Fellows meets Michael Lord of Gill Jennings & Every
Michael offers an insight into what it is like to work at leading firm of patent and trade mark attorneys, Gill Jennings & Every. If you are interested in working for Gill Jennings & Every, please see the latest job listing.
Michael joined GJE in 1998. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1995 with a first class Honours degree in Natural Sciences, specialising in Materials Science and Physics. Michael stayed on at Cambridge and obtained a PhD for his work in the design and thermodynamic modelling of novel ultra-high strength steel alloys, before joining GJE. He qualified as a European Patent Attorney in 2002 and is also qualified as a Chartered Patent Attorney. He joined the partnership in 2007.
Michael has a rapidly expanding IT & Engineering practice. He advises numerous UK-based clients, including SMEs and multinationals, on each of the many aspects of patent and design practice relevant to their commercial objectives. He also advises numerous overseas clients, including some of the world's largest companies, with regard to the
protection of inventions through the patent and design systems of Europe and the UK.
Describe your background
My personal career has followed a fairly conventional route. I did my undergraduate degree in Physics/Materials at Cambridge, followed by a PhD in Materials Science, also at Cambridge. I then joined GJE in ’98. I worked my way up through GJE as a trainee, then Associate and joined the partnership in 2007. That sounds a bit one dimensional in terms of careers these days but I reconcile it with the fact that I was fortunate to get into the right firm in the first place. Of course some colleagues at various levels during my training have moved on over the years, as they do in all firms, but what I have noticed is that not one has ever said to me that their new firm turned out to be better. So, I “lucked out” I suppose.
Describe a typical working day at GJE
I think every member of our professional teams would have a different answer to that question – I think that is a result of our (unusually) broad range of clients and due to the fact that we don’t hide our trainees/new Associates behind Partners or Senior Associates – we get them involved. “Varied” would be a common theme of day to day work. It would be rare to spend a day working for one client here. Having a wealth of active direct clients can change your best made plans for the day with a simple call or email. So there is usually something interesting happening and plenty of opportunities to get involved and get out of the office to see people.
What sort of mix of clients do you deal with?
We have a very balanced “portfolio” of clients. Geographically there is an even balance between North America, Domestic/Europe and the Far East. By balanced I mean even our largest clients each account for only a few percent of our business. We are fortunate in that we have a large number of direct client relationships (without an attorney intermediary) and this means that direct exposure to client IP Managers/attorneys/CXOs is a daily occurrence and part of working at GJE. Those clients are not just in the UK, we are in daily contact with direct clients in offices all around the world – you get to know them pretty well. We have a number of big multinational clients, some based in the UK, others in the US, the Far East and Mainland Europe, some of these work with us directly as I have said, others via attorneys overseas; some do both! We also have plenty of UK and European SMEs as clients, together with some UK universities and quite a few small start-ups/spin outs too.
How is your work load split?
My workload generally reflects that of the team as a whole because we try to organise the professional support for clients around their needs, rather than ours. Personally, I have a lot of UK originating work which of course includes regular drafting, prosecution etc., but that means that I need to spend quite a lot of time giving strategic/commercial advice as well as the day-to-day client assistance, since these clients are sizeable UK SMEs/Multinationals. Our teams have a great relationship with these clients and our discussions are more of the nature of those between colleagues than client-adviser.
Is there much opportunity for international travel?
Yes, if you want it, and you don’t have to be a partner to travel internationally. We’ve taken professionals of various levels to the US, Far East and a number of locations in Europe. I am excluding the EPO here – since most fee earners get their first EPO experience in year 1 or 2 the novelty soon wears off! All such opportunities need to have an underlying plan and we’re usually willing to try new things in the name of business development. As it turns out people have different natural tendencies towards travel, some can take it or leave it, others would rather be travelling than being in the office. I think it depends on your personality and we try and accommodate the personal interests and objectives of the individuals involved into our planned trips. All that matters is that everyone is contributing to further the interests of the business.
How do you feel GJE differs from other firms?
There are a few factors. We’ve got a great set of clients and client relationships to match so there is a feeling that you’re where the real action is – there isn’t a sense of there being a better party elsewhere. The client-centric team approach means that our professionals get a better client exposure than in other firms (we choose them carefully and we back them by helping them build relationships with the clients alongside the client partner(s)). It also means that they have the opportunity to move their career in the direction they want in terms of client and work type in a way that is not possible in many firms. Above all: we are a team.
Is there much opportunity for interaction between attorneys at different levels of seniority?
Yes – it wouldn’t be much of a team without that. Whilst every professional has a partner responsible for their professional development and well-being, typically all professionals get the opportunity to work with other non-partners (as well as other partners of course). These opportunities increase as you get more experienced. For example a finals standard or new Associate member of the team may delegate simpler work to less experienced attorneys (giving them plenty of tuition in the task) whilst they may themselves be asked to get involved with something more complex by a partner or senior associate. We also have client teams for some of our larger clients. It needs careful management and regular discussion about workloads of course but it does work.
What are the plans for the future?
The firm as a whole is looking to grow. We have a great client base with a good reputation amongst those clients. That means we are always working to leverage that reputation to bring in work through recommendation as well as through other marketing initiatives. All our professional team members are involved in this. This means that there are exciting times ahead!
Fellows and Associates would like thank Michael for his time. If you’d like to find out more about Michael and Gill Jennings & Every please visit http://www.gje.com/. For more information on current opportunities at Gill Jennings & Every click here.
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