Gail Nicol: Reflecting on two years as CITMA Student Representative

10th Jun 2024

Gail Nicol sets out what she has learned and experienced in her term as CITMA student representative.

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When I first took up the position of student representative in March 2022, the post-Covid world was slowly returning to a rather different version of normal

Educational institutions had been forced to adapt their courses to accommodate remote learning. 

Of course, due to the speed with which these changes had to be made, this was not entirely without issue – I recall one online lecture ending abruptly as our speaker had to go and rescue his dog from behind the garage, where it had gotten trapped after chasing a fox. 

Certainly not a problem you would expect to encounter during face-to-face learning! 

Thankfully, most of the issues have now been ironed out and the courses run far more smoothly.  Acting as a conduit between the students and the relevant institution proved difficult at times, particularly when not all students were in agreement.

Remote learning

In large part as a result of the pandemic, nearly all of the institutions involved with delivering the courses necessary to qualify as a Chartered Trade Mark Attorney now offer a choice of in-person or remote attendance.

In particular, this is an attractive option for those who do not live close to London.

Nottingham Law School is the only exception. However, due to the nature of the course and the interactive way in which learning is delivered, an online offering would really not be practical. 

I speak on this point from first-hand experience, having shattered my elbow at the end of my first session at Nottingham Law School which forced me to obtain permission to ‘attend’ the second session via my laptop at home. 

It was far from ideal and my injury, and resulting surgery and recovery, definitely made my final year of studies far more difficult than it ought to have been.

Address for Service

During my time as student representative, I have been able to witness some of the behind-the-scenes work which has gone on - in particular, in relation to CITMA’s campaign to change the rules on rights of representation before the UK IPO.

The campaign is seeking to support UK practitioners when dealing with a representative acting on behalf of the other side has no UK address.

As CITMA members, we will all be used to receiving regular updates on this topic with no real understanding or appreciation of the work required to get to that point.

 For me, it was fascinating to be party to the many discussions between Council members regarding the difficulties surrounding this.

A look inside Council

To be able to witness these ‘wheels in motion’ and get an inkling of the vast amount of hard work, research and dogged determination that goes on was incredibly illuminating.

Even simply learning the way in which the Council operates was an education in itself.

 I learned how each of the different committees communicate and interact with each other to ensure an open flow of ideas and information between all of them.

 I learned that, much like any other business, CITMA has a detailed business plan setting out their strategic objectives and how they propose to achieve these. 

Council members are in detailed discussions surrounding the challenges that CITMA are likely to face in the next few years, and how these should be approached and prioritised (spoiler alert: AI emerged as the single biggest challenge and opportunity facing us!).

Takeaways from the term

To summarise though, it’s been great to witness firsthand the fabulous work being done by the wonderfully talented and dedicated people who make up our Council.

Everyone on Council is there through choice, giving their time and experience and providing valuable insight, as they try to improve the working lives of all CITMA members.  . 

Without these people, and their hard work and commitment, CITMA would not be the organisation that it is today and it has been a privilege to have been a (very) small part of this.

As student representative, the last two years have been incredibly rewarding and enriching. 

I would encourage any of you reading this, who are not already involved with one of CITMA’s committees or working groups, to seriously think about making that step. 

The more you give to the organisation, the richer your experience will be – by being actively involved with CITMA in this way, you’ll have the opportunity to make a difference and to positively act to change things for the better. 

You have nothing to lose but so much to gain!