Tom Gumley"”profile of new partner in Freehills' Patents and Trade Marks group

Date: 2007-05-20

Step into a room with Tom Gumley, Freehills’ Patents and Trade Marks group’s newest partner, and you could be talking about anything to do with new science, experimental medicine, and patents.

Tom, a registered patent attorney began his career as a postdoctoral research fellow in Experimental Medicine. As a patent attorney with a specialisation in life sciences and biotechnology, Tom says he particularly enjoys the chance to see new science in a broad range of areas on a daily basis, as well as working with people—both scientists and management—and forging close relationships.

‘A lot of the clients I work with are emerging technology clients or other emerging businesses, so you get very close to the business at an early stage. The key assets for the companies that I work for are their patents, so you become an integral partner of the business and see the company from the inside looking out and I think that’s quite rare for many professionals.’

‘It’s a close relationship where you will speak to the client up to three times a week and do more than provide advice on particular transactions. It is a long term relationship, looking at things now and in the future. In my experience, your client looks at you as being a part of the team so you end up getting invited to everything from Christmas parties through to employees’ leaving parties—that is the measure of appreciation,’ Tom adds.

According to Tom, it takes a good understanding of science and technology to be a successful patent attorney, which means having a quick uptake of new concepts and not being ‘bamboozled by the science’. It also takes an understanding of working with people and the skill to foster good relationships.

For Tom, the standout career achievement to date, aside from being made a partner, is an ongoing story—the opportunity to see his clients’ companies grow and become a business in their own right.

‘These companies are based on patents and you see them grow and employ people including young people coming out of universities, and you wonder whether those people would have those opportunities if these services and work weren’t provided, so I get a sense of achievement out of that.’

It is also his clients that inspire Tom in his work, in the way they ‘build a company from an idea’.

‘I look at those people and the way they work. They’re not constrained by any rules in terms of the way they think and they are very creative people,’ he says.

As for making partnership Tom says it’s a ‘big deal’ for him, not only making partner status but also because it has happened at Freehills.

‘I always thought that Freehills was the way to go because it has risen to this level of success from its beginnings. I believe that if you stick with the right people and learn from people within the business then you will be successful yourself. And this is a far from personal achievement; it is more of a group achievement. There has been a lot of people supporting me on the way and that’s another reason why I want to be a part of this firm—because of that level of support. I’m also pleased that my appointment is a strong indication and recognition by the executive that the IP group is an important part of the business,’ says Tom.
As a partner, Tom says he will be focusing on ‘hitting the street’ and building the IP business. It’s a role he is looking forward to and in preparation he is currently working on time management techniques as well as building his team in order to free up his time.

‘I am genuinely excited about joining the partnership. I never thought I would be that interested in business building but I feel like I am being given a chance to do this and I am going to walk this path and see where it goes. To be able to create something is a great opportunity,’ says Tom.

While not absorbed in the world of patents and science, Tom spends his spare time with his family including his three children aged five, two and a half, and three months.

Tom’s professional biography is available by clicking here.