Wednesday 27 May 2009

Firm Links

Azrights has set up a networking group for small law firms (of fewer than 5 partners). It is called Firm Links.

Its purpose is to afford small law firms an opportunity to discuss matters of mutual interest. It will provide a perfect environment for generating new ideas, exchanging experiences, hearing other people’s views and therefore gaining a different perspective.

The first discussion forum is taking place at a central London location on Tuesday 2nd June, 2009 over breakfast. The cost to attend is £20 plus VAT. So far we have invited solicitors known to us through networking.

There is no limit to the number of solicitors who may be added to the invitation list. The way Firm Links works is that the first 25 solicitors to accept an invitation for a meeting will attend the meeting for that month. So, there is no obligation to attend regularly.

More about Firm Links

Small practices face unique challenges – particularly in the light of the changes brought about by the Legal Services Act and the likely increased costs of regulation. By getting together and discussing business matters with other law firms we aim to find solutions and generate new creative ways of improving our individual businesses.

Apart from picking up useful information, participants will make new contacts with a variety of other lawyers. The meetings will begin with an opportunity for each participant to give a 1-2 minute ‘elevator speech’ to introduce themselves to the group. We advise bringing plenty of business cards to pass around.

Firm Links will usually meet once a month over breakfast, but we may also arrange other events too. (Only one representative of a law firm may attend the same meeting, although more than one solicitor from that firm may be on the invitation list). There is no restriction on the number of lawyers specialising in a given area of law. The only absolute rule for now is that if a firm grows to more than 5 partners it will no longer be eligible to attend Firm Links.

Topic for 2nd June discussion - Professional Indemnity Insurance

The topic for discussion is Insurance following last year’s difficult PI renewal situation. The Gazette reported on 23 April that this year is also going to be a difficult renewal situation. With the current economic downturn, and the increasingly competitive landscape on the horizon, what impact does another adverse insurance season have on small firms? Does the current insurance problem have the potential to force the closure of yet more law firms? What are your thoughts on what the insurers will be looking out for? Have you developed or implemented any changes that might have a beneficial impact on your insurance renewal experience this year? What preparation can we make? Is Lexcel relevant to small firms? Does it help?

The Law Society has also produced a practice note on a dedicated website and is running CPD seminars, as part of its tool kit to help members “more effectively prepare their firms for obtaining or renewing their PII and developing best practice approaches for the long term.”

If you do not want miss out on the first meeting on 2nd June, then please email us here before 28th May. Email the same address if you would like to be added to the invitation list for future meetings.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Insurance: a baffling proposition

I was speaking today to a Chicago IP attorney, Jim Faier, who was telling me of the problems faced by a local colleague who was seeking to renew his PI insurance. The colleague in question derived a steady volume of work from a single large corporate client in the healthcare sector which had followed him when he left a bigger firm. The insurance company apparently said that, unless he substantially diversified his sources of income and made himself less dependent on a single client, his insurance premium would be sharply increased.

I thought this strange, since prima facie there appears to be no connection between the number of clients from whom work is received and the likelihood of an insured risk becoming the subject of a claim. Jim agreed with me that there was no obvious actuarial basis for such a premium hike to be levied. I write therefore to ask readers whether this is a feature of PI insurance elsewhere than in the state of Illinois.

Sunday 10 May 2009

Early Assist for Trademark Applicants

I have been working on a personal response to the UK IPO consultation on credit crunch fee structures which is due in before 1 June 2009. To download the consultation paper go to

The overriding objective of the consultation is that businesses should protect their trademarks and inventions. It is also clear that the IPO feel some responsibility to the significant proportion of unrepresented applicants. These may represent a larger proportion of applications abandoned before advertisement and they were certainly a category Gowers cared about. Of course we must point out that there are some very cost-effective qualified trademark professionals available for hire amongst the SOLO group. If you need or want to offer help post a comment.

Amongst the proposals are a new Early Assist program, abolition or suspension of the Fast Track and encouragement for e-filing. The Early assist program appears to replace the recently abolished Search and Advisory Service and would let businesses get help and refunds of some of their fees if they wanted to represent themselves.
If I were an entrepreneur starting a business today with next to no cash, I would not spend what I had on a trademark attorney. I would try the DIY route. I might not bother to protect my mark at all. If I were starting a stay-small business it is not much of a priority, but let's suppose I want to grow my business then protecting the brand is on the agenda and a UK trademark is a good place to start. For such a one, is this Early Assist program the best solution? Can we improve it? I think we can. I think it could be better offered as IP Aid by selected quality approved private practitioners rather than through the IPO. Some of the more innovative filing services such as Trademark Direct are already offering a No TM No fee guarantee. Our entrepreneur does not want to waste his limited cash. In the beginning it is easier to change a name than fight a war.
Therefore I think this idea needs encouragement and I am hoping we can think of ways that would make it work better and ensure that the trademarks registered with such assistance are not just in compliance with the Act and rules, but the right protection for the business as well.