Friday 6 May 2011

CIPA and/or ITMA proffers a hand?

A piece in the latest CIPA Journal April 2011 caught my eye. It is headed Are you a sole practitioner?
I had been warned that such a piece would appear, but not what it would say. Apparently, the business practice committee were prompted to make the announcement by IPReg.
since I cannot link to the piece, I will reproduce it here so you have an opportunity to comment.
Sometimes it can be a lonely and scary business. How do you organise holiday or sickness cover? Who do you chat to about tricky or unusual cases? Do you struggle to find the information you need about IPReg, indemnity insurance, tax, employment law and other business practice issues? And-an unpleasant but important question-do you have a business continuity planning in case of sudden incapacity?
The Law Society operates a sole practitioners group, which provides representation and supports a solicitor who practice alone. We wondered whether CIPA and ITMA should run something similar. 
However, we recognise that a scheme like this is probably best initiated by sole practitioners themselves, if they perceive a need for it, rather than being imposed by the Institute head offices.
If you're a sole practitioner and you're interested in some form of support network, we like to hear your views. Both seek to end it now will be happy to help sole practitioners to establish their own professional group, and to support the group's activities in whatever ways were felt useful. The institute could for example:
  • Set up a directory sole practitioners, and an associated communication network
  • Distribute relevant information on request across the network
  • If appropriate, help organise mentoring or "buddy" schemes for new starters.
  • Help to establish regional networks to which 'on call' holiday or sickness cover could be arranged
  • Help to organise meetings at-whether it's cheaper or it might HQ at other venues around the country
  • Help administrative backup in preparing publications such as guidance notes are sole practitioners, or even a regular newsletter.
  • Assist in establishing resource pooling schemes, for instance the sharing CPD activities of the negotiating discounts from shared suppliers.
  • Channel the group's questions direct to the business practice committee and/or to IPReg where appropriate.
This list is almost certainly not exhaustive. The bottom line is, if there is sufficient enthusiasm amongst patent and trademark attorneys sole practitioners, we are keen to do whatever we can to support a special interest group. And some of these ideas might also be relevant, of course, to small practices of say 2 to 10 fee earners. 
If you like the idea of a support network, or have any thoughts about how it might operate, or-even better- you're willing to help set it up, please get in touch with us via your Institute Secretary either Mick Ralph or Keven Bader.
So there you have it. There might be a tiny flaw. As a sole practitioner, there is not a lot of time left over from running the business for running a professional body. This blog with the noble support of the chief @Ipkat is often as much as I can manage. We have negotiated a Westlaw rate that includes the CIPA Black book and the patent and trademark attorneys, for insurance all you need to know about is PAMIA.
Shall we have a meeting to discuss it?


  1. As a solo IP professional who is also a commercial solicitor I belong to NIBL (Network of Independent Business Lawyers) which is a loose association of solo or 2 partner practices (which includes many TM and Patent professionals who are not solicitors - but the criteria is that they have a professional qualification of at least 10 years standing). The ethos of the group is to assist each other (sharing of information and the supply of assistance in the areas of professional regulation, insurance, knowledge, services etc...). There is a significant amount of mutual referral (as we are in many different areas of legal practice) and arrangements have been put in place (between individuals) for succession and holiday cover. We have arranged training and have an active Linked In Group. However, this does account for a significant amount of work for the most active members and any additional services (such as a portal/hub and substantial services) would involve the creation of a not for profit company, fees being paid and administration being formalised even the engagement of employees. I find the LinkedIn Group most useful (it is a closed group so we don't get tons of "sales" approaches and can have frank discussions!). Although I very much enjoy the Solo IP Blog I don't feel the sense of community I do with NIBL (we also have quarterly meetings, which only a few can ever come to but there is a focussed dicussion each time so that can be reported on to the others). Overall I feel that it works as a loose coalition but any attempt to formalise it might alienate rather than include (remind anyone of a certain pertinent political situation?).

  2. Thanks Sarah - that is very helpful. When we have had meetings, the fact that we are all strictly in competition with each other has slightly dampened the work referral option. Nevertheless, where people have formed real-world relationships, that can certainly does happen and one of the best ways of forming real-world relationships is to get together for a discussion and a cuppa or something stronger.

  3. Will any SOLOists be attending AIPLA or INTA in SF? I would be pleased to meet with you, and perhaps discuss some of the issues raised in this piece.

  4. So considerate of ipreg to have the concerns of lone practitioners at heart.

    Why do you say PAMIA is all you need to know for insurance? They are much more expensive than other providers.

  5. Dear Anonymous
    Do share your suggestions as others are renewing now