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?
Many large and small clients prefer to do business with larger firms merely due to the longevity issue. With larger firms, there is a perception of continuity where people may come and go, but the firm will continue.
Some of my clients address this issue by consolidating several solos into an administrative group. This group is usually managed with a centralized docketing system that unburdens the solos from the tedium of docketing cases, but also gives the clients a painless and simple way to moves cases from one solo to another. For example, a client may have one practitioner write a patent application, but another attorney respond to the Office action. Some clients perform these administrative functions inhouse, while others use a third party.
These administrative functions make is easy for the clients to manage their cases, but it also addresses the core issue: the client’s cases are not tied to any one person. The client can guarantee continuity, regardless if the solos come or go.
Different clients have implemented these types of systems with different degrees of success and with different business strategies, but all of them have recognized that they can get very high quality work from very responsive and capable solos with just a little amount of overhead.