Name: Tara Fitz Gerald
Job Title: Trainee Patent Attorney
University: Imperial College London
Degree subject: MSc in Biomedical Engineering
After finishing my degree, I worked as an engineer in a medical device company. Working in industry made me realise the importance of IP in business. I decided to pursue a career that had greater involvement in the commercial aspects of technology. However, I didn’t want to abandon my skills as an engineer. I came across the patent attorney profession and realised that it offered the unique opportunity of putting my technical knowledge into practice in a legal and highly commercial context.
On a day-to-day basis I learn about new technologies and apply legal understanding to aid our clients. My tasks include meeting inventors, communicating with patent offices, instructing foreign attorneys and providing legal advice.
Williams Powell caters for a wide range of clients, from start-ups to multinational corporations. This has allowed me to work on a wide range of subject matter, from stents to golfing equipment.
I work on many cases at the same time with various deadlines. I have therefore found that time management and organisational skills are just as important as technical abilities. Communication skills are also essential as I need to communicate complex technical and legal concepts to clients.
As a trainee, there is a steep learning curve. However, this is balanced with good support from my supervisors and colleagues.
At Williams Powell, I have worked on real cases from day one, so I am fully exposed to all levels of prosecution and client care. This can seem a bit daunting at first, but with friendly support always available and the partners’ teaching and guidance along the way, I have found this is the best way to learn.
The Informals (the student section of CIPA) also organise regular tutorials and several social events, which enable trainees to meet others at various levels of qualification.
Working at Williams Powell
I have been given a satisfying level of autonomy in my work and being involved in client contact from the start helps putting my training into perspective.
I regularly work with a number of different partners and this has allowed me to see different styles and methods of work, which will help me develop my own style once I am qualified.
The partners and the attorneys in the firm are very accessible, and training is given a high priority. Interesting or unusual cases are often given to me, to help broaden my experience. I am encouraged to move at my own pace and am given the choice to sit exams when I feel ready to do so.