We are thrilled to share the story of how Carpmaels & Ransford have adapted their successful summer internship scheme to allow interns to experience life in an IP firm, virtually. Emma Richardson is the Learning & Development Advisor at Carpmaels & Ransford LLP who works closely with stakeholders throughout the firm to prioritise, plan, and co-ordinate all of the firm’s development programmes, including the Summer Internship and various trainee development programmes.
On a sunny Monday morning, just before the start of our 2019 Trainee Induction, I read an article about virtual internships and thought to myself, “It’s tough enough to naturally showcase the office atmosphere and firm culture in person, let alone online, and it must be so much more complicated to co-ordinate – we’ll have to leave that to the bigger firms for now”…
Little did I know that, seven months later, I would have no choice but to shift mindset completely if we wanted our Summer Internship to go ahead at all.
It’s difficult to fully understand any role from the outside, let alone within the arguably much lesser known profession of Intellectual Property. The theory is relatively simple: a Patent Attorney uses their technical background in their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) area of expertise to assess whether an invention is both novel and inventive over existing inventions. If it is, a patent application is drafted to convince the relevant state (via national and international patent offices), and, if they agree, a patent will be granted, allowing the owner of said patent a 20-year legal right to prevent others from doing the activity or making the product detailed in the granted application. But what does this mean in practice?
There are several reasons why our Summer Internship is popular both inside and outside of our firm. For those working out which direction they’d like to take their careers in, it’s a great way to gain insight into the profession. It also enables candidates to see what the professional environment and work is really like and to understand more about potential future employers.
From our perspective, those in the firm are invested in the bright future of the profession and enjoy the chance to share their enthusiasm in their role with new, keen scientific talent. On completion of the programme, many of our interns are interested in exploring further opportunities at the firm. All are offered the option of a 1st stage interview for a permanent trainee role, with a number having been successful in securing a position. We also remain hugely committed to hiring trainees outside of our programme, offering opportunities to students who have no prior work experience in the profession.
Our Internship is a mixture of group exercises, workshops, individual work, work shadow sessions and informal conversations, held over a two-week period. One of the most enjoyable aspects of our programme is how immersed interns feel in the day-to-day life and work of the firm. From the feedback we’ve received over the years, we know that this really sets us apart, and gives the interns a great feel for what it’s like to work in the profession and at Carpmaels & Ransford. This doesn’t happen by accident.
Although our interns have a busy formal schedule of sessions and some specific case work that has been arranged in advance, we always aim for them to have time to get involved in real work that comes up on an ad-hoc basis too. Our fee earners include the interns when there is an interesting call, client meeting, case or enquiry to give them that extra exposure. All of this helps demonstrate the collaborative and friendly culture of the firm more effectively than a blog post or a job advert ever could.
One of the biggest challenges this year, therefore, was to try and recreate that level of connection and involvement, when the reality was most of us wouldn’t be leaving a room much more than ten paces from our bedroom, let alone be able to pop into sessions and informally introduce ourselves. This played a part in our planning right from the very beginning.
To simulate the chance interactions that interns would normally get to speak with others around the firm, we scheduled informal time with Trainees and Associates. In small groups, so that everyone was able to speak easily, we mixed these groups up during the week and had different people join the conversations each time. We kept in buddies for the interns and the one-to-one work shadow sessions with them as opportunities for more private conversations. Buddies are a great way of maintaining some consistency throughout the programme, and some even helped facilitate individual exercises within the practice groups later in the week, too.
We also invite interns to attend the many non-work activities that are organised by the firm, giving them an opportunity to meet others who are not involved in the programme. On the particular week of our virtual programme, interns were invited to an employee-led discussion group on strategies for coping with stress, virtual drinks and virtual yoga classes (camera optional!).
Our virtual interns embraced the experience fully – they were so engaged and naturally curious and it was great for over 50 of my colleagues of all levels to be able share their enthusiasm for science and technology with them over the course of the week. Teamwork is hugely valued at Carpmaels, and this year’s Internship proved to us and our interns just how much we are able to thrive as a firm when we collaborate across the business. One intern found it very impressive that they “could get a sense of the friendly and welcoming environment of Carpmaels through just meeting people virtually, rather than being in the office”.
Despite the challenges, it was gratifying to hear that this year’s programme went so well that, just like last year, all of our intern respondents said that they would recommend our intern programme, with 94% saying they’re now sure they’d like to continue into the profession, ideally at Carpmaels. Given the circumstances, we couldn’t have hoped for better!
If you’re interested in participating in one of our future Summer Internships, do keep an eye on our dedicated careers website – applications for our Summer 2021 cohort will go live in early January 2021.
During the application process, we’re looking for individuals with a real passion for their area of expertise, with strong analytical and communication skills as well as a meticulous eye for detail. Our interns enjoy analysing and conceptualising complex information, and they love to problem solve.
Another way to experience the firm is to join our Autumn Open Day, which is taking place virtually on Tuesday 8 September. Applications are still being accepted until Friday 7 August.
Thinking back to that article that I read with no small amount of apprehension all those months ago, it turns out that we had what was needed after all: an enthusiasm for challenges and the determination to stick with things even (or especially) when the going gets tough. Luckily, this is something we have in plentiful supply which enabled us to showcase the firm we are even through the different medium!