Friday, 29 August 2014

Diversity for Solos

We have been having ever such fun over on twitter debating diversity in the patent profession. Our newest, youngest, most diverse CIPA council member, Simone Ferrara is concerned about the diversity of the profession. His interest was triggered by the BBC news post about the elitism in British society. Now we are all aware that CIPA is very interested in its role in building up the Status of the profession and other things like Learning and Influence and something beginning with C. That has been debated over on LinkedIn.

IPReg has some duty to understand the diversity of the profession. However, why should our representative body be haranguing us to recruit from other universities. It seems to me that recruitment strategies are something that CIPA could genuinely be interested in because they are interested in Learning training. The purpose of this blog is therefore to provide a platform with a little bit more space so that recruitment experts can have their say. How about it @EIP_Careers?

Students aspiring to be patent agents also need to know what attributes make a good patent attorney. In my opinion, there are some that need to be inherent in the candidate when the kitten arrives. One of those, that is most significant to me, is a quick mind that is receptive to new information. This means looking for high-end academic ability. Strangely, Oxford and Cambridge select on a similar basis. The sloggers of this world are going to have difficulty catching up with our inventors. I'm not looking for super high-end. I have known all too many Ph.D.'s who think they know far more than the inventor about a subject. What I want is a bright enquiring open mind.

On that foundation, many things can be taught. The law for one. An ability to write would be a superb starting point. Even that can be taught. Business issues and Marketing are skills the kitten will need to learn. Client facing skills are an interesting topic and Advocay is dear to my heart for the neglect it has suffereds.

The LinkedIn debate contains a suggestion that there is evidence that nearly all current patent agents have the personality characteristics of INTJ on the Myers Briggs test, which makes them bookish and not inclined to use twitter or social media. This makes getting them to debate a challenge. In many ways this may be the measure of diversity we want to change rather than the names of Univerisites on the CV. A few more outgoing, entrepreneurial members of the profession would be very welcome.

Hopefully the advent of ABS will allow kittens of wider skill sets to find homes within the patent profession. One way of encouraging such diversity would be to encourage patent agents to do a little bit more than boring old agency work, however profitable that might be. We need to open our minds and offer our clients more. In short, you might find that the solos you have excluded have something to say.


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  2. “Hi Barbara, thanks for the name drop!

    I don’t think diversity and quality are mutually exclusive. There is no doubt the nature of the profession engenders a high barrier to entry but I don’t think this should be viewed negatively. It is more the criteria on which that barrier is set that is moving; less on pure academics and now on considering applicants’ overall skill set.

    We receive a large number of applicants each year at entry level which means we have the opportunity to consider those from both the traditional elite and other universities. It is not always the elite graduate who is successful. For us academic attainment is an important criteria. However, as an innovative, modern practice with plenty of direct client interaction (even for our most junior attorneys) some of the other skills such as communication and presentation are equally important. If that is coupled with a broader understanding of how IP is influential in a commercial context, all the better.

    It’s arguably no longer enough to be part of the academic elite given the softer skills that firms, such as EIP, are now placing at a premium in their recruitment strategies. This alone will help drive diversity in the profession over the next 10-15 years, in my view.


  3. Not sure whether I qualify to debate this one, as I am not a patent agent. I am, however, an INTJ. And use social media to comment about diversity in IP:

    I have also recruited for the last 15 years, and have employed staff with degrees from a wide range of universities, including Oxford.

    Isn't the reality that buying an Oxbridge graduate is liking buying an IBM computer - it is a safe, high-quality choice. And that large professional partnerships thrive on safe, high-quality choices, preferring the person who never makes a mistake to the person who thinks in a more creative and original way, but perhaps with less reliability?

  4. Can't keep these boys off twitter so you had better join them out there now

  5. The Oxbridge issue is a red herring. In my original post on LinkedIn I was flagging diversity in terms of metrics that are not ordinarily used. Oxbridge of course being one that preoccupies many. A first from any University is not a good marker for anything other than academic excellence. The only metric that has mattered in the past for patent attorney recruitment. More enlightened firms such as EIP seek to recruit on other parameters and some will exclude first class degrees as a marker for the wrong "sort" of person suited to modern day IP related work. Whilst I am not a fan of the Myers Briggs the anecdote was to illustrate a point, which seems to be have been missed. Any industry that has a concentration of limited personality types has a problem. Anyone I have ever worked with in industry sees that but the patent profession does not.

    A far more important point I was flagging is relevance. Others (non-traditional IP advisors) are quickly moving into the IP market. They are smarter, better and more relevant and they don't have firsts in science from Oxbridge and none are INTJ.

  6. Most business minds will say that it is terrible to have groupthink. Stagnation occurs, blindspots arise, the business ends up with a flat tyre.

    The patent profession is full of a single type of person... but that would suggest that the outcome would be a profession blinded by change, self satisfied and intransigent, unaware of the world around it or impending doom