The following is a guest post From Daniel Smart of Colman Smart in Manchester. He is a big IP supporter and once upon a long time ago (you can tell by the size of the computer) he even used to help support me.
The recent 'Is Anybody There?' post left me thinking. How could I, or we, relieve this feeling of blogging loneliness and provide a contribution?
What is the main difference between large IP practices and solo or small IP practices (including those in-house)?
I suppose the key word here must be resources.
Learning resources are important when you do not have in-house trainings geared towards your specific field. Thankfully, there are talks performed by various professional bodies and even if you are not a member of some, you can often still attend them - and find out about them through the likes of the IPKat. However, external courses and seminars do not come cheap and there are, of course, time factors. Geography is a related factor. Few of us can attend all of them and we need to prioritise. We see the programmes in advance, but choosing the best ones to attend can be a bit hit and miss. Previews of upcoming events and reviews of past events could therefore be useful, perhaps?
Business support services can be a small, but critical, cog in managing a business successfully. Managed offices give you that peace of mind that your post will get taken care of, your phone is answered and the printer will always have toner and paper in (although much of this actually depends on the package you sign up to). However, how much value would you give to this? This should help you determine if the price is right. We have answerphones and we can divert calls to our mobile. Personally, I don't mind a trip out to the Post Office to send letters once in a while. It gets me out (as I am mostly e-mail working, like most of us I imagine). Saying this, arrive at the Post Office on a bad day and the wait can be quite long. I could also add that I am glad I don’t have to venture out today; thunder and rain where I am.
I am interested in what kind of record-keeping, formalities and paralegal support solo and small practices have or need. My interest is an obvious one as my firm specialises in this area. Ensuring you are stocked up on paper and toner may involve a trip to the likes of Staples on a Saturday morning whereas once you've counseled a client, completed searches, finalised a list of goods and established jurisdictions of interest you'd quite like to have someone else arrange for the 10 trade mark applications to be filed around the world? Of course, I've worded this in a biased way but I am merely trying to offer food for thought. You may prefer 'office admin' to be outsourced whilst retaining personal control over anything IP related no matter how routine.
How you manage the data of your IP portfolios can be important to ensuring an efficient running of your practice. I have recently blogged on IP databases - from large and small practice perspectives - so check it out if this might be of interest to you.
In the UK, many large law firms - and patent/trade mark attorney firms are also joining this trend - now provide platforms for independent practitioners to benefit from their support structures in place. They take a hefty chunk of commission for work introduced to you. When you introduce the work, the commission is much less. You benefit from being associated to the bigger firm and the backup systems, additional expertise and record-keeping capabilities. It is arguably more attractive to lawyers in the provinces that can then charge hourly rates closer to that of the City.
Best bank, best mobile phone, best technology, best networking events, etc. are aspects that seem to be ever changing but I believe we would be interested in any recommendations others have. These can also help you manage your business effectively and make best use of your resources.