IPIC Committee Profile: Young Practitioners Committee
Many facets of our industry have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, both from a business perspective as well as the more important personal perspective. We thought it would be interesting to take a deeper look into the current situation facing younger IP practitioners, particularly in light of the pandemic. To that end, we e-interviewed Richard Mar, Chair of the Young Practitioners Committee, to learn more about the work of the committee and the reality for our young practitioners.
What is the committee's mandate?
The committee’s mandate is to generally serve the interests of young IP practitioners. Young practitioners means less than about 10 years of practice, which includes a wide range of people. This includes a wide range of skill sets as we have students at one end and fairly experienced mid-level practitioners at the other end.
How has this mandate been affected by the pandemic over the past year?
Prior to the pandemic, the committee fulfills its mandate via four subcommittees that focus on different aspects. The subcommittees include Student Outreach; Publications; Professional Development; and Networking. The publications activities have not been affected much by the pandemic as these involve writing articles, such as for the UnsrIPted blog in IPIC’s website. Similarly, the professional development subcommittee focuses on webinar’s and with IPIC’s support, the webinars have moved from the traditional boardroom to remotely for all speakers rather seamlessly. The Student Outreach subcommittee focuses on providing seminars at schools, which are typically done at the schools to educate students about IP and speak about the purpose and importance of IPIC for IP and the profession. Unfortunately, the switch to do this at law schools virtually has not been very successful. Similarly, the Networking subcommittee has not had much success switching to a virtual format.
What strategies does the committee employ to try to reach and support the multitude of young IP practitioners (from different fields and/or educational backgrounds) in Canada?
We try to target our content to different aspects that may be of interest to young IP practitioners. This is done through our publications through IPIC’s website. We also try to provide webinars that would be directed to young practitioners to provide useful tips for various issues that young practitioner’s face. While providing the content, we try to gear content to the diverse interests in our target group, such as including speakers from different positions and firms across the country as well as speaking to a wide variety of topics to cover the interests to people at both ends of the spectrum of experience.
Pre-pandemic, what was the biggest challenge faced by young practitioners in the field of IP? Has this challenge evolved due to the pandemic?
Pre-pandemic, one of the issues with young practitioners in IP at a full-service firm is to get experience and work in IP. Work in IP is somewhat still a niche area although the importance of IP is increasing as many transactions now include an IP component. One of the ways to get this work is to go and ask an IP partner to work on matters. Since most are working remotely now, the encounters with partners decreases making it more difficult to seek this work. Some law firms are trying to mitigate this by scheduling regular meetings with practice groups as well as other virtual events. In addition, since IP is something that requires more mentoring, I think some of the young practitioners may be receiving less of it than they would in the office where they can stop by a senior lawyer’s office to ask a question.
If the committee could recommend one action to be taken by older and wiser IP practitioners in support of the young practitioners that they work or interact with, what would it be?
I think it would be to interact with the young practitioners more often. It is to keep the lines of communication open so that the young practitioners do not feel intimidated to pick up the phone or to send you a text message to ask a question. I try to tell the younger lawyers I work with that they should always feel free to call me or message me when they want to chat. I think one of the things that is missing from the pandemic is the chance interactions in the office as you walk past someone’s desk. You would not think anything of stopping to ask how their weekend was and if they are a mentor / mentee, add on some minor practice tip or question. I think many now feel that it is awkward to call someone on the phone for a similar conversation. You also lose a lot from not being able to see the persons face and body language. Continuing with this example, if you see someone is stressed out going through something, you can tell and probably move on. This is impossible to do in a virtual world. As a more senior practitioner, we should try to keep the lines of communications open as much as possible. As a more junior practitioner, you should not be afraid to talk to senior practitioners. I would suggest trying to schedule regular meetings periodically just to catch up and talk about life and your practice.
Has the committee seen an increase in the awareness of students (of law, engineering, science, etc.) of the possibility of a career in the field of IP? How does the committee raise that awareness?
I think so. Prior to the pandemic, our student outreach activities were generally very positive. We used to attend law schools exclusively when I started on this committee, but recently, we have been well received at engineering departments too. I believe that more students are becoming aware of this field as well. The main way the committee raises awareness is through outreach. As mentioned before, this was stalled somewhat by the pandemic, but we are looking forward to getting this back on track this fall.
On a more personal note, how have you most benefited from being involved with this committee?
I have enjoyed working on this committee. I have gained experience through working on all the subcommittees at some point in time and gained insight into what affects young practitioners as well as how people end up in this profession. In addition, this has provided me contacts with many members of the profession which include peers who are now also becoming more senior practitioners as well as more experienced practitioners who were kind enough to speak at our events or webinars.