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When moving jobs what concerns do Patent Attorneys have and are they legitimate? By Pete FellowsPatent Attorney Worries

Moving jobs is stressful and in a sector where people don’t move positions very often doing so can be seen as risky, fraught with dangers and not likely to achieve much.  In this article I thought I’d run through some of the common myths we hear as well as answer some of the more obvious questions we get from people thinking about moving positions.  It will cover some of the same ground as our ‘Fellows Bytes’ series, masterminded by Phillipa Holland (it’s great, seriously check it out), but I thought it might be handy to address a number of key questions in one go for those wanting a longer format.  So here goes… (the questions aren’t in a particular order - I’ve just answered them as I think of them).

1) I’m part qualified, my firm has a clawback for any costs associated with training, will I have to pay them back?

The answer to this has a little bit of nuance.  These clauses are increasingly common and to some extent intended to dissuade people from moving until they at least have a little bit of post qualified experience. But in reality they should not have any impact on your decision making at all.  Why? Well as long the you have been upfront about it during the interview process, in every case where we have come across this the new firm has reimbursed the new recruit or paid their old firm directly.  In many cases the clauses aren’t enforced anyway by the firm a candidate is leaving.  So if a clause such as this is holding you back don’t fret about it, it won’t be an issue.

2) I’ve been told that I should wait until I qualify in order to move, is this true?

The short answer is ‘no’ absolutely not.  Frankly, if you are unhappy somewhere waiting it out another couple of years just to qualify sounds like a very miserable proposition.  Part qualified vacancies are abundant, particularly if you have 2 years or more experience.  Your training will continue so there is no need to wait to get what you want.  I would caveat this very slightly by saying that moving once during qualification is relatively common, moving two or more times is less so. So if you do move make sure you are improving your circumstances (using a recruiter can help with this – they can advise on the options that closely align with your interests).   The ‘waiting until qualified’ myth comes from the fact that qualification is a very common time for people to move jobs.  However, someone who has worked at two firms during this period would be at no disadvantage at all compared to someone who had worked at just one.  In fact they may well be more marketable as they will likely have a greater range of experience than their one firm peer. 

3) If I move jobs will I get more money?

Most of the time yes, particularly if you have been in the same firm for a number of years as salaries tend to stagnate a little with longevity.  However, money should only be the major driving factor if it is a symptom of something else.  Thinking only of money could lead to short term gain potentially at the price of long term detriment.  If however, you feel you are undervalued at your current firm, being paid less than peers within the firm or below market rate outside of it could be evidence that it may be true.  I would, however, think of the longer term goals you wish to achieve and if that means moving for parity then that may be a smarter reason than moving simply for an increase.  A firm with gaps in the Partnership in the longer term always makes more sense to me than one without prospects of progression, unless Partnership is of no interest to you in which case a negotiated arrangement should take this into account (having competent attorneys not interested in Partnership is often very useful to firms). 

4) If I use a recruiter, how much will it cost me?

Absolutely nothing.  It is actually illegal for recruiters to charge candidates for finding them a job (with a couple of exceptions in areas that broadly fit into the sector such as sports agents).  Our model is based on the fact that we charge firms for finding them candidates and it is they who pay us. 

5) Would applying directly to a position increase my chances?

Nope, it’s just not our experience at all.  Yes you may well know of people who have been hired into your firm as a consequence of a direct application but I would argue they would have gotten their position anyway irrespective of the source.  It’s a candidate short market right now, so firms want candidates wherever they come from.  The exception to this is for completely newly trainees straight from university (or a career elsewhere) - as firms receive a high volume of direct applications at this level recruiters do not often get actively involved in graduate recruitment.

6) Why should I apply via a recruiter then?

Quite simply, we can advocate for you.  We know a few candidates just at the moment who have applied directly to positions we have been working on.  They have not received feedback and have asked us to chase the firms on their behalf. Unfortunately because we did not send them there is little we can do (although we would always try, it would be mean-spirited not to).  We can test the water for you, ask if a firm would consider someone like you without sending them your full details; we can negotiate for you to make sure you get what you want; we can tell you how the interview process might go and prepare you for it; we can chase and chase and chase to make sure you get feedback; and sometimes we can give you the best chance of getting a job that you would have been rejected from if you’d applied directly.  Believe it or not, we do have at least a little bit of influence with our clients.

7) But aren’t recruiters charlatans who advertise fake jobs or who have fake employees who will tell us anything they have to, to get me to move jobs?

The fact that this is still a perception is deeply disheartening.  No we are not trying to deceive you.  Yes we benefit if we find you a job, but if we find you a job you hate and we had a part in knowingly misleading you then that will backfire on us.  It’s a small interconnected market in IP and people talk to each other.  Our reputation for honesty and competence would not be worth risking for a short term financial win.  I can’t speak for our competitors though.

8) I should only talk to a recruiter when I’m interested in moving.

No no no.  That’s idiotic.  Speak to us when you aren’t looking to move. Build a connection with us now then we have a relationship with you when you are ready to move, which means we can act for you more quickly.  You may not wish to move at all with the exception of a move to Dubai or into industry etc. etc. but many people who ‘won’t move’ have an exception to this rule.  If you tell us what that is, then on the off chance it came up we’ll be able to tell you about it.  And no that doesn’t mean we’ll be bombarding you with messages, quite the opposite in fact. We are more likely to bombard you with messages if we haven’t spoken to you before and don’t know what you want.  If you get a headhunt call from us or a LinkedIn message we’re really not trying to ruin your day - we just want to know if you would consider moving now or in the future.  Giving us the answer to that question could be as beneficial to you as it will be to us. Plus it’s depressing when people ignore us and it actually really makes my day when someone responds, even if it’s a polite ‘no thanks not for now’. I’m genuinely really grateful for them making the effort.

Final Thoughts

In closing I want to say this.  Fellows and Associates is a small business.  Each time we make a placement and find someone a job it is deeply personal, it helps me raise my kids, pay my staff and go on holiday. But more importantly we all really enjoy the feeling of helping someone achieve what they were hoping to.  We are with you when you take the punches too and we feel them almost as keenly. It hurts a great deal when a candidate we feel is eminently suitable for a firm is cruelly rejected by them.  Trust us because it means something to us, it really does. We’ll fight for you as best as we can and tell you what you need to hear even when you don’t like what we’re saying.  We can make a difference to your career and you will make a difference in growing our business - it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.  Are we better than our competitors? Of course I’d like to think so, yes. I can make you the promise that we’ll do all that we can for you and if our competitors can say the same then good luck to you both. But if there is any doubt that this may be true then you will be better off with us.

Any other burning questions? Ask one publically on Twitter @petefellows or send me an email to pete.fellows@fellowsandassociates.com.

Pete Fellows is the Managing Director of Fellows and Associates but he doesn’t let that go to his head (well most of the time).

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