From research at the European Synchrotron Radiation facility in Grenoble to a new career in patents...
I joined Potter Clarkson in July 2011 as an assistant patent attorney in the Electronics and Computing group.
I studied Physics at the University of Nottingham, both for my undergraduate MSci degree and my PhD based in the nanoscience department. In 2007 I moved to Grenoble with my husband and worked as a translator before finding a research post at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. I was involved in a wide range of studies and experiments with researchers from around the world, and I loved the variation in the projects I worked on - from understanding volcanic glasses to tracking a photosynthesis reaction at the atomic level. One aspect which didn't really suit me, however, was the hours of work - the facility ran 24 hours a day, and so on some days I could be working until midnight, or later, setting up and working on an experiment.
In 2010 our son was born, and I decided that although I really enjoyed research, it wasn't the career I wanted to follow, partly because of the time I needed to spend away from home. I considered what other careers were possible which would allow me to follow scientific and technological advances, without me being the person working in the lab and making the discoveries. I started to look at a career as a patent attorney and it just seemed ideal for me. After 8 months at Potter Clarkson I really feel that I have made the best choice and that my job suits everything I want to do in my career.
Firstly, I still work on new technologies and scientific breakthroughs every day. In the Electronics and Computing group, so far I have worked on cases in telecommunications, medical physics, mining technologies, fuel cell technology, nano-electronics and materials science. And I have really worked on the cases; from my first week here I have been involved in real cases with real deadlines and with real challenges and problems which need an answer. That's not to say I was thrown in at the deep end on my own - there is a lot of support and everyone has their door open for you to ask for help.
As well as the varied subjects which I see every day, there are many different aspects to the job. I find that our group has a lot of drafting work. If a client has an idea for an invention, we can work with them from the start of the patent process to bring out their inventive ideas and draft the patent specification for them. I really enjoy this part of my work, as I enjoyed writing journal articles as a researcher.
Our group also does a lot of prosecution work. After filing a patent application, usually the examination process begins where an examiner will assess the invention to see if it should be granted a patent. Here it's really important that the draft you wrote at the start includes all the information you need to put forward your case for patentability. I enjoy trying to argue our case as to why the invention should be granted a patent, but some days it can be easier than others! I have just started to receive cases back which I have been involved in the prosecution of, which the examiner has decided can be granted a patent, and it is really satisfying.
Another aspect to work as a patent attorney is the exams. I will have my first foundation exams in November, and I've not sat any real exams for a few years so I hope I will be able to get back into revision! Again, I'm not alone in working through the exam system, as there are two other trainees in my year group. We will be together in the in-house tutorials which Potter Clarkson organise, and at the external revision courses which we will attend just before the exams. It gives me a welcome feeling of support to know I'm not on my own through the exams and although I'm a bit out of exam practice, I don't feel too nervous just yet!
So in summary, I still get to work on the newest technologies and I still get to write and read all about cutting edge developments just as I did when I was a researcher - but now, I don't have the unsociable working hours and I get to learn more about a wide variety of subjects, both scientific and legal. My colleagues are all lovely, friendly and helpful, and I definitely made the right choice in coming to work here. One down side for me is that I do miss the mountains (in Grenoble we lived next door to the French Alps), but I guess you can't have everything!