Swindell & Pearson: Meet the Team
Fellows and Associates are pleased to be working with leading East Midlands based firm Swindell & Pearson on the appointment of a Director Designate (Swindell and Pearson is a limited company. The successful candidate will be on track to become a Director and Shareholder of Swindell & Pearson Ltd. This is equivalent to an Equity Partner, if S&P were a partnership). The role offers excellent scope for career advancement, with the opportunity to achieve equity within two years. In support of our advertising campaign we have prepared a series of insights into life at Swindell & Pearson, as experienced by members of the current team.
The first instalment of our series focuses on Martin Terry, an IP Director in the Hi-tech team. Martin gives his views on how Swindell & Pearson is able to offer a comparative, if not better, working experience to a London based firm, and is a prime example of the speed in which you can progress within the firm.
Martin Terry, IP Director
What motivated you to become a patent attorney?
I wanted a career that not only would I find stimulating and interesting but which would also take advantage of my scientific background as well as make use of the skills and analytical way of thinking that I had acquired over the course of my physics degree. The more I looked into and leaned about the role of a patent attorney, the more I realised it ticked all my boxes and would provide me with a lifelong rewarding and fulfilling career.
What was it about Swindell & Pearson that encouraged you to apply?
I didn’t join S&P straight from university. I started my life in the patent profession with a firm in London. As much as I enjoyed my years there as a trainee patent attorney and (post qualification) a fully-fledged patent attorney, it was never really my intention to live in London long term and put down roots/start a family in the city. However, whilst I was inclined to move out of London, I didn’t want to take my foot off the accelerator in terms of my career and its progression. I wanted to work for a progressive firm, outside of London, which had the same calibre of clients and that did the same high quality and valued work as a London firm. What attracted me to S&P was that not only did it have high calibre and high profile multinational corporate clients, but also it worked directly for such clients (i.e. not via an intermediary foreign associate) and moreover it performed a lead role in that it would devise the patent prosecution strategy for these clients. One thing I had found slightly frustrating at my previous London firm was that work for large, high calibre/profile clients would typically be merely prosecution work under direct and specific instruction of a foreign associate. Instead of being on the receiving end of prosecution instructions from foreign associates for such clients, S&P is a firm that drafts the cases, devises the strategy and sends instructions to the foreign associates.
A personal appeal for working at S&P was the ability to work in a smaller (but not too small) city which is close to glorious countryside, such as the Peak District. Also, S&P’s offices, being centrally located in the country and with good transport connections, provided ready access to all parts of the country for visiting family and friends.
What support and training did you receive on your journey to becoming a director?
Since I joined S&P as a fully qualified attorney I did not need to undergo its trainee training programme. Though, as a newcomer to the firm, I did need to find out about S&P’s internal systems as well as its processes & procedures. In this regard, shortly after joining, several sessions were arranged with various team members to show me the ropes. Not only was this a most useful learning experience, but it was also a good way to get to get to know the various team members. With regards to on-going training and support, there are regular in-house CPD sessions and seminars that take place. Also, there are committees that check for changes in patent/design/trade mark law & practice which keep us updated on the same as well as ensure that firm’s systems and processes are kept up to date with any change in law & practice. Finally, with regards to career progression and support in preparation for the road to IP directorship, this was done via mentoring sessions in which various matters could be informally discussed with a senior director.
Describe a typical working day
I’ll normally start off the day off with a brief of review my emails to check that nothing urgent has come in that requires prompt attention, otherwise I’ll crack on with some substantive fee earning work in the core hours before lunch. After lunch I go through my post and correspondence with my secretary, following which the afternoon may variously involve: a spot of supervision with a trainee or two, attending to various managerial/office management matters, work for various committees that I’m on, general correspondence, and doing some more substantive work. There’s always plenty to keep me busy.
What types of clients and technologies do you typically work with?
A significant amount of my work load is with large multinational corporate clients and I predominately work in the telecommunications sector. However, I’ve also got a nice range of other clients (e.g. national, regional and local companies) and am fortunate to work in an interesting mix of technologies, such as: computer implemented inventions, medical devices, satellite navigation, semiconductors/memory technology, mechanical devices as well as general engineering. Much of my work is in drafting and prosecution of patent applications, though I also do some opinion work, EPO oppositions and design work for my clients. Many of my clients are ones that I’ve personally developed and grown over the years; from a single/small handful of cases to large international portfolios. I endeavour to “super please” my clients by providing them not only with astute commercially relevant advice, both on the legal and technical side, but also exemplary levels of service. Perhaps in view of this I have been recommended in the Legal 500 for each of the last three years – for which I am most grateful to my clients.
How does the reporting structure work at Swindell & Pearson?
There’s a relatively flat structure in operation at S&P, with trainees taking responsibility for their own work as soon as practicable, albeit under supervision by a qualified attorney. There are internal committees in place to manage various aspects of the firm (e.g. patent law committee, business development committee, ICT committee, office/practice committee). Issues can be passed on to the appropriate committee to be managed and dealt with. The Directors are all very approachable.
How quickly were you able to progress through the firm?
Within three years of joining (as a fully qualified patent attorney with a few years’ post qualification experience) I became an IP director, i.e. salaried partner. Two years after that, I became a director and shareholder of the company.
What do you enjoy about the job in particular?
I enjoy the constant challenges and intellectual sparring you have with examiners. They come up with obstacles on the path to patentability and you have to find a way of either knocking them down or devising an optimal way round them. The clients are also a pleasure to work with, as are my colleagues in the office.
In terms of business development, what types of projects have you been responsible for?
I have organised and gone on several foreign trips, including visiting clients and foreign associates in Canada and the US. I have also been to Korea to meet with Korean associates. More recently, I’ve focussed my business development activities somewhat closer to home; engaging with local businesses and intermediaries.
Is there a particular career highlight from your time at S&P?
I recently successfully defended an attack on one of our client’s granted patents. What made this a particular highlight is that the European patent in question was one that was particularly important to the client (and moreover, the client was one that was particularly important to S&P!). What also made this a highlight was that, prior to my involvement and taking over of the case, the EPO’s Opposition Division had indicated that it was in agreement with the submissions and argumentation of the opponent and it was minded to revoke the patent. However, based on the written submissions I prepared and the argumentation I presented at the oral proceedings, I managed to sway the Opposition Division and convince it of the patentability of the case and maintain the granted patent. Finally, this was also memorable because the oral proceedings were held in Munich right in the middle of Oktoberfest - I’ve never seen so many people in lederhosen and dirndls!
For more information on the position being recruited please see the job advertisement.
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