A Career in IP can be both fascinating and rewarding, even if it isn’t a career path that you set your sights on from the start. In fact, as Albright IP Associate and Trade Mark Attorney Joel Weston shows, you can be successful even if your route into the field doesn’t follow the standard path…
Q How did you get into IP & Trade Marks?
As I cast my mind back, I would certainly say my journey into IP and Trade Marks didn’t follow the standard route.
I left school at 16 without many GCSEs. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but as I’d always been good at science, I settled on studying that at college. This ultimately led me to studying Chemistry at university. But, at 18, I really wasn’t in the right headspace to commit myself to university. So, I left after the first hear with quite bad grades and started full-time work.
Since the age of 16 I’d worked in kitchens part-time, so I picked this up full-time once I’d left that first year at university. By 2012 I’d worked in kitchens for five years and thought I really need to do something more than this. By the time I’d made this decision it was very late in the academic year and therefore the only places available at university were clearing positions. I’ve always been a big believer in studying a STEM or practical degree and the only two available were Chemistry or Law. I really didn’t want to go back to study Chemistry again, so I thought why not give something different a try and study law.
Did you always want to work in IP?
My first exposure to IP was in my second year of university where I picked an IP module. I really enjoyed that and found that I was good at it. I thoroughly enjoyed studying all aspects of law though, so I wasn’t entirely sure what area I wanted to specialise in.
IP was always one that stood out to me though and in my final year I did my dissertation on IP and copyright. Throughout university, they say you’re either a barrister or a solicitor, there was no mention of Trade Mark or Patent Attorney as a career choice; I didn’t find that out until I started my Masters.
I went on to study a Masters in Commercial Law thanks to being awarded a bursary designed to help students that were from underprivileged backgrounds that had done well at university. It was during my masters that I picked IP modules again and when a career in Trade Marks or Patents was first mentioned.
Within the IP module I studied Patents, Copyright and Trade Marks, and that was really my first exposure to Trade Mark law. I just found it interesting and gelled with it.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far in your career?
The biggest hurdles were securing a trainee position and actually qualifying. Throughout my studies I’d been working 30–40 hour weeks in kitchens, so I just needed someone to give me a chance in a trainee office role. Securing that role without a referral was really challenging.
I think the route of qualification isn’t easy, I imagine it’s the same for any lawyer. It takes a long time. From starting my degree to qualifying, it took 10 years. It wasn’t quick, but just getting over those final exams, I think is probably the biggest challenge.
How has your role changed / grown at Albright IP?
It’s changed massively. I started as a Trade Mark Administrator and after six months I was made a trainee, which was earlier than expected as I was doing well. Once I’d finished the first part of the training, I was then made a Part-Qualified Attorney. Once I was finally on the right path, things have progressed relatively quickly; in the space of 18 months, I had gone from an Administrator to being a Part-Qualified Attorney.
What’s your favourite aspect about what you do?
Probably the speed and variety of it. I could be working on a complicated infringement matter one moment and advising a client on a domain dispute the next. Then I could be working on a contentious tribunal matter before the Registry or assisting a phone enquiry that doesn’t even know what a Trade Mark registration is. It’s very varied.
What do you enjoy most about working at Albright IP?
The beauty of working for Albright IP is that I’m working directly with the directors and partners. Being able to work directly for the business owners has been a big benefit. We also advise a wide array of clients from different sectors, which keeps things interesting. What would your advice be to anyone looking to get into IP or Trade Marks? Persistence, hard work and dedication. It takes a long time. Some longer than others; I think maybe my route was particularly slow. I guess it depends on what background you’ve come from, but internships and experience at law firms really helps; so, applying for vacation schemes or sending emails
out for voluntary work is always good and is what I’d recommend.
If you weren’t in IP, what would you be doing?
I think I’d probably be in a trade such as a plumber, mechanic or electrician.
Finally, what do you get up to outside of work?
I love cars. Old cars. I love tinkering with my old BMW, my old Audi, playing around with it on the drive. And I play the guitar, so I’m quite into music. I love snooker too.