Practice Tips for Emerging IP Practitioners Looking to Work In-House
Today's emerging IP practitioners have a wide range of career options. While IP work was traditionally handled exclusively by law firms, more and more businesses are now seeking IP specialists to complement their in-house legal teams. As organizations strive to optimize their internal legal resources, IP lawyers and agents alike can bring valuable expertise to the table. This article aims to provides helpful tips for IP professionals who are looking to succeed in-house.
1. Having the Right Motivation
In-house practice is challenging in many ways, and business teams will look to you, as their legal adviser, to make recommendations and shoulder the responsibility in decision making. In-house work can be as demanding as private practice so having the right motivation in making the transition is crucial. If you enjoy engaging with new issues, having autonomy in making decisions, and having direct exposure to your client’s business, a position in-house would be a good fit for you.
2. Being Prepared to Get Out of the Comfort Zone
Even if you were specifically hired as an IP expert, don’t expect to be doing only IP-related work. Other types of issues can come across your desk that wouldn't traditionally be within an IP professional’s purview, and the business teams will be looking to you for solutions. IP practitioners can expect to encounter questions pertaining to real-estate, employment, commercial contracts, and many other issues that an organization faces day-to-day. While you might not have the answers right away, don’t forget that your legal training and experience is transferable and can be applied across different disciplines. Being resourceful and having the right attitude when approaching new issues is essential in the in-house setting.
3. The 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, suggests that 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes, meaning 20% of one’s effort should be devoted to get to 80% of the results. This can be a challenging rule for in-house legal professionals to put in practice, since lawyers and agents are trained to act with intellectual rigour, rather than to address legal concepts in a simplified manner so that the advice is delivered in a timely fashion. To apply the rule effectively, IP professionals must utilize their ‘common sense’ in conjunction with their legal knowledge, to provide advice efficiently. Looking to understand the business outcomes and arriving at most effective solutions is an important skill to develop.
4. Develop Your Soft Skills
As with the 80/20 rule, it is vital for in-house practitioners to tailor information in a way that is accessible to various audiences but also with the understanding of the challenges faced by the business. In providing advice, in-house practitioners can’t operate on legal theory alone. Providing holistic advice with the knowledge of how it fits into the broader picture helps advance business goals. As such, when preparing advice to the business, it is imperative that the IP professional understands the objectives of the organization so that they can adjust their advice according to the overall strategy. Developing this skill creates an open communication channel with the business teams and facilitates a collaborative approach to finding solutions.
5. Learn to Manage Your Practice
Like in private practice, learning to manage your legal practice is key to success. In-house legal practitioners must be mindful of costs, which can lead to difficult decisions. For IP practitioners this can impact their ability to manage IP portfolios which requires them to think creatively about efficiently handling their resources. For example, if the business is looking to commercialize their brand in various jurisdictions, budgetary constraints may prohibit an IP strategy that would involve many trademark applications. IP professionals would have to use their expertise in choosing marks with precision in key markets to ensure the business is adequately protected and the budget is respected. It is thus essential for in-house practitioners to maintain commercial awareness when adjusting to their role.
In conclusion, working in-house is a tremendously enriching experience, particularly for practitioners looking to have a more nuanced understanding of a business and a better appreciation of the needs of various stakeholders. By keeping the above tips in mind, IP practitioners can excel in their roles and add value to their organizations.