For several years, I have worked for a very large corporation as a solo. The client solved several difficult problems in order to employ solos and small firm attorneys, with the end result that the solos can produce better work, be more responsive, and can do so at a lower cost. In order to make this system work, the client manages all of the solos individually, which is no easy task.
The benefit is that the client gets some of the best patent attorneys to write their cases, and they know that only the specific attorney that they vetted will be working for them.
My client solved the problem of managing workloads for their solos with remarkable success.
The biggest problem for solo and small firm practitioners is that they cannot take large volumes of work. A solo cannot take fifty new cases and have them done in a month. Contrast this with a big firm with several dozen attorneys, who could take a large volume of work at any given time.
The problem with the big firms is that they can throw bodies at a large amount of work, but those bodies do not have the client knowledge, experience, or dedication to the work as a solo practitioner. In many cases, a big firm may have two or three attorneys who are familiar with the client, but many more who are not.
Because of this fact, the big firms will typically have larger quality variances than a solo practitioner would. The big firm attorneys who are familiar with the client might produce acceptable work, but the other attorneys in the firm might not. And you cannot create quality by having the experienced attorneys ‘review’ the work of the others. The old manufacturing adage: you cannot inspect-in quality.
Knowing the client and their technology is a key element to doing a good job. Practitioners who are not familiar with the technology cannot explore the bounds of the invention, suggest alternatives, and expand the scope of the patent. When responding to an Office action, an inexperienced attorney may not identify a subtle issue with the patent examiner’s misreading of the technology or craft a response that does not address the client’s business need.
My client taps into some of the best solo practitioners out there. People who are experts in their fields, often people with ten plus years of experience and who may also have real world industry experience. But these practitioners also put their personal pride, integrity, and livelihood into every case they write. The solo practitioners know that this is a business and that the quality of their work builds client confidence and lead to more work, in contrast to a salaried attorney at a big firm who has a billable hour minimum to make.
I have always looked at each case I have written as my last – unless I write the absolute best case I know how. I have always had the attitude that unless I write a very good case, I will not be getting any more work from the client. This motivation has helped me to drastically improve many of my processes and methods for patent preparation and prosecution.
Some very smart companies have recognized that they can get much higher quality work from solos. The solos can have a huge amount of experience and expertise, plus the solos have a motivation to please the client that just cannot be found in a big firm. My client’s success is just one example of smart companies tapping into this resource.