Specialist tips for your career as an IP paralegal

Laptop-usersDaniel John, IP Support

My unusual career path from industry to specialist IP recruiter has given me a unique insight into the opportunities available to support staff working in our sector, and how to take them.

In this article, I address many of the approaches you could take in making your way up the career ladder and a few traps to watch out for.

Think strategically

When things get busy, strategic thinking is nearly always the first thing to get pushed aside. Having long periods of time without strategic reflection can lead you down a professional path that you didn’t intend to follow. Instead, diarise regular intervals for strategic reflection.

I recommend that you identify a trusted colleague to buddy up with, meet regularly, and hold each other accountable to ensure you meet your goals. Having someone you trust, who can challenge the way you think, can open your eyes to ideas and possibilities that you haven’t previously considered.

Keep realistic career goals

I regularly speak to candidates who have only been in the industry for a short period of time before deciding to search for a new position. The most common reason being they don’t feel able to achieve the career progression they are looking for with their current firm or aren’t offered the opportunity to attend the CITMA Paralegal Course. I always advise people to be realistic, you could easily find yourself in the same position at your next company too.

CITMA strongly recommends a minimum of 18 months’ experience in trade mark administration and formalities before you take the newly structured Paralegal Course. This will ensure that you have a sufficient amount of practical experience.

I often find that more experienced candidates who have passed the Course are looking for a higher level of responsibility or additional duties which are more aligned to the workload of a senior paralegal. Again, I stress that you must be realistic with your expectations. In my experience paralegals who enjoy a broad and autonomous role have built a unique bond with the fee earners they support over a number of years.

Take development opportunities

There are a number of places you can look for training and career development.

The EUIPO and WIPO offer online content and courses through their academies and learning portals. These courses will help strengthen your all-round knowledge and skill set and assist those who are operating at a higher level.

In addition to the Paralegal Course, CITMA offers seminars aimed specifically at paralegals.

Another way to broaden your experience is to make yourself available for client secondments. A secondment will allow you to work closely with a client and gain a better understanding of their business needs and how to manage their portfolio.

Taking on ad-hoc project work can be a great way to broaden your all-round knowledge. Whilst many projects tend to come up on an ad-hoc basis, most firms tend to have a working group who ensure the firm’s paralegal department is operating as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Other projects, for example joining the firm’s testing team, piloting team or becoming a trainer for junior or new paralegals, can also help to bolster your experience and CV.

Finally, I recommend using your professional network. CITMA is fortunate to have a very engaging network of professionals that regularly attend events. Building relationships with your peers at such events and discussing the way that you work often challenges you to think in new ways.

Taking the next step

Hard work, commitment and building trust with your fee earners will often reward you with a step into a broader, more autonomous role or a supervisory or managerial position.

Understandably, not everyone is able to achieve progression or gain the experience they are looking for in their current role. It could be that you feel your progress has been stifled, you want to change from a private practice to in-house environment, or you feel you have just simply hit a glass ceiling.

If you find yourself in this situation, I suggest taking a step back and re-writing your CV five years in the future. Think about where you’d like to be and plan how to get there. Time and time again I see people make hasty decisions without any clear plan of which direction in which they want their career to go.

Speak to a specialist

IP Support’s knowledge of the industry, combined with The Law Support Group’s broad client reach, enables us to present candidates with an unrivalled variety of unique opportunities. Acting for clients throughout the UK and Europe, our informative consultants work with a wide variety of businesses, from patent & trade mark attorney practices to in-house IP departments, Magic and Silver Circle law firms, US and International law firms, and specialist boutique practices. We now also recruit for a number of consultancy firms and IP service providers.

Having such a broad range of clients enables us to advise people on career opportunities, alternative career paths and the IP market in general.

Whether you are looking for a new position or just wanting to map out a career path for your long-term future, our consultants are always happy to help.

About the author:

Daniel John has been recruiting trade mark professionals for a number of years. Prior to his recruitment career, he spent several years working for a number of the UK’s leading patent & trade mark attorney firms, as well as an in-house global IP department.

020 7776 8966 / daniel@ip-support.co.uk