I have heard from large companies that they are reluctant to take on solo practitioners because they do not know if the solo will be around for the long haul. In other forms of law, such as family law or criminal law, the cases may span a few months. But in patent law, a case may take five to seven years to go from application to issue. In patent law, the longevity of the solo is a big issue, especially for larger companies.
When I respond to an Office action from the Patent Office, I can usually recall many of the details of a case, even though I wrote the case several years ago. When I draft a patent application, I ask for a lot of background information which includes the long term direction for the product we are protecting, the competitive landscape, and other related patent applications that are being filed. This type of information is not written into the text of the patent application, but is part of the context in which I write the application.
Doing an Office action on that patent application three years later, I can generally recall the circumstances of our original filing. Because I have that continuity, I can respond to the Office action appropriately with a response that meets the client’s business goals.
How does a client know that I am going to be here for the several years it will take to obtain a patent?
Last summer, I was evacuated from my house with just a few minute’s warning due to a very large forest fire. Thankfully, I did not lose anything in the fire, except the good will that I had banked with some friends who let me mooch their guest room for a few days.
As I write this, another fire is burning a few hundred yards from my house, whipped by 50mph gusts. The latest fire is small and is being contained, but it still makes me think.
I have reviewed Google’s and Microsoft’s offerings for small business and without a doubt, I would never recommend Google, but I can recommend Microsoft.
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.