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University: Newcastle University
Degree: Biomedical science
Year of qualification: 2012
Department: IP litigation
What attracted you to a career in law?
By the time I reached the final year of my degree, I had decided that a career as a biomedical scientist was not for me. However, my degree included a 'business for scientists' module which introduced me to the concept of intellectual property (IP) and other legal issues that can arise through the application of the sciences in different industries. From this, I decided to look in more detail at a career in law and to gain some experience in the legal sector. My interest and ambition grew from there.
Why solicitor not barrister?
I think most people have a gut feeling of whether they would be better suited to becoming a solicitor or barrister. For me, I knew that I wanted to be involved in cases right from the start and in particular working on the commercial and legal strategy. These were the aspects that really drew me to becoming a contentious solicitor rather than a barrister.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I was interested in IP and so decided to apply to firms with a strong reputation in that area and which guaranteed a seat in IP (or at least gave a high likelihood of one).
How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?
I applied for various vacation schemes and was fortunate enough to get one at Bristows. The experience was invaluable and really helped reinforce my desire to embark on a career in law and fuelled my interest in IP. During the two-week vacation scheme I was introduced to the firm's various practice areas and got to meet a lot of people working at the firm. At the end of the vacation scheme I was offered a training contract interview and so it was obviously a success in that respect!
Which departments did you train in?
During my training I had a mix of three and six-month seats. During the two years I sat in commercial disputes, regulatory, IP litigation, real estate and commercial IP. I also went on secondment for three months to the IP litigation team of a leading internet services client.
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
In March of the second year, you have a meeting with two of the partners on the training committee and inform them of your first and second-choice departments that you would like to qualify into (you can just name one department if you choose). Around May/June, there is a second meeting when you are told whether a job offer has been made to you and in which department. The process is relatively informal – you don't have to write any job applications and the meetings are not interviews.
What do you wish you'd known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
I think it is important not to assume that everyone else always know more than you do just because you are junior – sometimes you will be directed to focus on a particular task and do the relevant research on a niche area, so don't be afraid to share that knowledge with those more senior. I would also say don't be scared to say if something is unclear or you don't understand – you are not expected to grasp complex legal technicalities from the start and it is much better to get someone to explain things clearly so that you can learn.
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
Bristows is quite unusual in that the contentious and non-contentious aspects of IP are split into different departments - I am an associate in the IP litigation team and so focus on the contentious side of IP.
I am not sure there is such a thing as a typical day in litigation! A lot of the work I do is of a cross-border nature and involves co-ordinating litigation strategy across the globe. I also work on UK patent and trademark cases. Of course we are also involved before litigation commences and advise clients on the strength of potential claims and also freedom to operate. For example, we could be advising a client who is being sued for infringement, or when a client wants to try and revoke a patent or trademark because it is preventing the expansion of its business.
I do quite a lot of work in the pharmaceutical sector and while I do find my science background helpful, those without scientific degrees are in no way precluded from working in IP. There are plenty of lawyers who practice in this area without scientific backgrounds.
Please discuss a current/recent specific deal/case, outlining your role in the matter.
Recently, I was part of a small team conducting a trademark case. The matter involved a lot of direct contact with the client and advising the client on issues around survey evidence and on the options for the litigation going forward, including the potential for settlement. I was specifically involved in preparing the court applications and supporting evidence on the issue of surveys, liaising with experts in this area and helping to finalise the settlement agreement.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
The intellectual challenge is the most enjoyable aspect for me – I practice in an area where both the law and technology can be quite complex. It's really interesting to work closely on a matter for several months and become a bit of a specialist in a particular area; both in terms of technology and on the specific points of law raised by the case.
I think the least favourite aspect of the job for a lot of solicitors is time recording. Having to account for every six minutes of your day is quite onerous!
How involved are you with business development and promoting the firm?
All trainees and associates are encouraged to write articles, both for Bristows' own publications and external journals. I'm involved in writing for the Kluwer patent blog and preparing Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys case reports which are published externally. Trainees and associates also get involved in helping partners to prepare presentations for conferences.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
The people here really make the firm what it is – there is a really friendly atmosphere and a genuine open-door policy. It is nice that it is a medium-sized firm, which means you do get to know most people and the work ethos is good. Obviously Bristows also stands out because we are very good at what we do!
What skills/strengths do you need to be a successful solicitor?
I think the key skills of organisation, attention to detail, creative thinking and resilience are all important at whichever law firm and whatever area of law you work in.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
Be yourself in your applications and interviews, and try to let your personality come across. Firms are very different and you need to find the right one for you. Try and get as much experience as possible although do not be disheartened if you do not get a lot - it can be more difficult that it sounds to get placements.
What's your dream holiday destination?
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