Staff Story – Wilma Shi
After completing an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, I stayed on to do a PhD in Pharmacology. At the time I knew that I wanted to remain in science, but I soon discovered that academic research was not for me. I began researching options and stumbled across a job advert for “Trainee Patent Attorney”, not knowing at the time what exactly the job involved. However, since my experience seemed to match the job requirements, I decided to look into it. To my delight, the job seemed like a perfect match! I was (and still am!) particularly fascinated by the job’s unique combination of science, law and business, and the opportunity to work on a broad range of technology areas. I sent out a few applications and was extremely fortunate to be offered a place at J A Kemp.
I joined J A Kemp’s Biotechnology and Life Sciences Group in October 2014. I remember working on real cases on my first day, which was daunting initially. However, it is amazing how much you can learn by just doing the job. As I have progressed through my career, I have also had increasing responsibility. I have been involved in prosecuting patent applications not only in the UK and Europe, but also worldwide. I have handled work for different clients, ranging from start-ups, SMEs and universities to multinational biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The cases that I have worked on span a wide variety of different technology areas, such as antibodies and biologics, vaccines, plant sciences and medical devices, to name a few. There is always something new sitting on my desk that presents a different challenge, so I am pretty much guaranteed to never get bored! I also find it very exciting to follow the progress of a case that I have contributed to, knowing that everything I have done is making a real-world impact.
Other than your professional development, there are also plenty of opportunities to get involved in other aspects of the business. For instance, I have had the opportunity to be involved in business development in China, which involved meeting Chinese visitors, attending business development events, and even going on business trips abroad.
In the first few years as a trainee patent attorney, you will take a series of professional exams to become qualified as both a European and UK (chartered) patent attorney. I can tell you from first hand experience that it is definitely a challenge to balance work and study. Luckily, at J A Kemp, trainees receive a lot of support from the firm. A comprehensive in-house training programme is provided to help the trainees pass these notorious exams. We also get a generous amount of study leave. Your mentor will also make sure that your workload is decent and that you are generally feeling happy about everything (other than the fact that you need to take the exams!).
One thing that I particularly like about J A Kemp is the exceptionally positive and supportive working environment. I am encouraged to ask for help whenever I get stuck and everyone is always willing to give a helping hand and offer their advice. In addition, you will have the opportunity to work with different partners, which I understand is not always the case at other firms. Being exposed to different working styles has certainly helped me develop my “creativity skills”. Undeniably, these skills have proved to be useful, especially when formulating arguments in response to the patent examiner’s objections!
Looking back at the past few years, I feel very privileged to have entered this profession, and in particular, that I started my career with J A Kemp. If what you have learned and heard about the profession appeals to you, I urge you to start sending out applications. Good luck!