This past summer, I had the chance to work with Corporate Counsel at Sigma-Aldrich (“Sigma”). Sigma is a leading Life Science and High Technology company whose biochemical, organic chemical products, kits and services are used in various areas of scientific research. The Association of Corporate Counsel asserts that in-house counsel plans for the future of the corporation, institutes measures to prevent future litigation, monitors the activity of the organization and its employees, and endeavors to ensure that the organization is in compliance with all applicable laws and protects the legal rights of the corporation from abuse by others.
Interning in-house opened my eyes to a particular area of the legal profession that I knew little about. Goals that I set for myself at the beginning of my internship were to draft simple legal documents, work on an assignment in every area of intellectual property, draft a memo for use as a future writing sample, and build exceptional contacts. Along with the help of the legal team at Sigma, I achieved most of my goals. The legal team at Sigma is small (less than 20), but as a consequence, everyone interacted on an everyday basis. This environment made me very comfortable in asking questions to anyone in the office about assignments, professional tips, the city of St. Louis, and more.
Upon my arrival, one other legal intern and I were taken out to lunch and given a tour of the department. After speaking with my boss on my goals for the summer, my first assignment consisted of me evaluating the relevance of patent portfolio claims relating to induced pluripotent stem cells. Before I could tackle this assignment, however, I had to become familiar with patent terminology. After getting the sufficient amount of training, I combined that knowledge with my past knowledge in biology and chemistry to successfully classify more than 50 patents. By the end of the summer, I had gained broad experience in searching the U.S. patent, trademark, and copyright databases, conducted extensive searches to identify potential trademark infringers of a commercially significant trademark, drafted simple confidentiality agreements and gained familiarity with structure and key components of licensing agreements, and provided a memo on similarities and differences between biosimilar and generic drug applications under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) and the Hatch-Waxman Act.
Ultimately, Sigma-Aldrich was not only an amazing opportunity to gain knowledge and practical experience about various legal issues, but it was also a unique chance to analyze legal issues particularly in the corporate context. Accordingly, I highly recommend anyone who is interested in working for a corporation or who is interested in patent law to apply for an in-house internship or position at Sigma or another corporation. Surprisingly, my experience at Sigma created a strong interest for me in corporate counsel. I will only know for sure if this is the career path for me after I also intern in a firm, which I am currently planning on doing next summer.