Without Disruptive Innovation, Many IP Law Firms Destined to Meet Same Fate As Buggy Whip Makers

A possible upside to the recent economic downturn is that many previously accepted business models are being revealed as in need of substantial reinvention or even total elimination. The billable hour/leverage law firm model for legal services is one of these increasingly maligned business models, and is now appearing to be in danger of ending up in the dustbin of history. Specifically, even those who benefit handsomely from the billable hour, such as the Cravath firm’s many $800 per hour lawyers, now realize the fundamental irrationality of charging a client for time spent instead of value provided. This alone should signal that change is in the air.

Notwithstanding the growing conversation about the need for alternative client service models, I fear that the majority of IP law firms will either try to ignore the desire for change or will respond by offering only incremental modifications to their existing methods of providing legal services to their clients. As someone with considerable experience dealing with IP lawyers, I believe that, unfortunately, the conservative nature of most IP attorneys means that IP firms will likely lag behind in client service innovations. Thus, I am of the opinion that many prestigious and historically highly profitable IP law firms will in the foreseeable future cease to exist.

I reach this conclusion as a result of various salient experiences. In one of these, several years ago, I approached a managing partner of a well-known IP law firm with suggestions of how to decrease the number of attorney hours expended on client matters. At that time, the firm was beginning to experience considerable push back from clients about the cost of routine legal services. I noted to the managing partner that he could lower the cost non-substantive e.g., administrative client IP matters, by assigning such tasks to lower billing paralegals. His response to this idea: “If paralegals did the work, what would the 1st and 2nd year associates do?”

Of course, the central premise of the managing partner’s response was that in order to keep the gears of the firm’s billable hour/leverage partner model turning smoothly, he needed to keep the young associates busy billing by the hour. The existing paradigm of his law firm required that it keep hiring associates to increase partner leverage and ensure that they efficiently billed clients by the hour, with a significant portion of each associate’s billed time directly going into the partner’s pockets. Left out of this business model was whether the clients’ best interests were properly served by the model that best served the law firm’s partnership.

Clearly, this law firm was not well managed, which might serve as an excuse for the managing partner’s self-serving perspective on client IP legal services. However, my experience as a corporate buyer of IP legal services further revealed that that the billable hour/leverage partner business model was an arrangement that frequently ut the client–which was now me–after the law firm’s interests.

As an in-house counsel spending several $100K’s per year for legal services at a number of respected IP firms, I consistently felt that when I called outside counsel for assistance the first thought that popped into the lawyer’s mind was “So glad she called–I wonder how much work this call is going to lead to?” More often than not, I got the sense that my outside IP lawyers viewed my legal concerns as problems for them to solve on a per hour basis, not as issues that might affect the profits of the company for which I worked. The difference is subtle, but critical: the context of the former is lawyer as a service provider, whereas the latter is lawyer as a business partner.

Against these experiences, I was not surprised at what I heard recently when discussing my feelings about the billable hour/leverage model with a partner friend at one of the top IP specialty law firms in the US. This partner echoed my sentiments about the need for innovation in IP client services. However, she also indicated that most of her firm’s partners do not recognize that there is a problem with the way they currently provide IP legal services to their clients. As she told it, many of her more senior partners have been living well on the billable hour/leverage model, so they currently see little need to modify their behavior. My partner friend nonetheless realizes that her law firm is critically ill and is likely to soon experience something akin to sudden cardiac arrest. Sadly, she is not a member of her law firm’s management and, since there is no upper level recognition that change is needed, it would serve little purpose for her to raise her concerns to those partners who could effect change (and would probably not be politically expedient for her to do so).

The failure of these currently well-compensated IP law firm partners to recognize the shifting winds of their client’s acceptance of their billing practices–the fundamental basis of their law firm’s business model–mirrors the response of entrenched interests throughout history to innovations that did not mesh with their existing business model paradigm. Moreover, the inability of many IP law firms to recognize the climate for change leads me to believe that many of these venerated law firms will soon meet the fate of buggy whip manufacturers if they do not innovate in the manner by which they provide legal services to their clients.

Playing out this analogy, buggy whip manufacturers met their demise because they thought they were in the buggy whip business when they were actually in the transportation business. When buggy whips became obsolete, so did these formerly prosperous manufacturers. Notably, buggy whip manufacturers possessed the ability to change and thrive in the new world of the automobile. They already held strong business relationships with the buggy manufacturers that became the first automobile companies. They also employed skilled craftsmen who could have turned their efforts to making leather seat covers or other aspects of the automobile. These buggy whip manufacturers needed only to accept that they needed to ride the wave of innovation occurring at that time and reinvent themselves as suppliers to automobile manufacturers instead of buggy makers.

Like buggy whip manufacturers, I believe that many lawyers have become so entrenched in the law firm business that they have effectively forgotten that they are first legal services providers. As people charged with ensuring the continued vitality of the business, law firm lawyers often become primarily fee generators in that the fees are obtained from billing clients by the hour for legal services. Care and feeding of the law firm and its partners by ensuring constant creation of billable hours therefore often takes precedence over the legal needs of clients. Also analogous to buggy whip manufactures, IP lawyers working in law firms have the ability to change to prevent obsolescence. Indeed, these lawyers possess the requisite skills to continue practicing their craft outside of the existing paradigm of the law firm. Still further akin to buggy whip manufacturers, lawyers also have the existing relationships with customers i.e., clients, which gives them a valuable head start over newcomers who wish to enter the IP legal service arena using innovative, but unfamiliar, client service models.

Using the well-known picture of obsolescence presented by buggy whip manufacturers more than 100 years ago, I believe that IP lawyers who recognize that they must embrace innovation in the way they provide IP legal services to clients will be poised for success when their clients decide that the time for change has arrived. On the other hand, lawyers who believe they are in the IP law firm business will invariably be left behind when innovations in client service enter the marketplace that render the law firm business model obsolete.

IP lawyers should not expect that they will be able to predict when their clients will demand change. As with the customers of buggy whip manufacturers, law firm clients will not serve their IP counsel with notice warning prior to taking their business to lawyers who provide them with innovative, and more client-centric, service models. To the contrary, when clients are finally presented with acceptable alternatives, they will naturally migrate to the innovation that best meets their business needs. The result will be that one day, these currently successful IP lawyers will likely wake up to realize that they are losing their clients in droves to lawyers who succeeded in developing and introducing an innovative client service model to the world. And, as most lawyers will tell you, once a client is gone, they are likely gone forever.

Not only will clients fail to announce that they intend to leave their law firm before they do so, they also will not tell their lawyers how you can serve them better. Why should they–they are not in the business of providing legal services. Accordingly, mutually beneficial client service innovations must be generated by and because of lawyer action. But, because of their inherently conservative nature, I believe that many IP lawyers may fail to realize that innovation is critical until it is too late to preserve their client base.

Some might contend that complaints about the billable hour model have abounded for many years, but no major changes have occurred to date, thus indicating that most clients may be all bluster and no action. While it is certainly true that clients exerted no real pressure on lawyers for change in the past, circumstances are markedly different today than before. Disruptive innovation is rocketing through society, and many formerly solid business models, such as newspapers and recorded music, are now teetering on the cusp of demise as a result.

The signals are there that law IP firms that rely on the billable hour/leverage model appear poised to experience significant stress from clients and critics in the near future. Those relying on this model for their livelihood would be well-served to look for innovative ways to address this changing environment. In short, those who think that the billable hour/leverage law firm model will escape the transformative business innovations of the current era are merely “whistling past the graveyard.” IP law firms, as well as other types of law firms, must innovate now and innovate big or I fear they will suffer the fate of the buggy whip makers.

Getting to Know the People Working at a Law Firm

Legal aid seekers may find it hard to determine whom to talk to regarding their concerns because of the many people who are employed in a law firm, especially the large ones. These frequently happen particularly if the law office lacks an information desk to assist their clients. Hence, this article will try to help you identify those personnel and their jobs for you to know who to approach for your particular case.

In common legal practices, law firms have a certain hierarchal structure. This is to create a smooth flowing relationship among the employees, particularly concerning their task. Here is a typical list of a law firm staff:

1. Law Firm Owners – They are commonly referred to as partners. Usually, the law firm is named after them since they are the most prestigious lawyers in the company. Because of their vast experience and expertise in their field, their service fees are considered the highest.

2. Legal Associates – These individuals are also lawyers. However, they do not share the ownership of the firm. Associates have much lesser experience as compared to partners, but may also be very good in their own specialization. In due time, they may possibly be partners in the firm. Clients may also expect lower charges from them.

3. Contractual Lawyers – If in case the employed lawyers are not enough to handle the upsurge of cases brought by their clients, the law firm may hire contractual lawyers. They serve as supports to the associates and doing they work on a part-time basis. They are being paid based on an hourly rate and mostly getting higher compensation from their other clients outside a firm.

4. “Of Counsels” – Commonly, these lawyers are formerly connected with a law firm who opted to continue his or her relationship with the company after his or her quasi-retirement. Nevertheless, it is up to the owners of the firm to decide regarding their working arrangement.

5. Legal Clerks – Usually, they are law students who are tasked to work on legal researches or to assist the lawyers in setting up their clients’ cases. They also do other jobs that may be assigned to them by the lawyers. This serves as their training ground for their future profession as lawyers.

6. Paralegals – Legally trained individuals but do not have their professional licenses yet. Ordinarily, they are equipped with practical knowledge of the law that may be very useful for the lawyers to whom they work with.

7. Secretaries – Their role is very vital for every lawyer. They help in organizing the schedules, making client calls, and all other tasks that may be appointed to them by the lawyers.

8. Legal Investigators – They are assigned to work in the field, to make an investigation on a certain case handled by the law firm.

9. Administrations Officers – They are in-charge of the internal dealings of the law firm. Depending on their need, law firms may hire a human resource officer, accountant and any other important positions.

10. Receptionists – They are the front-liners of a law firm, assisting the clients about their legal concerns and ensuring them of having a great visit to the office.

Law Firms Don’t Need Marketing! We Sell Ourselves!

Law Firms are not traditionally viewed as businesses in the same way that other companies are. This derives largely from the fact that lawyers have long occupied a different position in our society than business-people. For good or worse, however, things have changed over the past few decades, and more than ever, law firms are now acting like other businesses.

Unfortunately, this also means that law firms now have to put more effort into certain aspects of business that they previously ignored. Marketing, in particular, is an area that law firms, now more than ever, are having to focus on. Competition for clients is tougher than ever, making it necessary to differentiate your legal practice from that of your competitors. How can one efficiently and smartly go about this?

To begin with, you need to come up with a consistent message. If you tell people 100 different things about your firm, then you run the risk that they don’t remember any of them. In addition, no one will ever think that you are an expert in any area. Part of coming up with a consistent message is focusing in on a particular area of practice. The lawyers at your firm may have experience in a number of different areas, but when it comes to marketing yourself, you need to target one area at a time. Pick your strongest area or the area you most want to grow, and build your message around that area. Once you get a lot of clients coming in because of your consistent marketing in that area, you can move on to another.

Use real testimonials. Obviously, if you’re just starting out, then this is tough, so don’t worry about it. However, if you have any experience at all, ask your prior clients if you can use them for a very short, written testimonial. Potential clients are heavily swayed by another person who was in their same situation telling them that you helped with that situation. This kind of marketing is way more persuasive than you telling them over and over how good you are at something.

Always imagine your perfect client. This tip is more of a general thought-process than anything else. Whenever you do any type of advertising or marketing for your law firm, you need to make sure that you’re always thinking about it from the perspective of your perfect client. It sounds simple, but what it really requires is going out and getting to know your perfect clients. Ask them what they’re looking for in a law firm or a lawyer, and ask them what their concerns are. If you’re able to do this, it is an extremely valuable part of your marketing.

I love marketing, but at first it was very daunting for me. I had no idea what to do, what to say, or where to market myself. Even now, I always question my techniques to see if I can improve them. Keep in mind that marketing takes a little time, so don’t give up right after you get started. At the same time, if something isn’t working after a few months, re-evaluate and try to figure what’s not working about it.

Divorce Tips For Men – 3 Surefire Ways to Get the Best Possible Lawyer

If you are thinking of commencing divorce proceedings then before you do anything you need to find a good divorce lawyer to act on your behalf. As you will soon discover there are plenty of good lawyers around but not all of these are suitable for helping you to deal with the complexities of divorce. In this article we offer some divorce tips for men that could ensure that they find a great divorce lawyer.

Tip 1 – It is important that as this is such a stressful time you need to find a lawyer who will remain calm throughout the proceedings. So interview several and deal with the one who you feel most comfortable with discussing personal issues regarding your marriage. Also look for a lawyer who is going to be willing to spend time answering your questions and understands how important it is you get the best divorce settlement possible.

Tip 2 – As well as the lawyer understanding the intricacies and complexities of divorce laws you need one who is going to be honest with you. The only ones that can truly be honest are those who understand the various laws relating to divorce and how they can affect the outcome of yours. Ideally you should choose a lawyer who specializes in divorce proceedings as they will be able to help you cope with the stress that such proceedings will place you under more easily.

Tip 3 – Of course the other thing one needs to take into consideration when trying to find a good divorce lawyer is your budget. If you are at all worried about paying their fees then look for someone who instead of charging you by the hour will charge a flat rate, but make sure they tell you what services they provide for this fee.

Tips For Choosing The Best Accident Lawyer

If you are looking to claim compensation after an accident then it is always advisable to seek legal advice from a qualified accident lawyer. Anyone who has been through an accident which caused serious injuries will know how traumatic it can be, which is why hiring an experienced lawyer will ensure you not only get the compensation you deserve but that you are also give time to rest and recover.

Personal injury and accident claims are big business these days and as a result there are literally thousands of lawyers both nationally and locally who are looking to take on accident claims. The problem is not all law firms are the same and whilst some will take on every case that comes through the door, others will only accept claims for specific types of accident and personal injury. Therefore the first step for anyone looking to claim damages is to find the right lawyer for their needs.

It is important not to leave it too long after the accident before you begin looking for an accident lawyer. The longer you leave it the harder it will be for your lawyer to collect the necessary evidence to prove negligence by the other party. Claims are also time sensitive and need to be made within a statutory time period.

Any lawyer you hire to represent you needs to be experienced and qualified in their field. You need someone who has experience of dealing with your particular kind of injuries, is able to interpret medical and accident reports, deal with insurance companies and defense lawyers for the other side. It may also be advisable to hire someone who has trial experience should your claim go to court.

Personal recommendations are always the best way to find good, reputable lawyers so ask around your family and friends, especially if you know someone has recently made a claim for personal injuries. Recommendations like this should give you confidence that a particular is worth approaching and the more recommendations you can get the better.

The internet is another valuable resource when it comes to finding legal assistance. There are many legal directory websites which list lawyers by state or area and which can give plenty of information such as client testimonies, biographies of lawyers and further information on making a claim. Check out individual law firm websites too to get a better insight in to particular firms.

If you fail to get any personal recommendations or do not have internet access then you can ask at your local bar association for a referral. The bar association offers a lawyer referral service which will put you in touch with a lawyer that they feel best suits your needs. You are under no obligation to hire them but you may have to pay a referral fee. Alternatively you can ask at your local courthouse for a list of approved lawyers in your local area.

Once you think you have found a Maryland accident lawyer to represent you do arrange to meet with them in person. This initial consultation is usually free and will give you the chance to ask them more in depth questions about their experience, qualifications and fees.