Sunday 29 June 2008

Why does no one post comments?

Many thanks to my fellow bloggers for their helpful posts and comments to my blog posts. I certainly get a lot out of blogging as a result of what I learn from their comments. However, I feel baffled as to why there are so few comments from others, and wonder whether this might be because no one else is reading the blog apart from the 3 of us!

What would it take for people to take a more active part in this blog? There is a danger that the blog will become untenable if no one else expresses sufficient interest in it....

I do remember having had some responses to posts via the google groups, and am curious to know whether this is because people want their comments to remain private, or whether it is because it is more convenient to give comments in that way. Certainly google does not make it easy to post comments to blogs, as I have found out from my own failed attempts at posting comments. Am really interested in the answer to this as my own firm's blog gets no comments, and am wondering how to improve the situation. Does it have somethng to do with the google blogging comment facility which makes it difficult to comment.... Dying to receive your comments....

Thursday 26 June 2008

The name of the game: CONTRO£?

CONTRO£ might look more like a typo or a wheeze devised by a cybersquatter for getting more click-throughs -- but it's the name of a new scheme set up by major UK law firm Addleshaw Goddard with the aim of providing

"a cutting edge approach to funding civil litigation which reduces the cost of disputes and provides clients with more financial control and certainty during disputes than ever before". The cutting edge turns out to be conditional fee agreements, after-the-event insurance and third party funding (or a combination of all three), thus enabling their clients to be placed fully in control of the amount of risk they take. The firm adds: "We can reduce the day-to-day cost of running disputes; we can reduce (or eliminate entirely) the amount of our client's costs and expenses (including opponents' costs) if the client loses, and we can give our clients financial certainty in an inherently uncertain area.

Right: The Joys of Google Image -- search for "control freak" and on the first page of results you end up with Keira Knightly

The litigation landscape is changing dramatically ..., especially for clients who might have had a good case in the past, but ruled out making a claim because of uncertainty and potentially high costs. Our approach is very different to the standard approach by other law firms and represents a great value proposition for clients. By standing shoulder to shoulder with them, backing our judgement and sharing the risk we're demonstrating more commitment to clients than ever before".

This looks like a good topic for discussion, since there would seem to be plenty of ways in which this package of goodies can be deployed -- and plenty of opportunities for lawyers on the other side to exploit their adversaries' strength. Thoughts, anyone?

Sunday 22 June 2008

Why has the IPO changed its practice re online filing?

I too am still struggling post INTA and LA networking trip from which have just returned.

As life is so busy it is not always possible to get to grips with all the details one needs to know. So, it would be extremely useful if somebody who is familiar with the reasons behind one recent IPO change of practice which is puzzling me but which I don't have the time to look into would either please post a blog item on it or comment on this blog. The change in question is that it is no longer possible to file an application online unless one pays for it straight away. Previously, we used to file the application, wait till its details were posted online, check that it was correct, and then send in a cheque to complete the application. If for some reason we needed to abandon the application we did so without incurring a charge. This worked extremely well for me as I left junior staff to file the desired application but could check it later before making payment. Now, according to my junior staff, it is necessary to submit the paper form if we wish to have this same flexibility of abandoning the application should we want to. Is this the only way? Is it really necessary for us to print out and post the application form? We are a paperless office and given that the IPO seems to also want to cut down on paper, it seems nonsensical for them to have introduced changes which increase the volume of paper they will generate. Can anyone shed light on the reasons behind this change of practice, and indeed whether there is another way to achieve the possibility of abandoning an application if necessary?

Friday 13 June 2008

Still struggling

Some weeks after I've returned from the INTA conference in Berlin in May, I'm still struggling to catch up with myself. I reckoned I lost a week, all things told, and I'm still about two days behind myself. Am I alone in this regard? Are there techniques for dealing with this sort of thing?

Sunday 8 June 2008

Attractive Insurance

Several times recently I have been told by a prospective SOLO that their quote for professional indemnity insurance premiums was lower than they expected. Given an attractive quote based on an anticipated turnover, the temptation is to take it and not ask questions about the method of calculation. After all we must be able to trust the insurance world to play fair. Newvertheless it is wise to ask how the premium is computed before you get on the escalator. One way they do it is to apply a rate to the average fee income over the preceding N years. This is great in year 1 as there is no income but then comes year 2 and the premium rises and so on until you have completed N years.

Now for a policy that pays on a claims-made basis -which means if the claim is made during the policy year, you are covered even if it was for work done last year or the year before - this is quite sensible when you think about it. When you first open the doors chances are you won't receive a claim in that first year at all but the risk increases the longer you have been in practice and so does the premium which can be a surprise and an embarrassment if your income is not on such a steep escalator.

Solicitors, of course, must choose from an approved list of providers as required by the SRA but for the unregulated freelance there are alternatives. Professional insurance is available from a wide range of sources. The cover will never be as all-embracing as the gold plated SRA policy terms but may be adequate. In my travels I discovered this interesting page . Comments very welcome. UK and Irish patent attornies have a mutual insurance association PAMIA. They also consider trademark specialists. For them N is 3.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

A Guest Blog on Why be Solo

Hello Shireen,

You may remember that we met at the last Solo event in London.

My reasons for going 'Solo' are similar yours in that I was looking for flexibility in my working hours (for family reasons) but I also wanted to undertake good quality IP work without commuting to London (I am based in Oxford). (I have written briefly about my experience in an article published in the May issue of the LES Newsexchange.)

Although I was an Equity Partner at a couple of firms, now that I have experienced the freedom of working for myself I think it would be hard to relinquish it!

Having said that, I don't think the benefits of operating a Solo practice are just for the practitioner. I believe that clients can receive better value and support from sole practitioners than they might from larger firms because we can be more flexible in meeting client needs and more adaptable to changing circumstances.

I am a great fan of Solo and, like you, believe that we can all benefit from sharing with one another our knowledge and experiences of running Solo. With that in mind I would be interested to hear what accounts software Solo practitioners are using and whether they would recommend it.

Dr Belinda Isaac

Monday 2 June 2008

Why is it So Hard to Join the GoogleGroup

Sometimes it may seem that joining the Google group associated with this blog is more of a struggle than commuting to work.

Everyone in the whole world can read the blog and anyone with a RSS reader can receive the posts but if you want to receive them directly to your e-mail then you can join the group and all the posts will arrive. You will also be able to send messages to the other members of the group. For example, if you wanted to get a friendly recommendation for a lawyer in Australia you could ask the group.

This is the reason I wanted to make the group closed so that you would know that if you sent such a message it would go to like-minded Solo practitioners or sympathetic real IP professionals. We all have to cope with a lot of spam but I would prefer that the group wasn't responsible for generating any more. Therefore, if you are trying to join the group, there is apoint where you will see a free text box. The idea is that you spend a few minutes to me that indicates you are seriously interested in IP. It easy for those of you who are and surprisingly difficult for those just looking to harvest e-mail addresses.

Sunday 1 June 2008

Why are we sole practitioners?

At the recent INTA conference I met a few sole practitioners from other parts of the world, and had a chance to chat to some of the UK sole practitioner contingent that were present at the Meet the Bloggers session organised by Jeremy Phillips. Finding out why people are now in sole practice is really helpful as you can learn from their experience. So, anyone feeling generous, why not write a piece for us about your story? Where are you now, why are you there, and where are you heading?
In the meantime, I chanced upon Charon QC’s The Blawg here who has posted a podcast interview with a well known sole practitioner, Susan Singleton here The podcast is well worth listening to. Susan is firmly committed to sole practice. Certainly her name is very apt for sole practice.
The reason I myself set up alone was the lack of flexible working options when I wanted to return to work after more than 5 years out of the workplace. Having no family living nearby, and after a year or so of unsatisfactory childcare solutions when I worked part time at Reuters after the birth of my first daughter, I decided to just focus on raising my two daughters. Little did I know how difficult it would be to get back into a suitable job.
No employer was offering the flexibility that I needed for my child care responsibilities when I tried to return to work in 1996. Ideally I wanted to work till 3pm, leave to collect the children from school, and then carry on working later in the evening at home once my husband was back from work. But this was not an option. At the time my youngest daughter was still just 3. So, I ended up doing various consultancy jobs, and even worked for a while in a professional support role at Eversheds. Although the job was part time, it was hardly flexible, and I didn't want to be a support lawyer anyway. So, in the end afer a couple of years back in the work place, I gave it all up. It was simply too hard.
In the process I probably became totally unemployable as I no longer had the distinction of being ‘freshly out of an LLM degree course’ once I began to look around again in 2002.
Setting up my own firm seemed the way to use my legal skills while having enough flexibility to be around for my daughters who were by then 10 and 12. But I was completely clueless about what would be involved in running a law firm, and having my own firm has been a massive learning curve. For example, if only someone had warned me not to have a client account! I reckon I now spend more than £5,000 a year complying with the requirements of the Solicitors Client Account Rules.
Reading business books, such as Sahar Hashemi's 'Anyone can do it' have inspired and taught me a lot about running a business. Also important have been some key contacts I’ve made through networking, including through the Solo IP network. Sometimes when I have lacked the knowledge or skills to do a piece of work completely alone, rather than struggle over it, I have involved another specialist, and this has benefited both me, the expert, and the client. If nothing else this group has the potential to help others in the same way.
In the process of developing Azrights I have become employable judging by the one or two offers I have had to enter discussions about joining existing firms. I also suspect that now I would be able to work flexibily too, because firms would realise that working flexibly does not mean I work part time hours - far from it.
However, having now created Azrights, I have loads of ideas for developing the practice further, and am reluctant to give it all up, and give it all over to a larger firm. A large law firm would just restrict my freedom, introduce a layer of politics I am not suited to, and I suspect many of my ideas would be rejected out of hand by the other partners. So, I intend to stay solo for the foreseeable future – although it would be wonderful to meet like minded individuals to join forces with, as I definitely want to grow the practice.
I am hoping that some of the wonderful sole practitioners I met from other countries will be persuaded to join this group and contribute their stories.