Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ten years on

New Year's EveLast week I passed a significant milestone. I suddenly realised that I have spent ten years as an equity partner in an IP law firm. So what's changed over the last decade?

Social networking

One of the most significant changes is the emergence of social media tools. It seems strange to think back to a time when my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts and this blog were not part of my daily professional life.

The accessibility of social media means that good content reaches across geographic and industry sectors in a way that I could not have anticipated. It is not a substitute for traditional channels of communication. It is simply a set of tools that increases the reach of a good message. It also helps to raise a professional profile.

Social media has also changed the way that we use traditional channels of communication. At some point in the last few years I stopped getting my news from the traditional morning newspaper. I now look to social media, online publications and RSS feeds for anything that might be newsworthy.

A few years ago it was seen as rude to peck away at a smartphone during a presentation. Now it is almost encouraged. The emergence of live tweeting means that many of our key messages in presentations are designed to be shared in 140 character tweets by the audience.


Ten years ago our preferred channel for time-sensitive communication with our clients was the fax machine. Before that it was the telex. At some point over the last ten years our default channel for most clients changed to email. Other clients contact us by SMS text message, social media direct message, through our website or through sophisticated secure portals.

I guess we are still providing the same practical plain English advice we always have. It's just that the channels are different now.

Our interactions with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) have changed too. It seems strange to think that ten years ago there was a late filing box in an industrial area on the outskirts of Wellington city. We used it to physically file time-sensitive applications and correspondence once the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) closed its doors for the day.

Most of our correspondence with IPONZ now is electronic. We still exchange physical documents but this tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Sometimes IPONZ systems are down. Sometimes the material in the documents is too sensitive or too large for IPONZ networks.

Virtual law firms

There is a trend in many professional service industries to work remotely from home or a virtual law office. The perceived benefit is to permit flexible work hours and foster a better work/life balance. Where you need to recruit specialist staff it can also widen the pool of available candidates.

Some of our work is now done out of the office on smartphones and tablets. However, most of our work continues to be done in a physical office surrounded by real workmates.

There hasn't been a big move here toward virtual law firms or working remotely from home. Maybe this is because our work/life balance is already pretty good. Maybe it is because our physical offices in Auckland, Wellington and Sydney are in desirable metropolitan areas where talent wants to live.

Alternate models

Patent attorney firms still have a monopoly on core patent attorney services. Section 103 of the Patents Act 1953 says that only patent attorneys can
  • apply for or obtain patents in New Zealand or elsewhere;
  • prepare specifications or other documents for the purposes of this Act or of the patent law of any country; and
  • to give advice other than of a scientific or technicial nature as to the validity of patents or their infringement.

Clients are able to seek assistance in other areas of the intellectual property field from professionals who are neither patent attorneys nor lawyers. Searching, filing, renewals management and commercialisation are examples.

Even Patent Offices are getting involved. IPONZ for example ran an SME Pilot Programme providing free services to the public. The intention was to provide
'an IP audit tool, pre-application searches, competitor profiles, information on licences and licensing, guide to international best practice, assistance with the on-line application process and model agreements [and] ... confidential consultation'.
Some of these organisations provide a useful cost effective service and have a place in New Zealand's innovation framework. Some do not. It is important for clients to know exactly what they getting and what they are not getting. And what remedy is available when things go wrong.

Multi-generational workforce

We have always had a multi-generational workforce. A healthy workplace has younger people joining and older people leaving what is essentially an otherwise stable environment.

Over the last 10 years we have seen our traditionalists (born 1927-1945) and baby boomers (born 1946-1964) give way to Generation X (born 1965-1980) and Generation Y (born 1981-1990). Pretty soon we will have Generation Z (born 1991-2012) knocking on our doors.

Each new generation of workers brings with them a different perspective on professional life, giving rise to new workforce dynamics and challenges. Bring it on.

Photo courtesy of author erin m under Creative Commons licence.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...