Showcasing careers beyond academia
Peter Silcock

Peter Silcock

DPhil in Chemistry, University of Oxford
Partner - Patent Attorney
J A Kemp

Job highlight: Meeting the firm’s clients’ needs and helping them to achieve their business aims

Postgraduate take-away: Deal with inventions based on creative science; understanding of the research environments in academia and industry

What is your background?

I studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University and then for a DPhil in Organometallic Chemistry and Catalysis at the University of Oxford.  I entered the patent profession by way of a graduate trainee scheme and qualified as a patent attorney in 2005.

I was looking for a career where my scientific training would be directly relevant.

Why did you move away from academia?

As I completed my DPhil in Chemistry, I was looking for a career where my scientific training would be directly relevant. At first, a research and development (R&D) role in industry seemed like the logical choice and I gained a place as an R&D chemist in a large company. I enjoyed analysing and reporting our scientific results and meeting customers, but the lab work was less stimulating than my DPhil research had been. There was also no clear timetable for career progression. I did however learn about the patent profession and was attracted by:

  • The unique blend of science, intellectual property law and business skills involved in the patent attorney role;
  • The value of the professional qualifications, fast career progression and high employability;
  • The continual exposure to cutting-edge science;
  • The intellectually stimulating and rewarding work that I would be tackling.

Since becoming a trainee patent attorney in 2002, I have never looked back. I became fully qualified in 2005. At that point I joined the Chemistry and Pharmaceuticals Group at J A Kemp, and became a partner of the firm in 2012.

What is the work like?

I am based in J A Kemp’s Oxford office. A large proportion of my work is focused on university clients, spinout companies and local tech businesses at the frontiers of science.

The client work is hugely varied, not just the technologies I see and the clients I work with, but also the different kinds of work I cover as a patent attorney. On a given day, I could be drafting a new patent application, responding to a patent examiner’s report or advising a client on freedom to operate in view of third party patents. I could also be preparing an opposition against a client’s competitor’s European patent, or indeed helping to defend one of my client’s patents against someone else’s opposition.

A typical day will involve at least one meeting in addition to desk work. This could be a client meeting or an internal meeting about, say, our business development activities, changes in patent law, or an exam tutorial for our trainees. I may also fit in some networking that day, for example at a business breakfast or an evening seminar.

What is the company culture?

Meeting the firm’s clients’ needs and helping them to achieve their business aims! We manage many cases for our clients and often have a limited amount of time to unravel issues relating to patent law, complex technology and our clients’ commercial needs. It’s immensely satisfying to complete difficult jobs under time pressure and achieve great results for clients.

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Thanks to my background I am comfortable dealing with inventions based on creative science and have a strong understanding of the research environments in academia and industry. I can get to grips with clients’ new technologies quickly and connect with their scientists in a way that gives them confidence, because I understand their work.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I wish to continue to help my existing clients, bring in new work for the firm, and handle interesting patent cases. I would like to continue to progress within the firm and help drive our future development.


J A Kemp is one of the UK’s leading IP (intellectual property) firms by size and reputation, with 150 people based in London, 25 in Oxford and 7 in Cambridge. J A Kemp’s attorneys file and prosecute patent and trade mark applications in the UK, Europe and worldwide. They protect their clients’ interests through patent office appeals and oppositions and through litigation in the courts. Clients range from start-up businesses to world-renowned corporate clients and prestigious academic institutions. A career as a Patent Attorney represents an intellectually challenging and rewarding option, bringing together a unique blend of science, law and business skills. J A Kemp recruits up to six Trainee Patent Attorneys each year, typically offering places around the end of the calendar year to start the following autumn. Outstanding applications are considered at any time of the year. Our first class training programme combines personal mentoring, internal tutorials and external courses to achieve an exceptional first-time pass rate for the European and UK Chartered Patent Attorney qualifications. We have over 50 European and UK Chartered Patent Attorneys in the firm, including 15 with first degrees from Oxford and 5 Oxford DPhils. To find out more visit: