By Dana L. Broughton, Ph.D.
Recently, I had the opportunity to serve as a Law Student Reporter (LSRs) at the 29th Annual (ABA) Intellectual Property Law Conference (ABA-IPL) in Arlington, Va. The Law Student Reporter program gives law students the opportunity to actively participate in the conference. LSRs tweet during the CLEs at the conference, compose preview blogs prior to the conference, and compose recap blogs following the conference. Serving as a LSR creates the opportunity for law students to “get their name out there” in the IP community. Law students in the LSR program traveled from various places in the US (California, Florida, DC, NJ, NH, PA, DC) and ranged from first year law students to third year law students.
I learned of the LSR program through email and the application was fairly simple. However, you have to be a student member of the ABA and yearly student membership fees are $25. During the LSR application process, I increased my twitter activity. (I actually started a twitter account that is IP focused.) I tweeted an IP related article every day during the application process. The committee also requests your LinkedIn profile, and any other websites that illustrate your online presence (blogs, Facebook, etc.) .
During the conference, I attended several interesting CLEs and skills workshops including: “Fitting Business Development into Your IP Practice”, “Avoiding Dysfunctional Functional Claims” , “The Rise of Design Protection: From Spoons & Carpets to Smartphones & Cars”, “Non-Traditional Trademarks & the Entertainment & Sports Industries”, “Promoting Progress in Social Media: Patentability & Copyrightability Issues”, and “Practice and Risk Management for IP Lawyers: When Patent Lawyers are Sued – How to Avoid Becoming A Client.” I also attended the Young Lawyers Action Group Committee Meeting and the Patent and Ex Parte Practice Group Committee Meeting.
The conference was a great place to “brush-up” on IP knowledge, become involved in the IP Community, interact with attorneys (online and in person), and begin to get your name out there.
This year at the 29th Annual (ABA) Intellectual Property Law Conference, attendees had the rare opportunity to attend a business development workshop. Attorney Richard Goldstein along with top notch marketing experts, Carol Greenwald, Ph.D. and Jeri Quinn, spearheaded a much needed conversation on business development in the Intellectual Property World. Attendees were engaged in the conversation and gave feedback throughout the workshop.
Although others doubted his ability, Goldstein founded his law firm right after law school. During the skills workshop Goldstein posed the question, “Is patent law something that you can do alone?” Although, he is living proof that it is possible to become a solo practitioner early in your legal career, he also stated that we need others to gain knowledge. Goldstein also addressed practitioners that begin their careers in medium and larger firms. He indicated that many attorneys fall into the trap of thinking that it is the senior partner’s responsibly to bring business into firms. Thus, he pointed out that practitioners need to develop as both lawyers and as business professionals. “It is never too early to start building rainmaking skills.” Successful rainmakers, “build rapport, find out what clients really want, and exceed expectations of clients.” Goldstein further suggested that practitioners need to build good relationships with people. One key way to build relationships with clients is to show that you are interested in the client. “The more interested you are in people the more you build relationship. . . . . Relationship is the foundation to accomplishment.” In building good relationships, practitioners have the key to understanding people and their needs. Once understanding is accomplished, business development will occur.
Another key feature of business development is sales. Often times, when people hear the word “sales”, it is associated with a negative connotation. Actually, “sales” is the path to being a good/great lawyer. In sales, practitioners have to learn about people authentically and get to know them. Through sales, practitioners build trusts with clients and help to clarify what is important to their clients. There are three issues that practitioners should consider in sales: (1) who is the stakeholder/ who do you want to hire you, (2) who is the influencer/ who has the ability to say no, and (3) what is your focused decision process. Practitioners need to know why people would “buy” from you, what you really “sell”, and who can and will “buy” what you “sell”. The reality is that people are buying “you.” With that being said, practitioners must demonstrate how they will work with prospective clients and practitioners must create a notion that they will work as a team with their potential clients. Practitioners should pay attention to where their attention lies; essentially, practitioners need to be client focused. The practitioner’s job is to fix the clients problem (whatever it may be) and explain to the client how the problem will be fixed. Additionally, practitioners must explain to prospective clients why working with a lawyer will be more effective than trying to handle the “problem” themselves.
Dr. Greenwald offered additional suggestions on becoming a successful practitioner. Greenwald indicated that there are seven key elements in success (analysis, solution, process, objectives, team work, vision, and sales). Greenwald pointed out that it takes from eight to ten interactions with a person before they become a client. Therefore, it is important to have a purpose and a strategy. Practitioners must develop an understanding with a person that leads to the type of work that the practitioner would like to do. Additionally, practitioners must have a strategy that includes research, preparation, thought, and a plan. Practitioners should never talk to a potential client without doing research on that client first. In addition, Practitioners must have goals in mind because without solid goals, marketing will not make sense.
After marketing has been accomplished, practitioners should focus on client’s expectations. Jeri Quinn gave further insight into exceeding your client’s (potential, current, and past) expectations. Essentially, practitioners must design the customer experience. For example the company Zappos sees themselves as a service company that “just happens” to sell shoes. Thus, practitioners should see themselves as a service company that “just happens” to practice law. Create great customer service leads great customer experience that in the end leads to customer loyalty. Customer loyalty brings in referrals, and customers trust you with bigger problems. Furthermore, practitioners should pay attention to “points of connection” with clientele. Every “point of connection” a practitioner has with his/her client should show that the practitioner cares about that particular client.
Overall, this workshop was a great introduction to building a successful business practice. Richard Goldstein, Carol Greenwald, and Jeri Quinn all offer workshops and speaking engagements on improving business development. Goldstein is the Vice Chair of the AIPLA Law Practice Management section and serves on the editorial board of Law Practice Magazine and the Law Practice Today webzine. Greenwald is a member of the Women Rainmakers Board, Legal Marketing Association, and the past president of the Legal Marketing Association. Quinn is the president of Driving Improved Results and is the author of “The Customer Loyalty Playbook: 12 Game Strategies to Drive Improved Results in Your Business.”
This year at the 29th Annual (ABA) Intellectual Property Law Conference, attendees had the opportunity to attend “Promoting Progress in Social Media: Patentability and Copyrightability Issues.”
The panel was led by Erik Bertin of the U.S. Copyright Office, Robert Hulse of Fenwick & West LLP, and Joshua L. Simmons of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Conference attendees were engaged in the conversation and gave feedback throughout the workshop.
A little known fact is that “Seventy-three percent of online adults use social media.” Attorney Joshua L. Simmons gave a broad overview of social media, terms used in social media, and how social media is commonly used. Erik Bertin presented copyright issues and common concerns. For example, one of the major issues seen in copyright applications is that most applicants are not clear on what they are registering with the copyright office. Additionally, the applicant/ owner of the copyright also need to be clear in copyright applications. Robert Hulse continued the conversation from the patent perspective. Hulse spoke on four things that can be protected in social media including: the building blocks, the features that drive growth, the techniques for monetization, and the mobile applications. Hulse also touched upon the interplay between copyrights and patents and why they both are needed, how to build a patent portfolio, subject matter eligibility of software patents, and trends in what is being patented.
The areas of copyrightability and patentability protection are still growing; however, this CLE provided a great educational foundation on the concerns and issues.
Young Lawyers Action Group
The Young Lawyers Action Group (YLAG) met during the 29th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference. The meeting was led by Committee Chair, Sharra S. Brockman, and Vice-Chair, Matthew P. Hintz. YLAG played a huge role in the 29th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference. YLAG hosted a networking reception on the opening night of the conference. The reception featured an IP trivia component that incorporated questions ranging from IP history to the latest episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Wife, and Scandal. The reception brought together attorneys and students, US and international participants, and others in a unique fashion.
Beyond the conference, YLAG helps to foster the career and professionalism of young IP lawyers. The YLAG gathers educational materials, volunteer and leadership positions, and career sources for young IP lawyers. YLAG also provides young lawyers with opportunities in the following project areas: research, resolution drafting, program panelists and moderating slots, committee and membership recruiting initiatives, webinars, articles for Landslide ® magazine, and books.
YLAG, headed by Sharra Brockman, edited the publication, Careers In IP Law. The publication is available electronically at no cost to all Section members. The book board of YLAG is also looking for authors to write books on topics such as: Counterfeiting, Copyright and Fair Use, Domain Name and Website Issues, International Topics, IP Issues in Social Media, Fashion Design, and IP for Start-Ups.
Furthermore, The ABA-IPL Section selects two fellows each year for the Young Lawyers Fellows Program. The section is looking for diverse candidates to participate in this program. The program’s goal is to develop future leadership and encourage diversity in the Section. To qualify for the Young Lawyer Fellows Program attorneys must be 32 or younger, or less than two years after the date of law school graduation.
YLAG hosts conference calls on the second Friday of each month. The next conference call will be on Friday, May 9th. One of the focuses of the conference call will be further development of a mentoring program for law students, young lawyers, and professionals in need of guidance.