A Day In The Life - Charlotte Watkins
My day starts at 6am, and I’ll head straight out into the fields near our house for a walk with the dog. We usually walk for up to an hour: it’s good to have that time and space to think and clear my head for the day ahead.
I get into the office most days between 8.30 and 9.00. Our head office is on York Science Park, a short commute from where we live. We try to stick to a working day between 8.30 and 6.00: there are times when it can be more, and times when people can leave early. Everyone works hard but promoting a positive work life balance across the team is important to us.
My working day usually starts with a couple of coffees and a chat with whoever’s in the office that day. I’ll also check in with our support team, who do a great job of keeping us organised.
As is the case I suspect for most owners of growing businesses, my role is partly delivering client work and partly running the business – finance, office management, recruitment and business planning all feature somewhere most days alongside whatever client files I’m currently working on. It’s a balancing act, trying to fit in a full day of client work around everything else that needs to be done to move the business forward.
We’ve spent a lot of time over the last 12 months looking at the firm’s strategic direction, future growth plans and the areas of tech that offer most scope for growth. Bioscience, sustainable technologies and renewables are key focus areas, and we’ve invested significantly in building our team and expertise in these areas. Part of my role now is to find ways of highlighting this expertise to our existing clients, as well as prospective new ones. On a day to day basis, this involves looking for opportunities for members of the team to speak at events and conferences where they can help companies understand how they can successfully exploit these new technologies to grow and diversify.
For me, the best part about being a patent attorney is dealing with lots of different technologies. On any given day I can be dealing with a variety of subjects and technologies, from antibody therapies and medical devices to cool new furniture designs.
Day to day, my work for clients includes drafting patent applications or defending their patent and designs against copycat infringements. If I’m not doing that from our office in York or Newcastle I’ll be out with clients at their sites, which stretch from the South East up to Newcastle and Northumberland, talking about current work or discussing new ideas that will need protection.
I try and grab time for lunch every day, otherwise the day can disappear in a blur. Often, I’ll be working with our trainees to make sure they’re getting plenty of opportunities to work on ‘real life’ cases alongside their legal training. Recruiting and developing great people is a big focus area for the firm. We’re growing, and good patent attorneys and trainees are in high demand. Part of my role involves careers events and talks and looking at the bigger recruitment and development picture for the business.
As well as travelling to see clients in the UK I spend time in Germany and the Netherlands attending patent office hearings to defend or secure patents. This month I’m speaking at a boot camp for biotech startups in the Netherlands and next month travelling to Philadelphia to the world’s largest biotech conference, The Bio Convention, to catch up with clients and keep up with the latest thinking in areas such as digital health and cell-based therapy.
We work with a lot of overseas clients, particularly in the USA, and have regular calls to discuss cases. Many of our US clients are based on the West Coast, which means those calls tend to take place late afternoon or early evening. If it’s an early evening call, I’ll often make it from home rather than stay late in the office. We try not to promote a ‘stay late’ culture in the business. Sometimes it’s necessary, but we aim to make it the exception rather than the rule.
I try and switch off from work when I get home, usually by cooking. I find it relaxing, and Jason and I make a good team: he preps, and I cook. We’ve spent the last 18 months working on our house, and there are still a few jobs to do there in an evening, as well as walking the dog or playing football with her in the garden. Now that the house is almost finished, I’m keen to get back into running. My aim is the York 10k in August…watch this space!
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