Tag Archives: Intellectual Property

Nick’s five picks for practice area growth

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of Pro Serve PR, a public relations firm serving law and professional service firms. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition based on his experience in legal marketing, public relations, and practice management. Nick shares career growth experience and innovation with legal job seekers.

Coming up on 10 years since I graduated from law school, I have seen shifts in practice areas. Some are due to economic conditions and others likely follow a lawyer’s interests and values developed through experience in practice. One thing I learned from lawyers who shifted to different practice areas: Just do it. Allow me some editorial then I will share a few practice areas that seem to be growing.

What do you really know about different practice areas? Do you get most of your information from word on the street? Did you consider the factors that come into play when someone tells about their practice area?

Most of us make initial opinions on reports from others. Often we do not dissect the information or fact check people in polite conversation. If you wanted to cross examine popular word on the street about various practice areas, consider a few of these questions: (1) Do you have enough work in your practice area, so much that you don’t want my competition; (2) Do you complain about how difficult and stressful your practice area is, and fear I will realize it is not that bad; (3) Is your impression of your practice area affected by the years you have spent there?

Some of the most successful lawyers I know say, “There are plenty of clients out there who are looking for good lawyers.” I suppose the best advice is being good at what ever practice area your chose. If you become knowledgeable, pick up a lifeline colleague to phone in a question, you should be ok. The people who do not do well fail to learn the ins and outs and take cases outside their practice area proficiencies without assistance.

Here are a few practice areas I would recommend for future growth:

(1)    Collaborative Practice

There are several uses of the word collaborative. For purposes of this example, I suggest that attorneys working in a team-like setting with other professionals and with the client is a practice model more clients will be seeking in the future. Some quick research on collaborative practice in various underlying practice areas will lead you to groups and associations who certify collaborative practitioners. Another good collaborative practice is to delegate reasonable tasks to clients and help them participate in litigation. Many clients enjoy saving money on making copies and organizing bank records. Some dislike the idea of a client getting too close to the work. I think it depends on the situation.

(2)    Intellectual Property

As the call for efficiency increases, business and technology will continue shaping our presence in the marketplace. For many, the intellectual property focus areas such as trademark, copyright and patent will continue increasing with the ease of electronic communication and collaboration. More and more businesses launch with cloud-based operating systems, tablet pc’s and smart phones. The lower the cost of entry makes low-overhead business start-ups easier to get off the ground; many come with IP needs.

(3)    Information Technology

Think about the potential list of defendants on in information technology lawsuit where the project management team alone could fill a room. The IT bus is in motion and picking up more passengers with complex software issues and various agreements, and addendums to keep a perceptive IT lawyer busy. The online networking opportunity is ripe here where you find several IT professionals actively participating in LinkedIn discussions and chat boards on various topics.

(4)    Corporate Litigation

Economic change challenges small to medium sized businesses.  Flexible companies survive these economic transitions when they can reorganize to meet new market demands. During reorganization, there are new agreements to draft, old agreements to sever and everything in between. I anticipate plenty of growth in the business services legal market so long as the number of businesses increases.

(5)    Commercial Real Estate Finance

The economic changes I reference also affect residential and commercial real estate, affecting local and state revenue; an empty building sitting is no good. Economic shifts offer the opportunity for some to move around and improve upon their surroundings. Many financing agreements require work at several times in an agreement’s life cycle.

Plastics

Bill Wilson spent over 20 years in legal departments at corporations large and small, from high tech to brick and mortar, and is writing about various topics while trying to find that next great career opportunity.

For folks of my generation, that one word piece of career advice from a family friend to the young Dustin Hoffman in the movie “The Graduate” still ranks as one of the most memorable movie lines.  But it does reflect a real-life conundrum: One of the questions that you either ask yourself or others is “what kind of law should I practice?”

You can take the approach I did, which was to have a vague idea, which you abandoned for various reasons, and then let serendipity take you for a ride and hope it’s pleasant.  In my case, that worked.  I represented some fascinating businesses during my career, from robotics to face recognition system vendors to telematics hardware and software vendors (think OnStar®) and handled a variety of cutting edge legal issues.  But if you are the kind who would like to give a little push to pure blind luck, and steer the ship, here are my thoughts.

You will not starve learning about intellectual property law for the foreseeable future.  I am not just talking patents here, so if you’re not an engineer, you’re still in the running.  The “ideas and imagination” economy that the world is hurtling headlong into will value creativity to an unprecedented degree, and protecting ideas and other forms of intellectual property will be a full-time job for many that will be fascinating and probably rewarding.  Deep philosophical questions about patenting new life forms, genetic engineering and solving the food supply problems facing the world, using technology to solve the fossil fuel and water shortages represent challenges that will demand the best efforts of the best technologists – and their counsel.  Entrepreneurs and lawyers seem to be more comfortable with each other these days, and getting comfortable with technology, the current law both in IP as well as ancillary fields such as e-commerce, privacy, and communications and where it’s headed will serve you well.

While we’re at it, let’s also focus on privacy.  Data may be king, but data about people is going to be gold, and what you can/should do with it is going to be a very fertile field for lawyers for years to come.  The basic divide between the European Union “opt-in” and the US “opt-out” approach to data use is just the first of many such issues that will keep clear thinkers occupied for a long time.  Data mining and correlation, coupled with a virtually endless flow of technology developments that will enable things that were impossible yesterday, will fuel a never-ending debate about what should and should not be permitted.  Legislative solutions v. voluntary industry self-regulation are going to combine to provide full employment in this field.

My last choice might be somewhat surprising, but it’s dispute resolution.  America’s legal legacy of litigiousness doesn’t sell well overseas.  As the global economy becomes ever more integrated, there will be even more disputes about things as mundane as a lost order in a plane crash and as momentous as how to handle transnational water disputes.  New thinking about ways to resolve conflict has to proceed, as endless litigation over these issues has inherent limitations and less acceptance among non-US parties.  Creating new models for third-party facilitation, or direct governmental multi-lateral action will be critical to finding solutions that work.  This option might be particularly attractive to those political science majors who were wondering what exactly their degrees qualified them to do, besides go to law school.

This list is certainly not definitive, and you can probably add 20 equally valid options.  But the future will be here — soon.

Lawyer endows IP speaker fund

Each week I will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

Welsh & Katz founding partner A. Sidney Katz endowed a new intellectual property law speaker fund at The George Washington University Law School called The A. Sidney Katz Intellectual Property Law Speaker Fund.

The law school plans to host at least four speakers each year, and is contemplating also hosting lectures of interest to law school students pursuing a career in intellectual property law. All of the events will take place at the university’s campus in Washington, D.C.

“I think it’s a way of keeping abreast of the changes in intellectual property law, and from people who are in the know,” Katz said. “There are a number of legislative proposals to revise the patent laws in the United States pending in Congress. I would expect those issues will be the subject of discussion also. It could help even our legislators get a handle on what the best reform should be for patents.

“Intellectual property is really become more and more important, I think, strategically for corporate America. There have been a number of recent and major developments in intellectual property.”

Katz received his law degree from the school in 1966 and serves on the Dean’s Intellectual Property Advisory Board. He’s also endowed the A. Sidney Katz Admissions and Financial Aid Reception Center in 2003, and the A. Sidney Katz Archway in 2006, which connects the University Yard to 20th Street, between G and H Streets, on the school’s campus.

“When I went to George Washington in the 1960s, I think they had the most prominent patent law department in the country,” he said. “And I still think, in my view, that it ranks at the top of all the law schools with respect to particularly patent law. Because that’s my profession, I’ve stayed in touch with them.”

Husch Blackwell Sanders announced in June its intent to combine with Welsh & Katz.