By Heidi Wipf, Conviron Scholar
Since beginning her career in IP as a scientific analyst in 2017, Dr. Bendix finds the work to be continually engaging, the work environment to be supportive, and enjoys the opportunities to be at the forefront of the latest discoveries.
In her work, Dr. Bendix writes patents on new technologies, prosecutes patents with examiners, and interacts with diverse clients. On a day-to-day basis, she collaborates with multiple coworkers on every project, who consult, review, and help craft patents and patent prosecution documents. Her work requires that she be an excellent communicator, uses her technical background, and has trained her legal knowledge over time (new hires are not required to have legal backgrounds). IP work involves many deadlines to track, and so time management is another important skill for her line of work. One challenge for someone coming into IP from academia can be the accelerated timeline, where one must think about projects on a shorter timescale, and another challenge can be reconsidering approaches to problems within a legal context instead of a technical one.
With her day-to-day constantly changing, Dr. Bendix finds patent law rewarding to work in, and immensely enjoys and appreciates getting to explore different types of problems and kinds of work with each new case.
Dr. Bendix knew early on that she enjoyed reading about scientific findings and communicating scientific findings through writing. She was more interested in industry than academia, and also considered science writing and science policy professions.
Dr. Bendix completed her undergraduate degree in the biological sciences at the University of Oxford and then conducted her doctorate research in Plant Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. It was only after attending a Masters and Ph.D. Career Fair at Berkeley, however, that Dr. Bendix realized patent law was a viable career option for her. By speaking with an employee of Morrison & Foerster LLP who had a similar plant biology background, she discovered that her scientific background would allow her to work in patent law, and that she could have a career in IP without going to law school.
With this career option revealed, Dr. Bendix sought out additional information through informational interviews with connections through her department and from networking events. She was continually struck by how happy those working in patent law were with their work, and how willing they were to take the time to talk about their jobs with her.
Prior to joining Morrison & Foerster, Dr. Bendix did an internship with the Office of Technology Transfer (OTL) and Intellectual Property & Industry Research Alliances (IPIRA) at UC Berkeley. She notes that IP work can vary quite a bit between universities, industry, and law firms, and she found it helpful to have this experience before beginning her current position.
Considering Patent Law?
Dr. Bendix states that with entry level positions, any way that one can demonstrate communication skills and interest in patent law is important. Possibilities for this include practicing science communication, developing writing skills, demonstrating good scientific reading ability, taking classes on patent law, and seeking out internships,
For the hiring process, generally multiple people assess potential candidates, because collaboration is such a key element of this position. Multiple rounds of exercises and interviews tend to be required.
Entry level positions can be at law firms, universities, or companies and postings can be found on job boards and websites. For her current position at the law firm Morrison & Foerster, Dr. Bendix knew from speaking to employees that they had people with backgrounds in plant biology and needed more with that expertise. Dr. Bendix particularly recommends considering patent law if you enjoy reading and writing about the latest findings in research with real-world applications, and are interested in the legal and business side of science.