Wednesday 27 August 2008

Food for thought for IP lawyers

Times are tough – and in some ways, perhaps more so for sole practitioner solicitors in the increasingly onerous regulatory climate being imposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Running a business for a ‘one man band’ is hard enough – never mind once you add into the equation an extra layer of compliance obligations.

Clearly the new era of regulation will make it untenable eventually for true sole practices to continue in business. This is already evident from anecdotal stories of lawyers being refused insurance to set up new sole practices. How many of us are now waiting anxiously to find out the new premiums our insurers will impose? It is traditionally one of the worst times of the year for small firms of solicitors. On top of that is the impending difficulty small firms are expected to face in responding to the new questions the SRA will ask at practising certificate renewal time.

So, when a fellow sole practitioner mentioned that he was considering closing his practice, paying run off cover, and re-establishing himself as an IP consultancy, I thought there must be a better way. Surely it should be possible for highly skilled IP lawyers to be able to use their skills and solicitor title without having to run their own businesses, or go and find a job in a law firm. Many lawyers simply want to get on with their client work. They are not interested in running a business, especially one which involves spending more and more time familiarising themselves with and implementing an array of new regulations.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps I could help my friend, and he could help me. I want to grow Azrights into a top notch IP and Technology practice , and would welcome experienced lawyers on board to help achieve this. By joining Azrights as self employed lawyers, my friend and others would be able to continue working as solicitors, based either at home, or in their own offices anywhere in the country. They would continue to act for their own clients, except that they would do so under the Azright brand.

Among the benefits to them would be leaving all the regulatory and client account headaches to Azrights to manage. We would also provide the IT and email infrastructure to enable remote working. An added bonus is our website and blog which will soon appear prominently in search engines, providing an excellent resource for marketing. Lawyers in the network will be part of a firm, and will have opportunities for interacting with each other and giving and getting cross referrals. Further benefits include access to administrative and junior legal staff so that there is the option to delegate work which should be done at a more junior level,.

Clearly there is a huge difference between the network of lawyers I have in mind for Azrights, and some other types of lawyer networks, which are really only agents collecting revenue from the fees generated by self employed lawyers. If any IP solicitors out there are interested in discussing the possibility of joining Azrights network please get in touch.


  1. I do think solicitors have a harder time regulation-wise than e.g. IP consultants. The solution you propose seems logical, and should the time come that a dedicated person would be needed for regulatory matters, the cost would be part of the overhead of the firm. There is one question, however, what would you do about conflict of interest? Would the group be considered as one firm?

  2. Isn't a self employed lawyer working for a firm a partner?
    Am I missing something but I can't see the huge difference between this and other types of lawyer networks

  3. Conflict of interest rules apply in the usual way because all clients of individual solicitors are effectively clients of the firm if they are to be invoiced through the firm.
    The solicitors themselves would not carry their own insurance, so would have to invoice through the firm, which inevitably means they would need to use a letter of engagement at the outset an comply with client opening rules. So, any conflict would be picked up at that point hopefull.
    As self employeds there is nothing to stop them selling their services to other firms. So, they would by no means count as partners.
    There would be a number of intricate details to sort out as one went along, so I don't have all the answers to the many questions that arise.

  4. before expanding you might want to look at the following website:

    preferably with a browser that supports animation