Duncan Bulli
Studied Natural Sciences
Christ's College

I studied Natural Sciences at Christ’s, specialising in Biochemistry in my third and fourth years. Towards the end of my time at Cambridge I wanted to continue in research so I studied for a PhD at the London Institute of Clinical Sciences (part of Imperial College). The four years of my PhD were great fun and very instructive in terms of my desire to stay in scientific research. I realised towards the end of my PhD that I wanted to branch out and start an alternative career, which led me to finding intellectual property law. I wanted a career that made use of my scientific background but also translated this knowledge into a practical application. Intellectual property law, in particular patent law, relies heavily on attorneys having a detailed understanding of cutting-edge technology, but also a comprehensive understanding of the law in order to help companies navigate this complex area.

After my PhD I spent four years training to be a patent attorney at a specialist private practice law firm in London. The qualification process is typically 4-5 years to qualify as both a European and UK patent attorney. No legal training or background is required to enter the industry. In fact, a technical background in a scientific or technical discipline is the only pre-requisite because the job of a patent attorney requires an understanding of the technology you work with. The world of intellectual property provides a great opportunity for students studying scientific and technical subjects to enter the legal industry.

I have since moved to another private practice firm where I assist a wide range of companies, research institutes and universities to translate their cutting-edge research into commercially relevant inventions. My day-to-day job involves liaising with inventors, reviewing scientific and legal documents and preparing correspondence to clients and patent offices. The job requires a subtle balance of mastering complex legal concepts and understanding the latest technology that underpins the inventions we work with. There are constantly new areas of the law which are changing and developing and there is a wide range of technology areas which people can specialise in. The cutting-edge nature of the inventions we deal with also means we get to see technical breakthroughs and trends in technology sometimes years before they’re commercialised.