Tuesday 27 April 2010

Consultancy - an Option in Adversity

Those of us with accounting years that end in March will be counting the cost of the recession and the inevitable decline in demand and increase in bad debts. A sole solicitors practice does have significant overheads even if you have no staff and no office. The idea of working as a consultant for an established regulated practice has attractions and has been discussed on this blog before.
If you want to close your practice you still have run-off insurance to buy and its going to be expensive to re-start so you need to be sure this is the right course if you are going to move in as a consultant. Often a consultant is just a grand name for an employee and this may well be a good option. There are very few IP vacancies advertised at the moment. However a consultancy is a way of sharing the risk and allowing you to preserve some independence.
  • Will it be exclusive? You can make the system work for two perhaps as many as three firms.
  • Is there a guaranteed retainer?
  • Does the firm have a work stream for your speciality or are you expected to bring in or generate the work?
  • What percentage of the billings you generate will you receive?
  • What percentage of the billings for clients you introduce will you be entitled to. 
  • Does the firm you will be consulting for have a strong and established brand.
There are some law firms such as Keystone that work only with consultants. Perhaps some of their two dozen IP consultants would like to comment on  how this works for them.


  1. I am interested to speak to anyone wanting to become a consultant as we now have the infrastructure and technology in place to allow for remote working. To be a consultant solicitor you need to have at least 3 years practising certificates. Email me at azrights.co.uk if you want to discuss possibilities.
    Am not currently looking for an IP consultant so much as an employment/corporate one - if anyone knows anyone please point them my way.

  2. I have my own solo regulated solicitor's practice but also act as a consultant to six law firms who either do not have any IP expertise or use me as a "run off" for projects. With each of the consulting firms I have negotiated terms and each are different. Some firms expect me to generate my own work but always from their existing client base. As I have my own practice then any completely new clients are generated for that firm. None of the consluting firms pay a guaranteed retainer but I get paid for any non-fee paying work (articles, training of juniors etc..) at a lower rate. The % of billings depends on the terms of engagement I have been able to negotiate but I have a minimum I would work for! I have separate arrangements for any work I bring to these firms (outside my own expertise) and I get a % of their billings (again negotiated separately). Each of the firms I consult for have different reasons to engage me, some have good general commercial/corporate presence and others are niche practices outside IP law. All are good solid established "names". I love the flexibility this method of working offers me and (touch wood) during the past year, since I started as a solo/consultant, I have been able to keep my hamster in the style to which she had become accustomed. It seems to be a good "win/win" in current times as the firms I work for only pay me for work done (no overheads) and they all say that they would not engage someone of my seniority full time in the forseeable future.
    Sarah Staines, Touchstone Legal Services: sarah@touchstonels.com; www.touchstonels.com

  3. Speaking to IP practitioners these days, I'm aware that several are contemplating consultancy -- usually based on their (former) firm -- as a less financially damaging alternative to (i) regular retirement on their diminished pensions and savings, (ii) voluntary early retirement, or (iii) being pushed out when culling time comes around.

    What interests me is the impact that a growing body of independent and tied consultants will have on the market for IP positions, particularly senior ones, in law firms -- where IP practitioners have had a tough time recently.