#CareersInIdeas: Interview with Ellie Wilson
This week is #CareersInIdeas week, an initiative run by #IPInclusive. To mark this, Martin interviewed Trainee Solicitor Ellie Wilson, who has collaborated with IP Inclusive and is a champion of inclusive causes within the firm.
This week marks Careers in Ideas week, an initiative coordinated by IP Inclusive, who in previous years marked this time as IP Inclusive Week.
This year is slightly different as the platform has been extended to helping people from all sorts of backgrounds in finding out more about careers in the IP space. The week has been jam-packed with events and resources – take a look at the IP Inclusive website to find out more.
In recognition of this, we speak to Ellie Wilson, trainee solicitor within the firm, and IP Inclusive champion.
Ellie is part of the IP Inclusive Careers In Ideas team and as such works with IP Inclusive to help progress equality, diversity and inclusivity within Virtuoso Legal and beyond.
Hi Ellie! Thanks for speaking with me today. To begin, how did you get into your career in ideas?
Thanks, Martin. I think you're asking two questions there, first about how did I get into intellectual property as a subject? And second, how did I get to the career I am now? I'm a trainee solicitor specialising in IP and the first is a bit - well, actually, both are slightly winding and unpredictable journeys.
First up, I was a musical director for a youth theatre group in my, and we came across a fairly new script that was for under 16s to perform. And it fell to me to get in touch with the author or their publisher to secure the rights to perform in public. And happily, because I was about 17 myself at the time and not prepared for a legal dispute, it all went very smoothly. And the author was just delighted that anybody wanted to see their work on the stage! But that was probably the earliest time at which I ever had to think about why in detail how authors or creators have a say or control over how their intellectual and creative work gets expressed
And later, I was researching Charles Dickens, one of my favourite authors, for a school project, and I discovered that he had been very active in calling for copyright reform in America and had had to sue a number of copycats here in the UK as well.
My theory was that it contributed to his very cynical view of lawyers in the novel "Bleak House' because he really doesn't have very much nice to say about lawyers at all if you're familiar with the story. And I think there was a little bit of art imitating life there!
So after those two little brushes with copyright law, I went off to university to study law generally, and I really fell in love with intellectual property while I was a law student and in particular, the case that I had to first think about, an Australian case called Yumbulul v Australian Reserve Bank, about the use of Aboriginal artwork on Australian banknotes. And again, it got me thinking - but this time I had a better idea of law in practice and theory, but it was another whole new realm of how the law is used to protect creators and innovation to me.
And I just thought that was so fascinating. I decided at the age of about 19 or 20 that it was the area of law for me.
Now, to answer the second question of how did I get here? I’ve actually had quite a variety of different roles, all adjacent to the IP world. So, I’ve taught IP as a tutor at the University of Edinburgh, and King's College London, and I’ve worked in policy at the Law Commission of England and Wales, where I worked on the new Unjustified Threats Act.
Thereafter l did some IP blogging, and worked as a paralegal for a year, which I really enjoyed, getting a new experience then mostly in patents. I won't give you my whole CV, but that's about most of the main roles I've held, and it brought me to Virtuoso Legal, where l my practice involves all areas of IP.
So going into a career in ideas, what did you expect? Was there anything that surprised you when you started working in IP?
Yes, good question, I did have a quite worrying expectation that the field would be dominated and controlled, and maybe only available to, first of all, scientists, which I am not. I've already mentioned that I read a law degree, not a science degree.
And second, to men who are more prevalent in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and, historically, law as well. So, l was worried that l was joining a bit of a boys' club that might not admit me, but l was very, very pleasantly surprised to see that it is truly interdisciplinary as a whole. The reason that science is so important is that a lot of patent practice is itself very technical and requires a scientific background.
But IP itself is broader than just patents or even designs, and a lot of people with various backgrounds bring experience and Insight from loads of different fields. One of the most impressive IP barristers l know first did a history degree, not a science degree.
And one of the big surprises, given my expectations,it might be quite old fashioned, maybe unwelcoming, was the emergence and complete explosion of IP inclusive, and I'm not aware of such a big organisation for any other sectors. I'm sure some are out there but IP inclusive with its different communities... So, there's IP Out for the LGBTQ community. There's one that focuses on women, one that focuses on BAME and with this huge emphasis on improving diversity within the profession and inviting people and inspiring people to join, so there's very much, not a sense of putting up the ladder behind ourselves, but a very open and welcoming community for new people.
So with that being said, what is the lay of the land today in IP? How would you characterise IP in terms of access and are there any kind of improvements that you think could be made?
That's a tough question because the IP sector is quite so much of a mosaic of different roles, so I can only really speak to the solicitor side of it, but what’s perhaps Illuminating and exciting is that by shedding light and kind of encouraging people to join us, we are drawing attention to all the different kind of roles that might suit people better or they might find more interesting.
So by that, l mean trademark attorneys, patent attorneys, trademark examiners at the IP office, or policymakers. That is all, I think, shifting and dynamic. And one of the things which l personally find quite exciting and appealing about IP law Is that the law itself is constantly In a state of flux and seem to get updated fairly frequently. So, a lot of people come together at webinars and online events and conferences to catch up because It all moves so fast.
I mean, anecdotally, our communities are about as representative as law in general, so while there is still a lot of progress to be made, I think it's no longer the preserve of just men or even just people from Oxbridge, there are lots of different ways of accessing the community
Yeah, it's a hard question, actually. What's the lay of the land? But l think what's nice is that there's quite a lot of community feeling in IP Inclusive because it embraces what we call the IP professions, plural, so it involves different sectors where we by necessity have to work with lots of different professionals, for example, not just IP solicitors, IP barristers working together as it happens in lots of fields, but we also consult with trademark attorneys, patent attorneys and academics.
What do you think is really important at this moment, what is an important takeaway, do you think in this kind of arena?
I think IP is, as a notion, inherently innovative.
It’s to do with things you've never seen before and It's about reflecting the way that either authors or brands or businesses want to see themselves reflected out into the world, whether that’s an author writing a play, a business choosing its name or the name of its product, or someone with a brand new design for something like a car seat!
It’s all about putting new energy and new creative stuff out into the world. And what’s important is that we, the profession, reflect the diversity and variety of the Innovation that's happening around us so that sectors don't become overlooked or fall behind or don't receive the attention they deserve. What Is important? Well, I think what's important is protecting and valuing creativity and innovation wherever it arises.
 Incidentally, my dad thinks he “invented” the reverse-facing child car seat when I was born. Whether he was the first to think of it or not, he didn’t pursue the invention, look into developing it and someone else got there first, so you won’t see his name on any patent registrations for it…
What would you say to somebody looking to get into a career in ideas in 2020, if they like you, have just had that spark ignited.
For someone who's been newly bitten by the bug like l was, I would always recommend that they go away and try and follow the IP news and see how it unfolds in practice.
Some of the best advice l was ever given was to read IP blogs, in particular the IPKat , which l went on to write content for a few years later. I think anyone interested in a career in law will have girded themselves up for a quite competitive and potentially really stressful - famously so - career, and I'm not saying that that doesn't happen because it does In the law, it's hard work. But l find it very rewarding.
I would also say join a community - Careers in Ideas is right there for anybody thinking of joining, or just curious about finding out a bit more. And you can find us on Linkedln and Twitter and on our own website.
And, you know, if you're thinking of a career in ideas of any kind and you're wondering maybe what would be best for you or how you fit in, look at some of those resources . I think you'll find that you, the notional new recruit, will find a very welcoming community, especially under the arm of IP Inclusive, because I really can't say enough about it. I think what works so well is that the communities are so well targeted and so welcoming that, for example, l can go to a group which l may not fall into. IP Ability is the newest community, focusing on people who are differently-abled. And l could go there and learn to be educated about other’s experiences. Or l could attend Women in IP and share my own experiences. It is not about siloing people. it’s about welcoming people and amplifying marginalised voices, educating, and having a good time forging a nice community.
So that's where l would certainly recommend someone interested in joining the IP careers or the IP sectors should start. I would have warned against just reading the general, standard news because the news often gets it wrong about IP and mixes up the lingo. I’d say start with people already in the sector and don't be afraid to reach out to say hello for example in the Linkedln group. Follow me on Twitter and ask any questions!
But if you are interested in the creative sectors, basically any form of business or design or branding, and you want to help other people get that right, there’s going to be a role for you.
Superb. Well, thanks for speaking with me today, that was fantastic.
Thanks! It’s great to discuss this stuff, the aim is really to raise awareness of the opportunities in IP and maybe even inspire someone interested in joining the professions.
IP Inclusive, as an organisation, are spearheading fantastic initiatives to support those looking to enter a career in IP.
Virtuoso Legal,as a signatory of the IP Inclusive Charter, support these strides and continue to be committed to opening up the IP career space for all.
Please take a look at IP Inclusive's website and Twitter to explore more material created and shared this #careersinideasweek. For the latest News and Results straight to your inbox, sign up for updates.