The Qualification Season: A Focus on… Intellectual Property

April 10, 2019

As part of The Qualification Season, a series of blogs by CapeClarke aimed at trainee solicitors looking to qualify in September 2019, we will give a brief overview of the market conditions affecting many of the core legal disciplines that trainee solicitors look to qualify into.

The next area of law for discussion is Intellectual Property.

The Current Market

The Intellectual Property (IP) market has been relatively buoyant over the past two to three years and continues to be a very popular niche area. At the larger commercial firms IP is a standalone offering, however with some it falls under the wider Commercial team and is ostensibly just a specialist sub-area of Commercial Contracts.

The implications of Brexit may affect IP law somewhat disproportionately when compared to other areas of law. This will no doubt have a knock-on effect in terms of an increase of positions within IP.

As the IP division of Bird & Bird (one our London-based clients) confirms, IP laws are harmonised to a large extent across Europe with much of the UK legislative framework currently made up of directly effective EU Regulations and Directives. Unless those Regulations and Directives are transposed into English law, a regulatory vacuum may be created. As such, there is the potential for a period of uncertainty. We are confident however that such a vacuum is commercially unlikely to occur.

Is this a good career option? 

The number of firms that have defined IP teams is limited (as opposed to being part of a wider commercial department); as such the number of junior roles arising is always fairly limited. However, as there are fewer teams, there are also fewer specialists in this area. Therefore, whenever there is a role, there are fewer suitable candidates in the market. As such, career progression within IP does tend to be decent. There is also the ability to dual qualify as a patent or trade mark attorney, which would help you make the move into a boutique IP firm.

Some practices expect their IP lawyers to handle both contentious and non-contentious work, others split it.

An additional benefit in recent years has been the increased demand for in-house lawyers from the in-house sector. This demand will only continue to increase, further adding to the requirement for good quality IP lawyers.

September 2019 opportunities

Given the popularity of IP, the majority of NQ roles tend to be filled by internal trainees. Historically, very few have been released to the external market.

There have been a couple of external roles in the last two years though and our advice is to be incredibly pro-active and stay close to your recruitment consultant.


If you have been thinking about a move or would just like some general advice about options in the market, please feel free to contact one of our dedicated consultants on 0113 2385965 or 0161 3000750.

CapeClarke is a leading niche legal recruitment consultancy operating across Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool and London. Please feel free to check out our priority legal vacancies by clicking here.  Please note these legal vacancies are only a small selection of those we have been instructed on, so please get in touch if you do not see a role which looks suitable.

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