Patently the best area of law…
Intellectual property law (commonly known as IP) governs the ownership and accessibility of ideas and inventions on tangible and intangible concepts. In an extremely competitive world, IP is an integral part of business.
There are many different ways to protect the ownership of ideas, products or concepts, but these usually come in the form of patents, trademarks or copyrights.
Why intellectual property law important? What does it involve?
Much of an IP lawyer’s activity will involve providing legal advice on usage, commercial viability, marketing and distribution mechanisms, infringement or duplication, vesting of ownership and usage rights for any product or matter which falls within the ambit of IP. Like most legal areas, IP also has contentious and non-contentious components.
Most large firms will have separate departments handling IP, I.T. and life sciences, where the maximum amount of patent, copyright and trademark usage is concentrated. If this is a field you want to specialise in, it may better to join one of the mid-range and smaller boutique firms which work exclusively on intellectual property matters.
An IP lawyer’s day-to-day tasks can incorporate a wide array of activities, from issuing notices to parties infringing on a client’s rights, to trawling through various patent registries in relation to a new product, innovation or idea brought forward by a client.
If any disputes arise, an intellectual property lawyer will be required to initiate discussions between parties, as well as challenging decisions and rulings that might go against your client’s interests.
What makes a good IP lawyer?
IP lawyers get the opportunity to deal with fascinating yet technically complex subject-matters. Consequently, it’s important for these lawyers to be up-to-date with business and innovation trends, and understand and appreciate creativity.
Drafting expertise is essential, since contracts and agreements are the lifeblood of any IP deal. Additionally, you will need to be flexible in your working style, as you will often work simultaneously on several projects at the same time.
It also helps to be organised so you can keep track of your workload. Furthermore, you will need to be able to discuss complex situations in a clear and concise way.
Louisa Jacobs is an Associate in Intellectual Property Law at Bristows. Here, she outlines a typical day in the life…
What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?
Have breakfast. Most people need their morning coffee in order to function but I can’t focus on anything before my daily slice of peanut butter on toast. I eat it at my desk while I review the emails that have come in overnight and plan my day.
How do you handle, organise and prioritise your workload?
I have a detailed electronic to-do list which I am constantly updating. Working as an associate in commercial/transactional IP, I deal with multiple matters at the same time so it can sometimes be tricky to manage competing deadlines. I find that as long as I plan carefully and communicate regularly with clients and partners in the firm, I can fit everything in.
What sort of daily responsibilities does an associate have in intellectual property law? How do these differ from a trainee?
I spend a lot of my time drafting agreements and discussing draft agreements with partners and senior associates; as an associate with two years’ post-qualified experience (PQE) I am still learning a lot on a daily basis. Talking to clients to review drafts and discuss issues has become a much bigger part of my role.
Can you give us an idea of the sort of projects you manage from day to day?
I work mostly on patent licences, research collaboration agreements, manufacturing agreements, services agreements and other commercial agreements, either drafting, advising clients on interpretation of agreements or taking part in negotiations. I also manage and keep on top of contractual documentation which, although not the most exciting part of the role, is very important as there are often many different versions and different people inputting into documents.
What sort of clients do you generally deal with on a day-to-day basis?
Having a background in biochemistry, I tend to work a lot with life sciences clients ranging from global pharmaceutical and healthcare companies to start-ups and university spin-outs. I really enjoy getting to grips with the details of the clients’ technology, and understanding it allows us to draft carefully thought-out and bespoke agreements for clients.