William Smith


Photograph of ideas person

William did Easter and summer internships at D Young & Co. He tells us more about his route into his current post as a technical assistant (trainee patent attorney).

Why did you choose to do an internship?

“I came across the D Young & Co Internship during my second year of university. Having heard about the profession from a university careers fair, I was keen to get a better understanding of the role of a patent attorney and what the job entails.

After some research, I saw that D Young & Co offered an Easter internship, and, as it turns out, you may get invited back for a four week summer internship, with the possibility of a job offered at the end.

An internship gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a firm, experience its culture, and ask as many questions of its people as possible. Choosing a career is a significant commitment, and I wanted as much information as possible to make my decision.”

How did it tie in with your overall career plans?

“Although I loved the year I spent at CERN as part of a research group for my Master’s year, I knew that a career in academia wasn’t for me. I was seeking a job where I could continue to be involved with science, but combine that with my long-held interest in business and law.

Happily, the job of a patent attorney does just that. Working with the client, a patent attorney seeks legal protection for cutting-edge technologies to achieve a commercially useful outcome. The work is varied and rewarding, providing endless interest for those seeking a challenge.”

What was the application process like – any advice?

“After having submitted a CV and cover letter explaining my interest in the role, I was invited for a phone interview. During the interview, I was asked about my degree, what I thought the job would entail and why I thought I would be a good fit for the role.

I would recommend researching the role as much as possible. Firms are looking for candidates with a genuine interest in the profession, so do feel free to ask questions during the interview.”

What were your main duties?

“The Easter internship brings together a group of likely candidates for three days in the Southampton office. This involves various individual and group tasks and activities, designed to test a candidate’s fit for the role. For example, individual patent drafting exercises and a mock opposition were particular highlights for me.

However, it’s not all hard work. There are plenty of opportunities to socialise with fellow candidates and attorneys alike, in a less formal setting. These sessions provide a great chance to ask Technical Assistants, Attorneys and Partners any questions you may have and understand the culture of the firm better. People were extremely generous with their time on the internship, so I would recommend making the most of this. In particular, I found talking to trainees a good way to determine the firm’s approach to and aptitude for training; the exams are hard and you want to work somewhere that will support you throughout the process.

For a shorter internship, I would recommend relaxing into it as soon as possible. Be confident and communicate clearly, both orally and in written work, as this will allow you to demonstrate your skills and knowledge quickly.

After the Easter internship, I was invited back for a four week internship over the summer. This provided a more realistic experience of what day to day work would be like as a patent attorney. For example, time was spent on drafting exercises and European patent prosecution of real cases. Working with partners and attorneys on a daily basis provides a good opportunity for continuous assessment, both for them and for you; they’ve got to like you, but it’s important for you to like them and the firm too.”

Do you have any advice for someone seeking an internship?

“Do your research about the role and about the specific firm. Firms vary, and different firms have different areas of expertise and reputations. You can demonstrate this knowledge and interest by asking considered questions during early interviews. It’s also worth applying to multiple places, as the profession is small and competition is fierce.

In summary, an internship is a great way to learn as much as possible about the profession and the firm. An internship like the one I did will provide you with a great window into the job, ensuring you can make the right decision for you and your career.”

William’s degree subject: MPhys with Particle Physics, Master’s year at CERN, University of Southampton

Technical assistant (trainee patent attorney) / D Young & Co / London

Back to ideas people