Friday 4 March 2011

IP practice and recruitment: always a good time for musical chairs?

Via PRWeb I've just been reading the always entertaining and well-expressed thoughts of the eponymous Pete Fellows (Fellows and Associates), under the title "UK Intellectual Property Sector Shifts Focus, Says New Review". Pete forecasts "times of change for the private practice Intellectual Property market in the UK". In general terms, the market for recruitment and career moves is looking up, though good candidates for new positions are a bit timid when it comes to contemplating an upward move.

Pete may be right, but I feel that recruitment consultants tend to end up with the same conclusion that there has never been a better time to change jobs, whether the market is booming or contracting. It's just the reasons that keep changing. Thoughts, anyone?


  1. Full of PR sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  2. Unless a firm is retaining an agent to fill a position and the agent is willing to name the client in the adverts, then they are not worth bothering with. Just advertise in the pink pages where everyone relevant will see it. Too many agents are advertising the same role, which causes problems for recruits who enquire with them all.

  3. As the person who wrote the article to which the press release refers (the release itself was written by a colleague) I thought I should try to answer some of the points made here directly.

    In respect to Jeremy's point relating to recruiters trying to talk up the market - I hoped that my article suggested that this is actually NOT the best time to move jobs. There are numerous potential pitfalls, career progression being a major one i.e. an attorney moves from one firm with no chance of partnership only to discover that they are in the same position with their new firm (whatever was promised on interview). There are certainly more options for Attorneys with an Electronics or Biotechnology background than there were last year as there are, quite simply, more jobs available (compare last month's Journal with those in autumn 2010) but choosing between those options is much more difficult. The other point is that yes, it is easier to move if you are a recently qualified attorney for the reasons I argued in my article but this is not the case if you are part qualified or seeking partnership positions. I did genuinely try to aim for balance; as with any market, there are winners and losers - some people are better off but some are not.

    Anon Comment #1.
    Yes we released a press release in relation to the article and yes the piece was written in the hope that it would give us profile but I do think the article has something useful to say and I would say similar things to a candidate seeking my advice. Recruiters do get a different perspective on the IP market from Attorneys which I think means our comments can be worthwhile. PR is part of our marketing strategy like any business but for it to work it has to have content that people will read and certainly I have tried to deliver that – however it is of course up to the people that read it to judge as to my success in that.


  4. …cont

    Anon comment #2
    These are fairly common criticisms of recruiters but do rather miss the point as to why firms use any of us in the first place. Rightly or wrongly many firms do not want to advertise directly, they feel using a recruiter gives them greater room for flexibility in advertising and allows them to dip their toes in the water without committing fully. Advertising in the CIPA Journal is a hit and miss affair, if it really did work on a regular basis there would be no need for recruiters at all. Fortunately for us, it is not an uncommon occurrence that firms have told me when trying advertising themselves (before using me) that they have had no responses at all. I think this is for two reasons 1) very often (and much like the firms) candidates do not want to dive into an application process without first finding out more about a firm or indeed talking with a recruiter to get a range of options rather than just one. We can allow candidates to decide whether or not to apply for a position and then advocate for them which is seen as an advantage by them. 2) People like to be approached about a role – there are numerous positions that I and other recruiters fill that are never advertised even by us and that are resolved by proactive recruitment.

    As for agents advertising the same role, I agree that I wish all of my clients were exclusive but some firms take the view that they have the best chance of filling a role if they speak to most of the recruitment consultancies on the market. I don't believe that this approach is the best strategy and I would prioritise clients that offer me more in return for my services but I am trying to make a living and if a firm is recruiting for a position that I believe I can fill, irrespective of the competition, then I will take the work on. I think your criticism would be more accurately aimed at the patent and trade mark firms using multiple recruitment consultancies than the consultancies themselves, in this instance I believe we are the messengers. So don't shoot us. As long as a candidate makes sure that the recruiter they are using is completely open as to what they are doing with their details (which they absolutely should be, I would always tell a candidate what I was doing with their CV and who I was sending it to before doing it) then there should not be an issue with duplication. The problem usually comes when a candidate uses multiple recruiters and the recruiters aren’t honest with the candidate as to who they are sending their details to or indeed the candidate is not open with the recruiters as to what their competitors are doing on the candidate’s behalf. If everyone knows what is happening there really shouldn’t be any problems.

    Pete Fellows
    Fellows and Associates

  5. Agents act solely for the recruiter, not the candidate, so there is no advocacy on their behalf. Candidates are also deliberately left hanging with the agent making excuses on behalf of the recruiter. "Apologies for delay, the recruiter is in Munich, on holiday, tied up in meetings". Odd how another candidate manages to go through several rounds of interviews to be offered a job and even start work, even though the agent is not having their calls answered.

    Agents frequently advertise vacancies that don't exist, have never existed or were filled several years earlier.

    There are good agents and bad agents, but as this is such a small profession, they need to remember that the candidate of today is the recruiter of tomorrow.

  6. Also re-advertise jobs already advertised by hiring firm to take a large cut of your earnings for playing unnecessary middle man. In spare time charge people for pointing to taxi at front of rank.

  7. Hold your nose for this agents job advert title:

    "Regional But International : Commercial Yet Bespoke : An Opportunity Not A Job"

  8. Doesn't look like all agents would pass an Ofsted inspection. Something for CIPA to look into and regulate so that anyone determined responsible for so many negative comments would be banished from the pinks.

  9. agents are in a competition as well as their clients as they do not get a penny unless they connect the right person with the right job. Ensuring this is done properly sometimes means putting your money where your mouth is and saying dont pay me unless you know we have made a positive impact on your business, which all new staff should do. Agents arent just there to put people together they are there to get the right person to fit in with a company or business which is harder than it seems, it is like dating for your job, getting it right can take time effort and money.

  10. If the pond was large with many fish I may agree with Ben. The fish stocks are very limited in the IP profession and like salmon, all patent attorneys can be found each month in the stream that is the CIPA Pinks.

  11. You might be interested to know that there is legislation relating to recruitment agencies: The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations Act 2003.
    Link here:

    There is also a place where complaints can be made: the EAS (Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate)

    In defence of recruiters it is good to have a moiddle man sometimes. Both sides can get comfort from it. I just wish they would charge less. I'm sure everyone would use them more if they did!