Karlin is a patent paralegal in our Dubai and South Africa offices.
The journey from a front desk role at Donald Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, to life as a patent paralegal in South Africa and Dubai might seem both long and unlikely. But when you hear Karlin’s story, it all falls into place. At school she had a strong scientific bent and ideas of becoming a doctor; in fact, she might even have been considered something of a nerd had it not been for her outgoing personality. Working in the hospitality industry came naturally to her, but it was probably inevitable that at some stage she would return to her initial enthusiasm for science. And when she did, as a patent paralegal, her experience in the hospitality industry proved invaluable.
Karlin grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, which, with its stunning beaches and nearby mountain ranges, is often considered one the world’s most beautiful cities. Although Karlin might have been something of a science nerd at school, she was also very much into sport. She still is, and Cape Town is the perfect place to be. Whenever she has the opportunity she is likely to be trail running on one of the vast collection of trails near the city. She enjoys road running too, but finds there’s something particularly exciting and challenging about trail running. She recently competed in a 21 km trail race and in 2019 completed a full road marathon.
When Karlin was 15, and still at school, her father died. She had three much older brothers, who by that time were no longer at home, so she had to grow up very quickly. When she left school she worked in the financial services department of large retail enterprise in Cape Town for two years before setting off to America for a delayed gap year. Although slightly apprehensive, her mother was hugely supportive – and she continued to be, even when the one year gap year turned into a four year stay.
When setting out for America, Karlin’s plan was to experience a different culture, enjoy herself, learn as much as she could, and work at whatever came her way. It was a stroke of good fortune that the work that came her way suited her perfectly: it involved various positions in the hospitality industry, including a number of Country Clubs, the final one being Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, where she had a front of house role, greeting guests, assisting the team with various glamorous parties and events, and having the opportunity to meet and engage with some high-profile US celebrities.
While she was there, her visa expired and she decided it was time to return to South Africa. Her years in America had been enormously enjoyable, and she had learned a lot, but she didn’t see her future in the hospitality industry – partly because she felt it would be difficult to proceed beyond a certain level, partly because it was an extremely taxing way of life, starting at six in the morning and sometimes not finishing until the early hours of the following morning..
Back in Cape Town she had begun to look for something different when an agency suggested she apply for a position with a law firm in the field of medical negligence. She wasn’t at all optimistic as to her prospects when she set out for the interview, convinced that her background in the hospitality industry would tell against her. In fact, the opposite was true: the interviewers seemed impressed by her energy and enthusiasm, ‘can do’ attitude, and obvious organisational and communication skills, all of which had been exercised and developed during her years in America.
The medical negligence work proved to be interesting, and her scientific bent and background came in very handy. The work involved lengthy legal proceedings, which meant she was learning a lot about the law and how it operates. Moving from this type of work to work in the patent field seemed an obvious step and after three years, she moved to Adams & Adams, the well known African law firm specialising in Intellectual Property and Commercial Services. While there, she studied for and obtained the National Certificate for Paralegal Studies from the South African Law School. She also met Paul Muscat, who subsequently moved to Rouse and is now a Senior Consultant and Registered South African Patent Attorney in the Dubai office, and he was in part responsible for her obtaining a patent paralegal position in Dubai in 2018. She spent six weeks in Dubai learning the jurisdiction; then Rouse opened an office in South Africa, making it possible for her to return to Cape Town. Initially, she travelled between Dubai and Cape Town, but now, although 80% of her work continues to be Dubai work, she is able to be in Cape Town full time and take full advantage of everything the city has to offer – which she does.
Living in Cape Town has enabled Karlin to maintain an enviable work life balance – something that many find difficult. Although her days in the office are often long and mentally taxing, she usually manages to go for a trail or road run, or head to the gym, after work. It seems she has found a kind of balance in her professional life as well. While working in the hospitality industry and working as a patent paralegal might, at first glance, seem worlds apart, for Karlin, they have proved to be a perfect combination.