Interview – Suzanne Power

Corporate Photographer LondonName: Suzanne Power

Job Title: Trainee Trade Mark Attorney

Department: Trade Marks

Why did you join A.A. Thornton & Co.? And for how long have you been in your current role?

I joined AA Thornton & Co. as a Trade Mark Assistant in September 2013, having just graduated from a languages degree at the University of Oxford. As I was new to the legal profession, I was looking to join a firm with a supportive training programme, and structured career progression. AAT offered exactly this; colleagues from trainee to partner level dedicate considerable time to accommodating new joiners, and a generous sponsorship scheme enables trainees to gain qualifications in intellectual property law alongside employment.

What are your main responsibilities?

The majority of my work relates to trade marks, but I also assist with copyright and designs advice, including preparing applications to register designs.

In terms of trade marks, typical tasks include assisting clients with initial ideas for effective marks, undertaking searches to check for conflicting intellectual property rights, and preparing and filing applications to register trade marks. We also undertake a great deal of post-registration work, such as renewing and recording changes to registrations, as well as devising strategies for the long-term management of registration portfolios.

What is an average day for you like?

At the start of each day I meet with my supervising partner to review developments in the cases we handle, and priorities for completing work. Our work is very deadline-driven, as the intellectual property registries with whom we work often require that action be taken at specific intervals of time.

Over the course of the day, we deal with queries and case updates from clients, associates, and registry officials. Some developments will require more immediate attention, which means that the nature of our work varies on a daily basis, and sometimes at short notice. This is a very appealing aspect of the job, particularly as a trainee, as you are exposed to a variety of tasks. We are also involved in ongoing, longer term projects, such as overseeing changes in ownership of portfolios of trade mark registrations, and developing strategies for commercially exploiting trade mark registrations over time.

What training have you received during your time at A.A. Thornton & Co.?

On joining AAT, it became quickly apparent that the firm invests considerable time and thought in the training of newcomers. From my first day, I was partnered with a fellow Trade Mark Assistant who had been at the firm for a year. Learning about the role from someone in a similar position is very effective, as you can easily relate to one another. It also provides a more informal environment in which to raise any questions that crop up as you settle in.

Each assistant works very closely with a partner within the department, who supervises your work and overall training plan. We meet each morning to discuss developments in cases that we handle, and any work that needs to be prioritised in relation to deadlines. On top of these daily meetings, we meet at regular intervals to review progress and career development.

Assistants are also sponsored to undertake part-time courses necessary to qualify as a Trade Mark Attorney. Shortly after joining the firm in September 2013, I started a course in Trade Mark Law and Practice at Queen Mary, University of London, which has provided a comprehensive insight into UK and EU intellectual property law.

What skills are required to carry out your role?

Attention to detail is crucial, in various contexts. From an administrative point of view, we must ensure that documentation that we receive and produce is accurate and meets official requirements and deadlines. This might, for example, entail careful proofreading of applications for trade marks or designs, to be confident that they can provide the most secure protection for our clients’ intellectual property interests.

It also comes into play when reviewing technical texts – such as reports from trade mark registries providing their assessment of a trade mark application. Their assessment may well follow a nuanced line of argument, which you must follow with a view to developing a reasoned response.

The role also demands flexibility. Unexpected developments in cases may require a reconsideration of strategy – perhaps drawing on your experience with similar cases. But this also means that there is considerable scope for creativity, for example, when assisting clients in brainstorming ideas for effective trade marks.

What is the best thing about your job?

My studies at university were at times rather abstract – examining linguistic or literary theories which had a restricted practical application, for example. The context of our work is a lot more tangible and accessible. We all encounter intellectual property on a daily basis; each time you visit a shop, you will find trade marks on the packaging of goods, in advertising displays, on the clothing of those around you, on vehicles used to deliver goods…and so on. The practical implications of our work are therefore much clearer, which is extremely rewarding.

What does the future have in store for you?

By the summer of this year (2014), I will have sat exams in the foundations of English law, and UK and EU intellectual property law. This is the first stage in qualifying as a Trade Mark Attorney. I will then move on to a more practice oriented course led by Nottingham Law School.

What would you say to anyone seeking a position at A.A. Thornton & Co.?

Don’t necessarily wait for a position to be advertised – show your interest through a speculative application. Vacancies come up throughout the year, so having already registered your interest can ensure that you don’t miss opportunities.