Michael Vallance

Patent Attorney, Gill Jennings & Every LLP

Michael Vallance
Michael Vallance

As a Patent Attorney, I put the physics I studied at Manchester to good use, but do so within a commercial context in the heart of London.

Physics (4 years) [MPhys]

From: September 2008 to June 2012

From physics to patents

As a Patent Attorney, I get to work across a range technology - from printers to particle accelerators - and I'm exposed to new and creative ideas on a daily basis. I put the physics I studied at Manchester to good use, but do so within a commercial context in the heart of London.

Having already attended work experience placements with law firms during college, and after electing to take a unit in business law during my degree, I had always considered a potential career in law. However, until my final year at Manchester, I had yet to hear of patent law. My personal tutor put me in touch with an alumni member who had gone on to become a patent attorney, and we discussed what the job involved. The University Careers Service then supplied all the information I needed to apply.

Qualifying as a patent attorney can take anything from four years, subject to passing various exams along the way. To get a patent granted, the invention has to solve a problem in a unique and inventive way, and it is part of a patent attorney’s job to emphasise to a patent examiner how their client's invention achieves this.

The difference between your client's invention and a previous disclosure is often extremely subtle, and can come down to the interpretation of a few words. An ability to present creative arguments and a high attention to detail is required to ensure the application is granted and meets legal requirements.

Studying at Manchester

Manchester is a terrific place to study physics. The University has a long-standing tradition of producing excellent research and there is a real buzz that comes with working within such an active department.

I found the subject matter intellectually stimulating and relevant to the world around us, and I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work at the Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre for my MPhys project.

Thinking of choosing Physics at Manchester?

It won't come as a surprise to hear that studying physics can be fairly heavy going at times; there are plenty of lectures to attend and tutorials to be getting on with. While this isn't always conducive to a vibrant social life, it forces you to become closer with those on your course than you would in most other subject areas. I always felt that the Schuster building has a warm and communal feeling to it as a result.

One piece of advice I would give is to keep in mind the opportunities to study abroad. Whilst Manchester is a terrific place to study, I found the opportunity to spend my third year studying in Los Angeles one of the highlights of my degree, and I'm extremely grateful to those in Manchester who enabled it to happen.

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