Richard De Almeida is an IP Innovation Clinic Fellow and a 3L JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
On Monday July 18, I attended the Bereskin & Parr Virtual Open House to learn about practising there and in intellectual property in general. On the panel was Ryan Baker, Director of Recruitment, Partners Wynnie Chan, Reshika Dhir, Ainslie Parsons and Associate Martin Brandsma.
The firm tour was extremely helpful in that they provided me with not only answers to help calibrate my own legal compass, such as what it’s like to work in intellectual property and B&P specifically, but advised me about navigating the formal recruit process.
1) Legal Compass: What its like to work in IP and B&P
Ms. Dhir opened the tour discussing what precipitated her interest in IP law. She talked about a patent infringement dispute which arose during her work at a semi-conductor company and the rest was history. Ms. Parsons was less story-book-esque where she described how she didn’t see a path she could enjoy going forward after graduate studies in the sciences. She loved IP because it was different, but she could still communicate and combine science in her work. I really connected with this because I too still love science but was always more curious than niche graduate research would allow me to be.
Next the panel discussed a day-in-the-life as an IP professional. Their description fit exactly with what I hoped. I found Ms. Chan the most informative where she described handling upwards of 30 files a day and how every day varies with different sets of tasks.
The panel then discussed what it’s like to work at B&P in particular. Ms. Dhir and Ms. Chan spoke to the firm’s open-door policy and the safe and collaborative environment that facilitates that. Ms. Dhir also mentioned the healthy work-life balance the firm has with its lower-than-average billable targets. Mr. Baker also discussed the firm’s focus on equity and fairness as values that he believes ascends B&P into a worthwhile workplace.
Ms. Parsons testified to the firm’s excellence in career development from her experience starting as a student. Mr. Brandsma however, started at a large firm that didn’t emphasize IP and said the difference in IP skills at B&P was night and day. They discussed the seminars and training programs but also the community of like-minded, curious, and passionate people.
2) Legal Navigation: Steering through the Formal Recruit
The next part of the open house discussed how to navigate the formal recruit process. Ms. Chan addressed the preconception that IP lawyers need a science background, explaining that the knowledge plays a larger role in patents, but a majority of trademarks and copyright groups don’t have STEM degrees. As for demonstrating an interest in IP, they explained that students without STEM backgrounds merely need to establish a genuine interest in IP.
Next, they discussed what qualities B&P values most. After the pre-requisite of a true interest in IP, Ms. Parsons discussed an emphasis on communication skills, attention to detail, enthusiasm, and people who are ultimately interesting and fun to work with. Ms. Dhir mentioned that students who are confident and familiar with their listed accomplishments stand out in interviews. She also recommended doing some preliminary research on your interviewers and the firm and connecting with students who have already worked there to demonstrate true interest.
Mr. Brandsma focused on the more technical aspects of the interview based on his experience joining B&P during the pandemic and through virtual interviews. He emphasized the importance of truly filling the gap that virtual interviews fall short with compared to in-person interviews by taking the extra step to develop a genuine relationship.
Overall, the firm tour was a great experience to provide perspective on my legal journey as it pertains to IP and B&P specifically and provided me with some practical tips and strategies to reaching IP and B&P as destinations in my legal career.