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European Patent Attorneys: The rise of a new technology/attorney hybrid

Posted by: Laurence Simons 21/05/15

The global nature of Laurence Simons’ research function allows us to monitor and identify the latest trends occurring in the legal and compliance sectors across Europe.

Over the last few months we’ve seen an increase in the number of companies requesting a European Patent Attorney (EPA) to possess an electrical engineering background, in areas such as networks, software, communications, etc. While we’ve noticed this trend happening, we’d like to question why? What novel innovations are on the technological horizon which require this very specialised area of expertise from their Patent Attorneys? Or is it simply that companies want a new type of attorney, one who possesses a technology and science mind-set to fully comprehend the implications of the science that is emerging?

As recruiters we are finding it increasingly challenging to find these EPAs with the right level of technical experience, especially currently positioned at the junior end of the spectrum (1-5 years PQE) but that’s part of the fun of working in recruitment, to find that needle in the haystack, diamond in the rough or in this case the attorney who is enthusiastic about the finer details of science and technology. Furthermore, encouraging the most sought after EPAs to move jobs, to transition from Patent practices into industry, or perhaps across industries, remains the real challenge.

In today’s market where there are so many factors to consider (i.e. pay, relocation, job insecurity for the most recent corporate hires, the inevitable adjustment to cultural fit, etc.) the appetite of the more junior EPA (electrical engineer) to consider exploring a new opportunity is less than healthy.

The market is very tough and as legal recruiters, we need to ask “Do the companies hiring EPAs with a background in electrical engineering need to have an ‘edge’ to their legal recruitment strategies – to be able to offer something that the next company is not?” The answer is clear but how do companies implement this within the confines of internal hiring strategies, potential budgetary constraints, etc.?

One thing we know for sure is that Europe needs qualified electrical engineers. One hiring EPA with such a background told us – “if you happen to come across an EPA who is an electrical engineer, hire them immediately irrespective of whether you have the immediate need.”

This demand is not confined to one European country. We’ve seen the need for EPAs occur across multiple countries including Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Is this trend solely a European one? For now we feel it is but it may soon happen across the globe. We wait and see. In the meantime, you can check our extensive list of patent trademark attorney jobs.