Pre-Qualification Practical Training Guidance - IPreg Practical Training Protocol Template
The qualification pathway to becoming a registered UK attorney includes both examinations and experience requirements (please see Regulation 4 of the Patent Attorney and Trade Mark Attorney Qualifications and Registration Regulations). Today, we are delighted to publish a new one-page IPReg Practical Training Protocol Template which has been developed as a voluntary guidance tool for both trainees in, and supervisors of, the experience element. It aims to help those who consider they would benefit from having a written framework in which to train/be trained. It can be altered and added to as required by the parties signing up to it. The Protocol signposts both parties to the Competency Frameworks setting out the general and technical skill sets within which a trainee attorney is expected to work when undertaking IP legal services.
We hope you will support our approach, welcome delivery of the relating Business Plan commitments and promote the template as a useful tool for both trainees (such as those in their first job, or those working in a small firm) and their supervisors (perhaps those who are new to the supervisory role).
Concerns regarding the potential for disparity of practical experience helped inform the need for, and development of, 2017 Business Plan ‘Practical Training’ commitments and 2018 Business Plan ‘Competency Training’ commitments were informed by potential concerns including:
- potential inconsistency, due to individual circumstance, of level and breadth of practical training
- the risk that areas of the Competency Frameworks may not be met in normal experience
- potential variance of the time which supervisors afford their trainees
- separation of functions in a firm may risk trainees experiencing a narrow scope of work experience areas
- small firms may be more stretched and not have sufficient time and resource to appropriately supervise
- trainees may lack awareness of the type of optimal training arrangements which could maximise their experience and help develop their competency within the workplace
- supervision by one person only throughout training may limit experience.
As a result, a Working Group was set up to consider and make recommendations regarding the need for guidance and/or the introduction of any (or any further) formal requirements to be issued by IPReg. The Working Group was led by Keith Howick, IPReg Board member, and included fellow Board member, Alicia Chantrey, and attorney, Kerry Tomlinson, and IPReg staff.
A scoping exercise was undertaken to identify training tools being used in other parts of the legal sector and to determine any resources dedicated to this area which creation of a protocol template would unnecessarily duplicate.
It was determined that a non-prescriptive and voluntary Training Protocol template would be beneficial. This was to be based upon high-level arrangements and commitments to be made by a designated Training Principal and the Trainee, with both parties seeking to work together in a constructive and supportive manner. It was determined that no formal requirements were to be issued at this time.
The protocol delivers commitments of the formally consulted upon Business Plan. As high-level guidance the protocol was informally consulted upon. The draft Training Protocol was disclosed to CIPA, CITMA and the IP Federation in summer 2017. It was then shared with the CIPA Informals Committee (patent attorney trainees) and Nottingham Law School students (feedback given by c35 trade mark attorney trainees) towards the end of 2017. Trainee feedback was enthusiastic for both the principle of the protocol and the form it had taken.
Some of the feedback suggested providing a granularity of detail which the Working Group had consciously avoided given it intended the document can be built on and made more detailed by firms/trainees should they desire a more prescriptive document covering the principles. Other feedback identified three main areas for Working Group consideration: record keeping; frequency of feedback and signature; and resulted in the following amendments:
· Item 4f, feedback – “periodic feedback” was felt to be too open to interpretation and given the importance afforded to this by consultation responses, was replaced with “regular feedback”;
· Item 5d, training plan – now provides context as to what it is considered a training plan seeks to achieve; and
· Signature – insertion of signature boxes to demonstrate a commitment from both parties.
The revised Training Protocol was approved by the IPReg Board meeting of 22nd March 2018. It has been shared with Nottingham Law School, CIPA Informals, CIPA, CITMA and the IP Federation prior to publication.
We commend the draft protocol to those who consider they, or their firm, would benefit from a template which seeks to be a useful tool for both trainees (such as those in their first job, or those working in a small firm) and their supervisors (perhaps those who are new to the supervisory role).
Frequently Asked Questions
Our firm already has training arrangements in place, do we need to adopt the IPReg Training Protocol template?
The one-page protocol template is intended to be a voluntary guidance tool, available for use by those who consider they would benefit from having a written framework in which to train/be trained.
We realise some firms will already have their own fit-for-purpose training arrangements in place which may meet, exceed, or vary from, the provisions of the protocol due to circumstances and that such firms are not expected to adopt the protocol.
Can we amend/add to the Training Protocol?
The template can be altered and added to as required by the parties signing up to it. The document is deliberately high-level. It is intended to provide a starting point which can be built on and made more detailed by firms/trainees should they desire a more prescriptive document covering the principles.
Who must be the Training Principal?
This will vary according to firm structure and practical training arrangements. The Training Protocol template is deliberately non-prescriptive in this area.
What are the Competency Frameworks?
The dedicated Patent Attorney Competency Framework and Trade Mark Attorney Competency Framework set out the general and technical skill sets which provide a framework within which a trainee attorney is expected to work and should seek to gain experience in when undertaking IP legal services. They also include indicative guidance for trainee attorneys about the evidence that may be used to demonstrate achievement of those skills, rather than a “must do” list of topics to cover during a supervised training period. There will inevitably be differences in the type of work undertaken, dictated by the particular training environment.