Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Grass may not be Greener

One of the worst things about being a solo practitioner is that there is no one to help when you are  under the weather or need a holiday. However, judging by today's report about Nestlé's trademark lawyer, Joanne Ling who qualifies as  TIMES  Lawyer of the Week for her role in suppressing the colour purple as a sign (discussed here), things are not always better when you work in a large organisations for large clients. This is what she says about her worst day as a lawyer - in case you do not subscribe to The Times
Solo support from Boots
What was your worst day as a lawyer?
The day I went to work with flu because I had an evidence deadline. I fainted on the train and had to be carried off, which was embarrassing. Nonetheless I was at my desk by 8.30am, without a voice and feeling dreadful. The client signed the evidence at 5.30pm and I left the office after 6pm.
 So maybe we should all be rushing off to get our flu jabs so as not to let our clients down. It might not be a bad idea to plan ahead so that the deadlines are not quite so deadly. If you don't have an expensive docketing system you can always afford a Marco trial to see how knowing the deadlines can help you manage the load. Managing the client may be another matter. Ringing another Solo in times of need has been known to work too.

I am hoping some big firm employers will step up and explain how they support their staff in times of stress too. Surely you can't all suffer like this?


  1. I used to work in a large private practice firm. Yes, others can step in when you're not there, but it's very difficult for them sometimes to do substantive pieces of work, for example when complex strategies are being followed. Also a lot of the time everyone can be busy, and one is loathed to be a burden on others.

    On a related matter, The EPO seem to treat larger firms more strictly than smaller firms when it comes to asking for the date for Oral Proceedings to be moved, on the basis other attorneys would be available. The reality is that it is often very difficult for other attorneys to step in in that situation and clients are not impressed by this.

  2. So the conclusion is that we are all SOLO practitioners. Just you and me are brave enough to say so

  3. I am a solo patent practitioner with a small staff. We have linked up with another firm, under a formal arrangment to handle the situation should the flu, or a bus, hit. We considered it important to do this because of IPREGs code of practice. It also represents a useful tool when speaking with clients, as we are not "alone" in being responsible. I would be surprised if other solo practices did not have something similar in place, albeit informally. I also understand CIPA has a history of helping solos out when difficulties hit, mainly by providing access to retired patent attorneys willing to step in and help for a short period, but would be interested to hear this confirmed. Perhaps ITMA, do the same?

  4. I would be surprised if CIPA had the facilities to intervene in a disaster affected practice, beyond asking around the council members if anybody could help. Should a professional body be doing more. Does it do more?

  5. It's over twenty years - such a very long time - since there were reasons for " going it alone " : I've relied on being able to pick up the phone and talk to someone (you know who you are - and you're not all SOLO IP people) in circumstances as diverse as not being able to get to my desk (after breaking a leg whilst skiing) and simply not knowing what's best for a particular client. I've had the confidence to do this because of a belief in the integrity and goodwill of the IP community - and I've never been disappointed. A public Thank You to all - and a public expression of hope that there will (as there should be) continue to be a role for the small / solo IP practitioner - with the support of relevant professional entities !

  6. It's hard promise. .but we can. It's hard work, but very rewarding. t's a service business, and the first thing to do is to learn to serve. All else falls into place after that.