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Pros and Cons of Best Law Firm

Despite the increasing discussion about the need to create alternative model of client service I worry many IP legal firms attempt to ignore the need to change or react by offering incremental changes to their current methods of offering legal assistance on behalf of their clients.

As someone who has extensive expertise in dealing with IP lawyers I believe that unfortunately, the insular nature of many IP lawyers implies that IP firms are likely to fall behind in the development of client services. So I’m of the view that many highly regarded and very successful IP lawyers will eventually in near future end their existence.

This conclusion is the result of a variety of memorable experiences. In one instance instances, a few years ago I approached the managing partner of an eminent IP law firm to offer suggestions of ways to cut down the amount of time that were devoted to client issues.

At the time, the company was experiencing significant criticism from clients over the expense of the routine legal services. I suggested an idea to the partner in charge that could reduce the price of non-substantive e.g. administrative client IP issues by assigning these duties to paralegals who bill lower. The response to this suggestion: “If paralegals did the task, what would associates in the 1st and 2nd years do?”

The main basis of the management partner’s answer was that to keep the wheels of the firm’s billable hours/leverage model running smoothly, he must keep his associates young billing hourly. The current model of the law firm demanded that it continue to hire associates in order to improve leverage of partners and ensure that they successfully charged clients per hour and a substantial portion of the time each associate is billed directly to the partner’s pocket.

The only thing left out of this model was whether the client’ best interests were fulfilled by the system which best served the partnership between the law firm and its partners.

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It is evident that this law firm was not properly run, which could be used as a reason to the partner’s selfish perception of the client’s IP legal service.

However my experience as a corporate purchaser for IP legal services confirmed the billable hour/leverage partner business model was a system that often placed the client – which was me at the time–after the interests of the law firm.

Being an in-house lawyer, who was spending around $100K per year on legal services with a variety of reputable IP companies, I often noticed that whenever I called outside counsel for assistance , the first thought that came into the lawyer’s head was “So happy she called, I wonder how much work this phone call could result in?” Most of the time I had the impression I was able to tell that the external IP lawyers considered my legal issues as problems that they had to resolve on a per-hour basis, not as concerns which could affect the profitability of the business which I worked for. The distinction is subtle but crucial: the context that the former refers to is that of a lawyer as a service provider and the latter as an business partner.

In light of these circumstances I was not shocked to hear what I did as I discussed my opinions about the model of billable hours/leverage with a colleague in one of the leading IP specialist legal firms across the US. The partner I spoke to echoed my thoughts regarding the need for innovation regarding IP clients’ services.

She also stated that the majority of her company’s partners are unaware that there’s a problem in the way they offer IP legal assistance to clients. According to her, the majority of her senior members have lived using the billable hour/leverage model and therefore think there is no need to alter their practices. My friend’s partner is aware that her law firm is in a state of decline and could soon be suffering from something akin the sudden heart attack.

Unfortunately, she’s not part of the law firm’s management team and, as there is no higher or middle management that recognizes of the need for change and is not a good need for her to express her concerns with the members who can effect change (and it is probably not politically sensible to do so).

The inability of these highly compensated IP lawyers to appreciate the changing conditions of their clients’ acceptability of their bill practices — the base of their business model–reflects the reaction of a long-standing group of interests to technological advances that didn’t match their current business model.

Additionally the inability of some IP legal firms understand the changing climate leads me to conclude that a lot of these renowned law firms could soon suffer their fate like buggy whip producers in the event that they fail to innovate how they offer the legal assistance to clients.

In this way, buggy whip manufacturers experienced their end because they believed they were in the buggy whip industry but were actually involved in transportation. As buggy whips became outdated as did these previously successful producers. Interestingly, manufacturers of buggy whips had the capacity to change and thrive in the changing automotive world.

They had established solid business relationships with buggy makers that later were the first car businesses. They employed skilled craftsmen who could have devoted their attention to the production of leather seat covers , or other parts associated with the car. They had to recognize that they had to take advantage of the new technologies taking place at the moment and reinvent themselves as suppliers to car manufacturers instead of buggy manufacturers.

As buggy whip producers I am of the opinion that lawyers have become too ensconced in the business of law firms that they’ve forgot that they are in fact legal service providers. In their role as the ones responsible for the ongoing vitality of the company attorneys from law firms typically are primarily fee-generating, because the fee is earned from charging clients hourly to provide legal assistance.

The care and nourishment of law firms as well as its partners through the that they are always creating billable hours gets the upper hand over the legal requirements of the clients. Similar to buggy whip makers, IP lawyers working in law firms are able to adapt to avoid obsolescence.

In fact, they have the necessary abilities to keep practicing their art beyond the current model of law firms. In addition, similar to buggy whip makers lawyers also have already established relationships with clients i.e. clients, giving them an advantage over those who want to join the IP legal services market using novel, but not well-known model of client service.

Based on the well-known image of the aging buggy whip makers more than hundred years ago, think the IP lawyers who realize that they need to be innovative in the manner they provide IP legal advice to their clients will be positioned for success when their clients realize that the time to change is now.

However lawyers who believe that they’re involved in their own IP practice of law firms are going to remain behind once technological advances in customer service are introduced to the market that make the business model of law firms obsolete.

IP lawyers shouldn’t expect to be capable of predicting the time when their clients will request changes. Similar to the clients of buggy whip makers Law firm clients won’t provide an IP attorney with a that they are required to refer their business to attorneys who provide their clients with more innovative and more customer-focused model of service.

In fact, once clients finally have options that are acceptable they’ll naturally shift to the option which best suits the needs of their business. As a result, someday, these highly successful IP lawyers are likely to awake to discover that they’re losing their clients in a masse to lawyers who have succeeded in introduced a revolutionary client-service method to all of the globe. In addition, as many lawyers will inform that once a client is gone, they’re likely to be gone for ever.

In addition, clients are not likely to make a public announcement that they are planning to quit the law firm they work for before they make the decision, but they’ll also fail to tell their lawyers how they can better serve them.

They aren’t involved in offering legal services. Therefore, mutually beneficial client innovation in service must come by lawyers and through their actions. However, due to their inherent conservatism, I think the majority of IP lawyers fail to understand the importance of innovation until it’s too late to save their clients.

There is a possibility that complaints regarding the billable-hour model have been common throughout the years, yet nothing major has changed until now, which suggests that the majority of clients are just blustering and not taking action.

While it’s certainly the case that clients did not exert any actual pressure on lawyers to adjustments in the past the current situation is significantly different in comparison to before. The pace of innovation is changing society, and several previously solid models of business, like the recording industry and newspapers are towards extinction due to.

There are signs that suggest that law IP firms that depend on the model of billable hours/leverage appear to be in danger of experiencing significant pressure from critics and customers soon.

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