafting expert reports.
For the last trademark case I worked on, there wasn’t any expert evidence, so the focus was more on preparing legal arguments and factual evidence, including working with witnesses to provide factual evidence about the history of the client’s trademarks and branding. In this particular case it was alleged that our client was infringing a trademark, which our client said hadn’t been used, and the parties had conflicting rights in terms of trademarks and passing off. The case also involved a big disclosure exercise where both parties had to disclose relevant documents that might be pertinent to the case. Where a case involves a lot of disclosure you’ll spend a lot of time reviewing documents and thinking about whether and how they might support your case.
Aswith all litigation, I’ll also draft inter-solicitor correspondence, which might help to narrow the issues in the case or lead up to an application being filed. If we do need to make an application, I will be involved in drafting that application, the supporting evidence and the order that we might request from the court. When preparing for trial and other hearings, I will work with barristers to discuss skeleton arguments and think about how to prepare the case.
I most enjoy the problem-solving element of my job and the fact that it’s varied and very intellectually challenging. There’s always something new to learn about recent case law and ways to develop your own knowledge. The thing I least enjoy is that the correspondence in litigation can sometimes seem a bit petty – occasionally it feels like the parties just can’t agree to anything!
We have really high-quality work and interesting clients here at Bristows and it’s generally a great place to work. I really admire the people I work with and also enjoy the enthusiasm of new trainees.
For me it was all about finding the right firm. You might have a clear idea in your head about what firm you would like to work at, but don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t work out. At Bristows my colleagues and I have all arrived here via different paths.
With my scientific background, it was very important to make the most of the non-legal work experience that I had. Sometimes as a non-law student you don’t feel like you have all the information at your fingertips, so you need to make sure you go out of your way to get it. There is so much information available out there – so do everything you can to find out which area of law and which firm is the right one for you.
Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson. It’s about where whales have come from and what will happen to them given humans’ impact on the ocean. It’s quite geeky, which nicely sums up Bristows!