Five minutes with ... Tamara Quinn, Osborne Clarke
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Five minutes with ... Tamara Quinn, Osborne Clarke

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Each week Managing IP speaks to a different IP lawyer about their life and career

Welcome to the latest instalment of Managing IP’s ‘Five minutes with’ series, where we learn more about IP lawyers on a personal as well as a professional level. This time we have Tamara Quinn, partner at Osborne Clarke in London.

Someone asks you at a party what you do for a living. What do you say?

Usually, I say that I’m a lawyer and that I specialise in IP, data, and increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI). However, as a closet James Bond fan, I have been known to claim that I'm an international woman of mystery, with IP lawyer as my cover…

Talk us through a typical working day.

It varies quite a bit, depending on what sort of matters I'm working on. It typically starts on the tube [London Underground] – reading through emails and prioritising them – and continues at my desk. What happens next changes from day to day and is often unpredictable, but it’s mostly a mix of client and internal meetings either in person or over Teams. This typically includes working with colleagues on contracts and written advice. There will often be a smattering of business development work along the way, such as working on an article or planning a client webinar. I personally don't like working from home, so I'd rather stay late at the office and get something finished.

What are you working on at the moment?

As usual, there's quite a range. There's advice to a software provider on IP risks associated with the use of generative AI by its coding team; advising a publishing sector client on some complex issues around conflicting content licences; drafting a contract for IP ownership and licensing of a new work by a well-known artist; and acting for a defence client which is acquiring some pretty cutting-edge drone detection technology. I could go on!

Does one big piece of work usually take priority or are you juggling multiple things?

I generally have quite a few different projects on the go, at various stages of their life cycle, so there's always some juggling involved! When a big, urgent piece of work is in play, it will inevitably dominate for a while, but you have to be flexible, and ensure that all the other ongoing matters are dealt with too. We are fortunate to have a good-sized team here, so that we can spread the load when things get especially busy.

What is the most exciting aspect of your role and what is the most stressful?

I've always been fascinated by science and technology, so I love finding out about clients' businesses. One of the things that I love about being an IP lawyer is how varied our work is.

In terms of stress, one of the trickiest situations to handle is when you have to give clients advice that they desperately don't want to hear. Whilst the vast majority accept and deal with it, occasionally a client will try to persuade us to change our view. You have to be empathetic and helpful, but robust. That can be a difficult balance.

Tell us the key characteristics that make a successful IP lawyer.

That's a tricky question to give a straight answer to – IP lawyers are quite a varied bunch! As well as having excellent analytical skills, I think it's important to be curious-minded about the subject matter of your client's IP, and genuinely interested in IP law itself. After all, you're going to spend a whole working life immersed in it, so it needs to be something that you enjoy delving into.

What is the most common misconception about IP?

That it's all about patents, or all about copyright, or all about brands: non-lawyers will often be aware of one particular type of IP, and not realise that many of us practise across the whole spectrum of IP rights. And there's also a lack of understanding of non-contentious work, which is my area of focus. It often comes as a surprise to people that IP law isn't all about be-wigged barristers clashing in court and that acquiring, structuring, and licensing IP is the order of the day for most organisations.

What or who inspires you?

At the moment, it is the breathtaking implications of AI. I don't know whether it will be over two years, five years, or 10 years, but it is going to be truly transformative technology, in a way that we can barely imagine today.

If you weren’t an IP lawyer, what would you be doing?

Well, there's always that international woman of mystery gig I mentioned …

Any advice you would give your younger self?

Never stop trying to learn. Keep an open mind, be curious about your clients' businesses, be interested in your colleagues and how they approach things, and use all this information to continually grow and evolve.

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