Destination Unknown

With the emergence of virtual office capabilities, Vincent Brault explains why location is no longer an issue for IP law firms

Monday, October 2, 2017
IP Magazine

By Vincent Brault, Senior Vice President of Product and Innovation at Anaqua

For many years, the “location, location, location” mantra favoured by real estate agents was also an important part of the pitch for IP law firms. Geography and proximity to clients was a key competitive advantage for many IP attorneys. However, the emergence of virtual office capabilities is redrawing the map in terms of a practice’s reach. Physical location no longer constrains the growth of an IP attorney’s practice. Internet access and web-based applications allow attorneys, paralegals, and administrators to work efficiently and effectively from anywhere in the world with clients from across the nation and across the globe. Technology allows attorneys to reach people, both geographically and demographically, that they couldn’t before. It also provides new ways to interact more dynamically with existing and prospective clients to deliver higher levels of client service.

For instance, legal research used to involve reviewing volumes of statutes and cases in a legal library. Most medium and large firms had libraries with private, hardbound collections of cases, statutes, and secondary sources to assist in finding the correct legal precedent. Today, many attorneys are more likely to leverage online software applications. The modern office is looking a lot less like the traditional bricks, mortar, desks, and books associated with traditional law practice and a lot more like laptops with advanced, shared platform technology and ‘office premises’ extended to coffee shops, trains, planes, and the home. As IP attorneys implement new technology to enhance their practice, they’ll find they need to rely less on the time-honoured staples of a traditional office in favour of a more fluid dynamic. So why is location becoming increasingly redundant in attracting top talent? Enhanced mobile collaboration capabilities Modern software enables law firm professionals in multiple locations to access, share, and collaborate on the same documents and information in a secure environment. This was unthinkable just a decade ago. Moreover, attorneys can assign and reassign work to their staff with the click of a button. Attorneys who work remotely also no longer need bundles of paper thanks to intelligent scanning systems. Laptops and tablets carry all the data, documents, and information they need to be effective counsellors for their clients.

The growth in virtual firms shows how a practice can save on office space, reduce, or even eliminate, the need to commute, continue operations despite severe weather or disruptive events, and attract and retain new talent from a geographically broader resource pool. Streamlined client engagement Corporate IP clients are relying less and less on face-to-face and telephonic communication with their outside counsel; preferring, instead, to login to a web portal where they can request new work and access status reports, invoices, and documents electronically. Moreover, IP practitioners are increasingly turning to big data and analytics to add tangible value to interactions with their clients. In fact, according to research firm International Data Corporation (IDC),1 worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics will grow from nearly $122bn in 2015 to $187bn in 2019. That’s an increase of more than 50%! The use of big data and analytics enables attorneys to provide clients with insightful, information-rich reports about their IP portfolios and competitor/market activity, for example, backed up by clear and informative data, charts, and graphs. Visualising such data makes it easily digestible and provides greater clarity when seeking to align a practice’s services and counsel with a client’s strategic objectives.

Aside from analytics, attorneys can also use technology to manage their clients’ application drafting process, office action responses, foreign filing plans and execution, and requests for new work – to name a few.

Growing a global practice

Location no longer inhibits the growth of a law practice. To be clear, there’s no substitute for meeting with a client face-to-face to discuss goals and critical business objectives; the best rainmakers spend significant time with their clients. However, the internet and web-based applications allow attorneys, paralegals, and administrators to work quicker and more effectively from anywhere in the world with clients from across the nation or across the globe. Moreover, an IP attorney’s principal work is preparation and prosecution of patent and trademark applications, which most patent and trademark offices accept online. IP law firms don’t need an office in a jurisdiction to have a presence.

They can also easily grow their clientele with fewer jurisdictional roadblocks. New technology enables attorneys to research prospects based on portfolio size and technology space that map to their strengths. Enabling attorneys to pitch new work based on tangible performance metrics helps eliminate other biases; corporate clients simply want the best work for their dollar. Additionally, data analytics can help identify new challenges corporate clients face with their work, and provide opportunities to engage with them electronically to help solve problems regardless of office location.