One of the challenges of practising law in a small firm is getting the heavyweight clients to trust you with their most important projects. Over the years, IP Draughts has advised many clients who also have used major firms – Slaughter and May, Morrison & Foerster, CMS Cameron McKenna, and others – for “bet the company” transactions such as major financings, Stock Market flotations, and business sales. For example, our significant biotech client Piramed Limited was sold to Roche in 2008 for about $170M – we didn’t get that project and didn’t expect to!
A more realistic ambition is to develop client trust to such an extent that they use you, rather than one of the big boys, for second and third tier work. For example, back in the 1990s, one of IP Draughts’ clients – a technology company that was listed on the LSE and NASDAQ – used Slaughter and May for a “strategic” R&D collaboration agreement, then used us for similar agreements that the client made with other companies. Our fees were certainly much lower than Slaughters’ (whose aren’t?) and we like to think we were better on IP terms and indemnities than the banking partner at Slaughters who had previously advised. Slaughters have expanded their IP offering since those days and they now have four IP partners.
To make this strategy work, you need to be close to clients and work with them over the longer term. We are delighted that two technology clients who first instructed us about 10 years ago have both expanded their international commercial activities in the last couple of years, and are involving us in related transactions.
We have the impression that we are not alone in seeing this upturn in work. Several of the speakers on the course that IP Draughts ran last month at UCL (see recent blog postings) expressed concerns about their workloads and the number of lawyers available to deal with them.
Unlike some firms, we have continued to take on trainees through the recession and to employ them once their training contracts came to an end. Five of our nine lawyers trained or are currently training with the firm. But we are still short of staff, hence our current recruitment campaign.
If you know of any excellent IP associates who have experience of transactional work and want to make a long-term career move to a small firm doing high-quality work, please let Mark know or forward this article using the buttons below. A detailed job advertisement is here: jobad 140301.
We would also be interested to know of any paralegals who have experience of drafting and negotiating university contracts, and who would like to join our firm. Please contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org