Scarlett tells us about her experience working as a legal research assistant and tips for second-year students applying for placements.

What course are you studying? 
LLB Law 

I work for Barker Brettell LLP which is a tier-one international intellectual property firm. Headquartered at 100 Hagley Road Birmingham, the firm today is one of the largest IP firms in the UK. The office teams are divided into two: the trademark team and the patent team. Trademark attorneys tend to be from a legal background, whereas patent attorneys usually have a scientific background.

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What is your role and what does it entail?

I am a legal research assistant. My day-to-day responsibilities include writing approach letters asking for people to refrain from using certain marks or limiting their specification, so it does not infringe our clients’ marks, writing correspondence letters to the UKIPO and EUIPO, writing draft specifications, operating a trademark watching service, researching trademarks and helping with evidence collecting.

What are you enjoying about your placement?

I really love my placement. My favourite aspect of Barker Brettell is the people I work with. I work for and report to partners every day. Everyone is so approachable and friendly and will help with anything you need. The previous placement student is also still at the firm which made settling in and learning so much easier as there is someone around who has been in the same role and position. 

The constant workflow is really great and is something I know many placements do not provide. Working with global brands you see and use every day is also really interesting and gives you great business insight. I am made to feel valued and that I make a positive contribution to the firm.

In what way do you think that this experience will help your future career?

Barker Brettell has taught me how the law works in practice, how to balance my time effectively, essential skills needed to work in a law firm and has made me realise that intellectual property law is definitely the area of law I would like to practice in after graduating, hopefully as a trainee at Barker Brettell.

How has the current COVID-19 situation impacted on your placement?

At the beginning of my work placement in September I was working in the office three days per week. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to go in from day one and meet a few members of the team. The transition to working full time at home due to the second lockdown too has been smooth and nothing to worry about. Every day I have a call with a partner to check how my work is going, if I have enough to do and for a welfare check regarding my general wellbeing outside of work. One of the partners also organised a weekly catch up call with a few members of the trademark team which is strictly non-work chat. The team could not have been more supportive throughout such a strange time.

Do you have any advice that you could give to students who are applying for a placement?

Be completely honest and demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest. 

Any work experience, no matter how small you think it may be, will demonstrate a skill so include it on your CV. 

Try to work during university if you can. Both myself and the previous placement student worked throughout the first and second year of university which showed that we were driven, could balance a heavy workload and hold a conversation! I also worked prior to university and included this even though I was unsure it would be relevant. It was interesting that the partners picked up on this and explored my motivations for this during the interview. 

Don’t be overly worried if you haven’t studied IP law. Whilst it is preferred, it is not essential. I was the only candidate who hadn’t studied IP.

What tips can you give to students whilst they are on their placement?

Make the most of every opportunity which comes your way. Try to be confident and have a go at any job you are given but don’t be afraid to ask if you are stuck.