Blogs

24 Jun
Chris Burger in conversation with Phil Hendrson, CEO- Prokurio

To help examine IP cost control strategies through an operational lens, Prokurio contacted Trexo Global, the experts in IP operations, for their perspectives.

Chris Burger suggested strategies and approaches that we think you’ll find helpful when confronted with the challenges of prioritization and balancing the competing challenges of cost versus quality.

Lastly, if you have questions or would like operational assistance, we encourage you to reach out to Trexo Global at info@trexoglobal.com

Happy Reading!

Chris Burger in conversation with Phil Hendrson, CEO- Prokurio

    15 Apr
    Lathrop GPM Partners with Trexo Global to audit IP data

    Nearly every law firm with an IP prosecution practice worries about the quality of the data in their IP docket. Most firms want to take extra steps to ensure their data is accurate, yet prior solutions were ineffective, riddled with false-negatives, time-consuming, or cost-prohibitive.

    That is, until now. In this case, study, learn how Trexo Global’s Data Risk Manager technology has given Lathrop GPM better & faster access to accurate IP information while automating the double docketing process.

    Lathrop GPM - Case Study

      03 Jan
      New Year’s Resolution – Optimize my IP Department

      Forget diets, being better about cleaning the house, or promising to go to the gym more often. As IP professionals embark upon 2024, now is an ideal time to revisit several aspects of your organization’s IP department to ensure it is well run in 2024 and beyond. Trexo Global and Prokurio are pleased to announce our suggested New Year’s resolutions.

      1. Do a quick profitability analysis of IP paralegals.

      Few IP groups have the time & resources to do an exhaustive financial analysis of their IP paralegals. Instead, we suggest doing a rudimentary review to identify the least profitable tasks; the firm can then dive into those duties in greater detail to understand the true profitability (or lack thereof) and how to make that task more profitable for the firm. For example, consider the following scenario for a law firm: your paralegals cost $50 per hour in salary, they are supposed to bill at $200 per hour, and they spend six hours on an IDS. Ideally, they bill $1,200 for this and cost the firm $300 in salary. However, what if your clients only allow you to bill $250 per IDS? Your costs (without including any attorney time) are $300, which is a direct loss of $50 per IDS and does not account for the possibility that your paralegal could spend those six hours billing elsewhere. If you find yourself in such a situation, look for an alternative for how you’re managing IDSs!

      2. Review Fixed Fee Agreements to make sure they are up to date and have been communicated internally

      Outside Counsel Guidelines are standard these days, yet it isn’t unusual for a firm to have no idea what’s in their client’s guidelines – or even where they are. Take this New Year opportunity to organize your Outside Counsel Guidelines and ensure your team knows what is expected and allowed. This can save you tens of thousands of dollars in rejected and disputed invoices. Better yet, implement a system to track and manage your guidelines – it will pay for itself quickly.

      3. Consider modular technology that solves specific IP problems vs. swapping out large, wholesale, enterprise-wide system changes.

      Most IP groups realize they could leverage new technology to operate more efficiently. The challenge is that switching enterprise systems such as an IPMS or DMS – that are heavily integrated with other tools and intertwined in current workflows – is daunting. Therefore, we suggest IP groups instead consider looking at specific tasks within IP and evaluate technology that can solve those problems instead of upsetting the entire apple cart. Examples include Office Action Shell response, PTO document generation, IP cost forecasting, IDS management, and double-docketing.

      4. Review and automate IP maintenance vendor and international associate invoice controls.

      The days of simply forwarding an annuity provider or international associate’s invoice to a client are coming to an end. IP owners are using invoice control solutions to monitor and manage third-party costs and they expect their Outside Counsel to do the same. Furthermore, fixed fee agreements are beginning to extend to international associates, which forces firms to take a more active role in policing associate charges. Take the new year to evaluate your invoice controls and implement any quick wins you identify.

      5. Perform a Health Check of IP administrative processes – whether through hiring a consultancy or networking with IP peers to understand best practices that may be applied to your firm.

      Most firms suspect or know parts of their practice are inefficient. Take the time to identify the most impactful tasks if they were streamlined. Firms often turn to their network of peers to understand best practices or attend conferences such as the ALA IP Conference. Others have relied on IP operations experts – such as Trexo Global – who have experience working with hundreds of IP groups for expert advice on improving the entire end-to-end prosecution process or focusing on specific tasks that can be streamlined.

      While January could be spent in overcrowded gyms alongside others focusing on their (likely short-lived) 2024 New Year’s Resolutions, Prokurio & Trexo are confident that our list will lead to long-lasting financial & operational efficiencies in your IP department. Happy New Year! To learn more, please email us at info@trexoglobal.com or hello@prokurio.com.

      10 Feb
      Super Bowl: Brand Protection and Advertising

      In March of 2021, the NFL announced a new television deal, with networks paying $105 billion to broadcast games through 2033. Traditional networks such as NBC, CBS, and FOX will continue to air games but for the first time a streaming platform- Amazon Prime – will join the fray.

      The NFL remains king in an era of virtually unlimited content catering to every imaginable taste. Since its initial broadcast in 1939, which reached roughly 1,000 to 2022, when the average viewership is over 20 million for each game, football and television in America have been in a symbiotic relationship, each helping the other to prosper. Of the top 100 television broadcasts in 2022, 82 of them were NFL games. This massive fanbase allows NFL to charge astronomical sums from networks eager to broadcast the games. Data gleaned from Amazon shows that the key demographic of age group 18-34 has shown an average increase of 12 percent for Thursday night football from 2021. The 2021 Super Bowl, which saw the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, witnessed close to 100 million people watching the game in the US alone.

      With such a captive audience comes a long list of companies seeking a chance to leverage their trademarks and place advertisements for their products during the games. The price tag is not for everyone though, as 30-second ads during the 2022 Super Bowl were selling for $6.5 million.

      Is it Worth ?

      Super Bowl advertisements and their ability to influence buying decisions have been a subject of research for premier institutions. A paper published by Stanford observed that advertising during the Super Bowl helped in fostering positive associations between a brand and viewers. Mc Granaghan et.al (2016) provided an even more valuable insight who documented that both the number of viewers in a room and their attention increased during the commercial breaks. This is not surprising as the ads surrounding the Super Bowl have become an industry in itself, with many reports indicating that over 40% of Super Bowl viewers tune in to the commercials instead of the game. Of course, the emotional bond an ad can create between a consumer and a company influences decision-making more than anything. The real benefit of placing advertisements in the Super Bowl is generating Brand awareness.

      As noted in an article by Nielsen, “After airing, Super Bowl ads typically reap the benefit of social media chatter and people engaging with the advertised brand. Many consumers also seek out ads they missed during the game, further increasing viewership.”

      This highlights the cost-to-benefit ratio for advertisers regarding buying spots for their products during the Super Bowl. Large conglomerates such as NFL’s official sponsors Pepsi and alcohol giant Anheuser-Busch can easily afford the million-dollar price tags and continue spending through the year to reinforce product awareness.

      Smaller companies and start-ups must find other ways to tap into the football craze and catch fans’ attention. Sly efforts to use the term “Super Bowl”, over which the NFL holds intellectual property rights, has brought swift Cease and Desist letters and lawsuits. The NFL is so zealous in protecting its IP rights that even large social gatherings are prohibited from using the term “Super Bowl”; thus consumers often encounter ads referring to “The Big Game”.

      Challenges with Brand Management

      While the Super Bowl remains the number one event of the year in terms of sheer viewership, the fact remains that it’s a once-a-year event. Whether your company invests millions in Super Bowl ads or wouldn’t begin to consider such an investment, there are still several common challenges that Intellectual Property attorneys must face when protecting the IP of their company or their firm’s clients.

      With restricted budgets, the challenge becomes to strike a balance between investing in brand creation, advertising, and protection of Intellectual Property rights. The situation gets further complicated as the avenues for possible infringements are vast, and manpower costs in a highly specialized field are high.

      Companies and law firms struggle to manage a growing portfolio of trademarks, prosecution and renewals. With economic uncertainty ahead, some organizations are going through the painful process of layoffs, whereas others are keeping their headcount flat. In either case, it is rare that the volume of trademark filings is decreasing. This is forcing in-house counsel and law firms to identify innovative ways to address the age-old cliché of “do more with less.”

      Due to the lingering effects of the Great Resignation, finding qualified IP professional resources such as paralegals & docketers continues to be challenging. Now that there is pressure from the finance group to more tightly control costs, this creates an even bigger headache for IP executives – how do you manage a growing IP portfolio when you can’t find experienced IP resources to fill open roles or your finance business partners will not approve new headcount? This is where qualified third party Intellectual Property outsourcing companies come into play. By partnering with an outsourcing vendor, companies & law firms can scale resources up and down quickly, and access a wider pool of skill sets, all while reducing costs. Outsourcing mundane IP tasks also have the benefit of improving in-house employee’s morale, as they can send less-desirable tasks to the vendor, thus allowing them to focus on higher-value work tasks.

      Jerry Rice, widely considered to be one of the best wide receivers in football history, said “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow, I will accomplish what others can’t”. While his quote was related to his accomplishments on the gridiron, the message also holds true for companies & law firms looking at innovative ways to manage their Intellectual Property.

      As the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles prepare to line up on February 12th at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, numerous companies will hand over a small fortune to be a part of the event with the hope to catch their buyer’s eye. Innumerable smaller companies will try to tiptoe around the legal minefields and try to cash in the craze as well. The challenges that professionals face today will continue after the game ends, and companies that “will do what others won’t” will be able to “accomplish what others can’t”. The question is, which companies will win?

      28 Nov
      The Great Resignation: Why are Legal Professionals quitting?

      The fact that COVID-19 has affected all industries is old news. Since last year, it has come to light that many lawyers & administrative staff are contributing to “The Great Resignation” and leaving their current law firm in shockingly high numbers.

      The Great Resignation has been highlighted as an economic trend where employees in droves have been handing in their resignations. This is no longer seen as a fad that started in 2021; as 2022 draws a close, it has impacted not only sectors and services where physical presence is a must –such as food, hospitality, or the healthcare industry – but also other professional jobs, whether employers offer in-office, work from home, or hybrid working options. This challenge is exacerbated for Intellectual Property (IP) practice groups since that field remains to be in high demand, and thus there are more competing opportunities for job seekers. At the same time, IP requires a unique skill set that does not easily transfer from other practices of law. Therefore the volume of job openings often outpaces the number of qualified candidates. At times finding experienced IP staff & lawyers can seem akin to searching for a unicorn.

      Legal professionals, especially the younger ones, are switching to other law firms and different careers altogether. The source of this information is not limited to the grapevine. One only has to look at LinkedIn to figure out that The Great Resignation has hit law firms in the US. A search on Indeed.com in October 2022 for IP administrative roles in the US such as paralegal, docketer, etc., brings up over 300 job openings. Firms are reporting extensive challenges in hiring IP administrative staff, ranging from increasing salaries to the inability to find qualified candidates to interview. Some firms have even reported extending job offers, and the candidates simply don’t show up for their first day of work as they secured a better offer from another firm during the interview process!.

      Additionally, an article on Youconnect states that over the last year, there has been an increase from 38% to 47% in job changes with lawyers who have one to two years of work experience. Resignation levels for legal professionals with three to five years of work experience have risen from 27% to 32%. (1).

      Why is the Great Resignation Happening?

      The question arises as to why The Great Resignation is happening. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to pause and introduced a break from the hectic pace that characterises any company, especially law firms. Many people took this time to reflect, rethink, and reimagine their options. There was a mass realization that there was more to life than poring over files, courtrooms, battles, judgements, and awards. Combined with relief from work-induced stress, a relook at unfulfilling jobs and a renewed focus on me-time & family life led to the Great Resignation.

      Legal professionals in the US who have left their firms give an array of reasons for doing so. These range from ‘needing a new challenge’ to ‘the management does not have a clear vision’, ‘bad bosses’ to ‘want a better work-life balance’ to ‘increased earning potential.’ The younger lawyers & staff, in particular, want to be able to give back more to their community and be active participants in a firm where CSR and pro-bono are not empty terms. They want an inclusive work culture where their voice can be heard and heeded.

      Given that opportunities abound for legal professionals, whether experienced or not, it is not surprising that many lawyers and staff in the US are heading for the exit door.

      Impact of The Great Resignation

      The impact of experienced legal professionals quitting is felt at multiple levels. If a Senior Partner quits, either to join another law firm or to start their own firm, there is a direct client and revenue impact on the incumbent law firm. They typically take with them the clients they have been managing. Similarly, when a junior attorney or a paralegal quits, this directly impacts the firm’s revenue. Such attrition directly reduces the partners’ effectiveness in serving their direct clients, as the partners must spend more time & effort on internal training tasks and bringing up-to-speed new hires with their own way of working. This time could have been easily used towards higher billable work and expanding their client base.

      Further, when junior IP lawyers or staff leave a firm, it can have a detrimental snowball effect on the morale of the remaining employees as well. The volume of work does not decrease, but with fewer colleagues to manage the same workload, it leads to more work put on the shoulders of the remaining team. This, in turn, increases frustration with existing staff, and in turn, leads to even more departures … a vicious cycle! Additionally, several firms have reported challenges related to pay scales for new hires compared to established employees. When employees with many years of tenure at the same firm see new hires earning 20-30% more than their salaries, it leads to further dissatisfaction among existing personnel. Unfortunately, the answer is either costly raises across the board for existing staff or keeping salaries at their current level and risk further alienating the tenured team.

      The Great Resignation

      According to a report from McKinsey, the key to keeping employees from exiting is a good retention policy (3). A recent article on Reworked says that every employee likes to feel important and that they matter. Recognition and showing appreciation are significant (4). A McKinsey blog puts it perfectly: “To retain employees, organizations need to evolve their approach to building community, cohesion, and a sense of belonging at work” (5)

      In a recent podcast on “How Law Firms Combat the Great Resignation”, Margeaux Roush, Director of Talent Acquisition at McGlinchey Stafford PLLC, discusses one of the primary strategies when it comes to attrition is to treat everyone at the firm as equal. “From the first day you enter as a paralegal or a law clerk all the way up to our rainmakers and professional staff, every single one of those people is being treated the same when it comes to physical, emotional, and mental well-being.” (6)

      While many employees appreciate that their organization supports them in long-term goals such as continuing education and skill enhancement courses, it is vital that legal firms support their staff to retain them.

      Firms should consider alternative staffing models – such as outsourcing routine IP administrative work to a third party – to complement and support their existing in-house team. Such an approach allows firms to have their valued employees focus on higher-value, billable, and client-facing work. Additionally, firms can avoid the jealousy of new hires making more than their established counterparts by having a third party fulfil open roles.

      In addition to having adequate staffing levels, Forbes Magazine wrote that assuring a healthy work-life balance and presenting flexibility is more necessary than ever (7). Having a flexible work schedule that allows partial continuance of WFH or WFA is something that many prospective job candidates require.

      Many law firms now offer customized programs that focus on personal coaching, fitness and yoga, breaks and mental health support, and healthy food at the office. Some firms are continuing with flexible and remote working. Extended maternal and paternal leave is also on the table.

      The Great Resignation – How to Handle Inevitable Staff Departures

      Unfortunately, avoiding attrition entirely is not realistic or possible. Firms must prepare for the eventual need to backfill open roles. As discussed, not finding suitable replacements for open roles leads to an increased workload on existing employees and further increases the risk that they too will resign.

      Many firms have adopted an outsourcing solution to fill open roles when they arise. In addition to the benefits listed above related to having valued in-house staff spend more time on higher level work, there are several additional benefits. By outsourcing open roles to a qualified third party, firms can not only focus on the highest value tasks but also increase scalability, manage peaks & valleys of work more effectively, reduce operating costs, and even better manage risk.

      At times staff members’ initial reaction to outsourcing can be negative, thinking it could introduce competition for their job. However, the opposite has been proven to be true. Staff can offload the least desirable tasks they perform on a given day. With additional capacity at the firm, they can increase the likelihood of having dinner with their family in the evening.

      However, not all IP outsourcing vendors are created equally. Firms should thoroughly understand the credentials of the leadership team & staff of the vendor. Are they IP experts that understand the nuances of IP law? Are they focused on IP, or is their strategy and focus spread among various practice groups and offerings? What specific quality-control measures do they put in place to reduce the risk of errors being made? Does the vendor provide dedicated personnel to your firm, or are you assigned a pool of people – meaning your firm could have an outsourced paralegal working for you in the morning and a competitive law firm in the afternoon? How much tenure does their team of IP administrative staff have? As an example, firms should avoid vendors that hire their staff right out of school. Doing so leads to the vendor training their staff on the law firm’s dime. Qualified vendors should require all IP professionals to come with several years’ of experience, so the firm has confidence that their staff is already well-trained in the nuances of IP. Vendors must be able to adequately answer questions such as these to be seen as a viable alternative to hiring in-house staff.

      If nothing else, part with a smile!

      Accept that times are changing. Priorities are changing. Needs and wants are changing. People are introspecting and evolving.

      Departures may still happen despite the best efforts, and as per the HBR.org article, US legal firms should look back at the tenure with gratitude and celebrate the achievements (8). Do not end things on a bitter note or with anger and displeasure. A good leader encourages their staff even when they want to strike out on their own or look at greener pastures. After all, one never knows how things will turn out for the firm and the employee who left. It has been seen that when the departure happens on a positive note, lawyers and staff often return to the same firm. Keep the door unlocked for a warm welcome.

      References: