Alicia Briggs ’13, IP Legal Secretary, WilmerHale

Alicia Briggs

1. How did you get started in this field?
I got started in Patent Law thanks to another Wellesley Alum, class of 2012. She texted me during finals period asking if I still needed a job. I knew nothing about patents, but she told me that they trained everyone from scratch there so it didn’t matter. The work sounded interesting to me, so she helped me with my cover letter and tailoring my resume. Then, when I sent in my application, she flagged it for HR, and I got invited to interview. Once I was there, I was given the opportunity to joint interview for the legal assistant position and something they called practice systems, which they told me was essentially the same thing except instead of creating the filings I would be reviewing them for accuracy. I agreed to interview for both, and I ended up getting the practice systems job. I started out proofreading patents while learning the intricacies of patent prosecution.

2. How did you advance?
Like I said I started off proofreading while I was being trained on more complex tasks the department handled. I was assigned a mentor, and I was lucky because she was a great. She taught me so much and I worked hard to learn things as quickly as possible. When I went to ask her things, I made sure to take note of where she went to look things up or what searches she ran to check things. I started to follow that pattern before going to her for help. I learned very quickly that the best way to get training and to advance was to take initiative. People will be more motivated to help you if they know that you are motivated to learn and that you have tried to figure things out on your own. Once I had the basics, I would try to adapt them to more complicated things. As a docketer, I would bring the mail and the docket sheet and say here’s the mail, here’s what I entered is that right? I would get some edits and enter those, then make the adjustment for next time. The secret really is to just be considerate of you coworker’s time; making an effort goes a long way with people. After just two years, I was acting as the senior docketer, and I had trained everyone below me in the department. Everything I learned there was the foundation for my success at my second job where I was hired me for my patent prosecution experience. I continued to thrive there by following that same pattern of taking initiative.

3. What is your day-to-day like?
So, my days vary quite a bit. On slow days, I focus on the mail, working ahead on the docket, and any projects or requests I receive.  There are always a lot of demands on my time. My last role was supporting the practice of three attorneys whose dockets included both patent prosecution and litigation, so it was important that I track the things they needed and get those to them as quickly as possible. When you work in a support role, your day is subject to the changing needs of the people who you support. Flexibility is important along with the ability to quickly transition between tasks. Strong organizational skills are important to facilitate this. I use a combination of to-do lists and calendar reminders to help me to stay on top of things. At the end of every day, I make a to-do list with anything that I need to work on or on-going tasks that I am carrying over into the next day (mail to be reported, projects that are in progress, etc).

Then there are busier days where it’s necessary to clear out your schedule for something you are working on. For example, I recently coordinated some large scale IPR/CBM filings that involved seven secretaries three QC people, three attorneys, and a cite checker across three different offices. During those filings, I needed to be available to everyone on the team plus work on the petitions, so those consumed all of my day. Some standard tasks for those are formatting, uploading, entering edits, keeping the team updated on the progress, and distributing tasks to the team.

4. What skills should current students be working on to be successful applicants?
The big skills for these types of positions are teamwork, attention to detail, and organization. You are a team with the attorneys you support and everyone else in the office, working together to ensure the practice runs smoothly. Being able to interface seamlessly across departments makes the work much easier. Task tracking and management are vital parts of the job, and being organized is really the only way to accomplish that. Last but not least, attention to detail is important because the cases you work on have real world consequences, and the people you work with have to be able to trust your work.

5. What is the next step in your career?
My next step will be starting law school in August. After five years working in the legal industry, I feel confident that the practice of law is what I want to be doing. But I also have realized that I want to continue to take on more complex work, and the only way to achieve that is to get a law degree. I am excited for this next chapter and new challenges.

6. Is there anything you wish you had known back when you were graduating?
You already have everything you need to be successful. It’s not that I didn’t know that already, but I wish I had believed it more. It’s great to come from a place like Wellesley that has a tradition of excellence, but it can be easy to forget that every alum has gone through the same thing you are going through right now. The best thing I have heard since graduating was from an alumnae panel for the Wellesley Effect. The panel discussed the uncertainty and difficulties they faced in building their careers, and how it’s only by looking back on their careers that they can create truly polished narratives.

7. What role has Wellesley played in your career thus far?
Like I said, a Wellesley connection helped me to get my first job out of college, and that was an important foundation for me. But the value of Wellesley is so much more than that. Having a Wellesley degree on my resume has helped me in every interview I have had since graduating. The reputation that Wellesley has for producing smart, dedicated alums is always helpful. It’s also great knowing that there are always alums available and happy to give advice. I love seeing Wellesley Alums help each other with anything from career advice to sunscreen recommendations.