Tuesday 1 July 2008

Networking or Nepotism

In an age where everyone is encouraged to network, whether at face-to-face business luncheons or online with sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, it's difficult to remember that nepotism used to be a dirty word. It seems to me that we need to distinguish between recommendations that are made by someone who is putting their own reputation at stake and those that are made to reinforce the power of the person making them. The latter are usually made at the behest of the recommendee. If I employ Alice because she is a friend of the Queen, the Queen's reputation will not suffer if Alice turns out to be a lazy employee. However,if you asked me if I knew of any good trademark attorneys in Wonderland and I recommended Alice and she turns out to be an expensive disappointment, my reputation will suffer.

Work referrers are a great resource, but it is really important not to let them down by providing a poor service to the client - even if the client doesn't know its a poor service. For those businesses who rely on recommendations, I wonder how many ask about the relationship with the recommended firm. If they do ask how do they rate the answers. I recommend this adviser because I use them myself sounds the best - unless that advisor is also paying commission for the recommendation. Of course, if you are practising as a solicitor, keeping on the right side of Rule 9 of the solicitors code of conduct probably means that work referral is a no-go area for the solo practitioner. See here if you want to keep on the rails.

I wonder how the newly formed patent and trademark regulator is going to approach this issue.


  1. There are a lot of different points being raised by your post, and not sure whether this is helpful in response, but my terms of business say that where we need to instruct third party agents to act for a client we are not liable for their deficiencies, and although we will of course take care to select third parties who are of good quality, we sometimes have limited knowledge of their work, so we welcome feedback from the client so that we know more about the quality of third parties we refer.
    All else being equal, I would refer someone whom I have met over someone I have never met, and if there is a choice of people, then I will use the one I liked most because I reckon they will be good to do business with. One hopes that professionals are of a certain standard, so that it will only be in rare cases where one will end up choosing someone incompetent.

  2. Well this is the second attempt to say that the above comment was from me, but for some reason I seem only to be able to leave anonymous comments. Comments in my own name seem to vanish without trace. I am obviously doing something wrong, so will try once more and see what happens...

  3. Oh I was so excited I thought we've got a new commenter. You're quite right my post is a bit of a ramble.
    I suspect that rule 9 doesn't embrace trademark agents that one might subcontract a portion of the work to, but still supervise - but maybe it does. Personally, I've always taken the view that I would be liable if an overseas agent were negligent. I certainly notified my insurer when an Egyptian agent reported an office action to me the day after the final inextensible deadline for responding (This is a historical example and does not relate to my present firm or insurer). While my firm would have would have a claim against their insurer (if any), I think my client could have claimed against my firm. They didn't make a claim, which was inordinately well mannnered. However, insurance claims always go up in times of recession.