This article is authored by Anvita Bhardwaj, a student pursuing BA LLB from Symbiosis Law School, Noida. Upon reading this article, the readers will get an idea of the information they need before setting up their own Intellectual Property Rights law firm.
If you are here reading this article, I am sure you are riddled with a plethora of thoughts surrounding the question, “Should I start my own practice?”. While I cannot actively aid you in that decision, I will attempt to make sure you have all the necessary information you need in order to start your own firm in the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) field.
Why Intellectual Property
As a law college student pursuing her graduate degree I am well aware of how confusing it is to pick a lane when it comes to choosing an area of interest in the legal department. However, if you are someone aiming to start their own practice in the IPR sector, you are going the right way! Below I will elucidate some reasons as to why IP is the right choice for you.
Intellectual Property is not affected by the recession in the economy as it is dependent on creativity. Ideas and inventions do not stop in the face of economic recession. This is less likely to injure your finances. The jobs in this industry are projected to grow in the coming decade.
An evergreen and exciting field of law
As Intellectual Property Rights have been developed recently in comparison to old statutes and laws, there is a large scope of opportunities available to lawyers to grow exponentially. Moreover, new challenges emerge all the time which require the lawyers to be proactive and analytical. Intellectual Property drives economic growth and competitiveness.
Lucrative salaries and perks
Financial stability is an important aspect of any job you pursue and this industry guarantees it. As per PayScale, a Patent Attorney, on average earns $138,054. The average salary of a Trademark Attorney is $106,386. (This is just an indicative average as per the salary trends in the United States). Other benefits include bonuses, conveyance fees, health insurance etc. (These differ from place to place). Intellectual Property creates and supports high-paying jobs. If you open your own IPR firm, you will be helping people gain employment with lucrative pay.
At the end of the day, working in an IPR law firm is very different from owning one. Nothing beats being your own boss. It is rightly said by Tony Gaskins, “If you don’t build your own dreams someone will hire you to build theirs.”
Identify your focal interest
It is important for you to identify your niche before you go about owning your own law firm. Find out which is the most interesting and appealing area of interest for you within Intellectual Property Rights. Interest is not the only thing that you need to consider, introspect and acknowledge your professional strengths and weaknesses. Usually, up and coming law practices focus on copyright or trademark prosecution as they ascertain a set standard of filings. Moreover, unlike patent prosecution, these two do not require additional certification and qualifications. It is very important to identify your area of expertise as only then you will be able to focus your limited resources towards building a loyal client base.
Select the right tools
One of the most important tools in any practice is malpractice insurance. The American Bar Organisation defines legal malpractice as, “any act which is negligent or wrongfully executed by an attorney who causes monetary damages to his/her client.” This includes both inadvertent and intentional errors.
It is not a necessity to have this insurance, legally speaking, however, if you choose to practice without it (especially as an IP lawyer) you are exposing yourself to unnecessary risks. If you opt for insurance it will save your practice from financial burden as not only does malpractice insurance cover the fee of defending the lawyer but also pays the damages if the lawyer is found guilty. Statistically, “missing deadlines” is one of the most common malpractices. Even missing a deadline by a day to secure IP rights costs billions to the clients (in terms of rights and profits) and more so to the firms as they have to face adjudication and may have to offer financial settlements if they do not want to pay full damages.
As established above, missing deadlines is a financial hazard to your practice. When you begin, you may not need software for managing your filings. However, as you grow you may need to track 100s and 1000s of filings, deadlines and documents. This work can be prone to mistakes even for a highly skilled attorney. Therefore, it is best to invest in a docketing subscription.
A docketing software analyzes data from IP office databases to automatically identify new filings and calculate filing deadlines, so attorneys and paralegals are not left to sort through the procedural complexities of IP on their own. The software then transfers these deadlines into a calendar of the attorney’s choosing and provides alerts to keep filings punctual.
There are many responsibilities one has to undertake when one starts their own practice. They are not limited to legal work but also extends to things like scheduling, accounting, networking etc. Therefore, it is best that a firm invests in the subscription of a site that streamlines different tasks and saves time. Some examples of this are Clio, MyCase and RocketMatter.
Develop a technology stack
A technology stack refers to the array of tools that attorneys integrate into their practices. These tools, many of which integrate with each other, help you manage all aspects of your practice and free up valuable time that can be spent on client matters and growing your practice.
Here is how you develop one!
- Create a web page for your practice: Your website is the first thing that your client will see. It greatly influences their mindset about your practise and what you can offer them. Make sure you pick a simple and catchy URL, one which is not too difficult to remember. You may use Squarespace, Strikingly or other similar sites to build a modern website easily.
- E-mail: E-mail is the most professional way of conversation. It is vital in the success of every company. With the knowledge to use the right tools you can gain a lot of information simply via using e-mail.
- For more information on how to build your technology stack, click here.
Choose a billing model
You can choose between the three billing models listed below.
This system is rather common in filings for trademarks, copyrights, and provisional applications for patents. You need to keep in mind while choosing this that the processes of filing and maintaining the IP rights are ongoing. Therefore, set boundaries with your client regarding the scope of the work you will be undertaking.
In this model, you charge your clients per hour at a pre-agreed rate. This will ensure that your time and effort towards discharging a client’s work are duly compensated (meaning, profitable use of your time).
Hybrid billing system
This model is also called the success fee model wherein you charge your client a success fee along with the fixed fee. That fee will only be payable if you succeed in securing the client’s IP rights. Along with this, it is pertinent to keep in mind that any litigation issues that may arise would be required to be resolved by you.
Networking and client intake
Networking creates new opportunities for your firm. In order to create the right network, you need to stay informed, engaged and active. You need to spread awareness about your firm. Some good ways of doing so are using Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging. Additionally, you can join the International Trademark Association (INTA). It organizes an annual meeting that over 10,000 trademark professionals from around the world attend. Communities like INTA are great resources both to improve your practice and also to network with other IP professionals.
After gaining a new client, make sure you gather all their information. You can gather the information you need for adequate representation using a client intake form. Be straightforward and ask for all the information at the very beginning. This will be beneficial for the firm down the road.
You need to aim to make your practice profitable and sustainable. IP law comes with its own set of requirements, the things listed above will guide you if you are thinking of opening your own law firm in this industry but it is not an exhaustive list of steps you need to follow. Like every other practice, the devil is in the details. Apart from keeping all this in mind, make sure you prepare some checklists, go over the complete technical and legal requirements and fulfil them in order. All the best for your future endeavours!
To know more about the various careers in IP law, register for LawSikho’s Boot Camp here. It will equip you with the knowledge you need before you kickstart your career in the IPR industry.
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