Category Archives: Employment

Vacancy for IP/commercial lawyer

Anderson Law LLP would like to recruit another IP/commercial lawyer. Our preference is for someone in the 2-5 years PQE range, but we would consider applications from people outside this band.

Our workload has increased steadily in the 24 years since Anderson & Company (our predecessor firm, until we converted to an LLP in 2011) was formed. We now employ 10 lawyers, and we are ready to increase this to 11. Most of our work is non-contentious, including drafting and negotiating IP-related agreements. We also have some regulatory work and a small amount of litigation. Our clients are mostly a mixture of technology-based companies and universities, in the UK and overseas.

Our firm is the only small firm to be recommended in Chambers UK Directory as a national leader for life-science transactions, and as a national leader outside London for IP. We are highly recommended by IAM Patent 1000.

If you are interested in doing high-quality work in a small-firm environment, please let us know. Our headquarters are in South Oxfordshire, but we would consider someone who wants to make London their main base. Please contact mark@andlaw.eu, enclosing a CV and a letter indicating why you think you would be a good candidate for our firm.

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Would you like to train as a transactional IP lawyer?

In case you have missed it, our firm advertised a training contract earlier this week. Details can be found on the Anderson Law website here.

In the last 20 years, IP Draughts has provided training contracts to 8 talented lawyers. Of the 8, 6 continue to work at Anderson Law: two are partners (and recommended in Chambers Directory), one is an associate partner, one is a consultant, and two are associates. The other two have moved on to other pastures, one as an in-house IP lawyer with Wellcome Trust in London, and one as an in-house IP lawyer with Philips in the Netherlands.

We provide an intensive training in IP and contracts. IP Draughts’ view is that, on qualification, our trainees are at an equivalent level to a two-year associate in many commercial law firms.

Our staff are encouraged to take part-time, postgraduate qualifications. Presently, one is doing a part-time LLM, one is doing the Oxford IP diploma course, and others have gone through these and other courses, including IP Draughts’ IP transactions course at UCL.

Advanced technical skills provide a secure foundation for legal advice, but they are only the foundations. Our lawyers also need to be astute, engaging, and skilled in the practical arts of a legal adviser, including drafting, negotiation, tailoring advice to client needs, and helping our clients to achieve their commercial objectives. We all need to keep practising these skills and learning throughout our careers. There is no such thing as a perfect lawyer.

If you have the right mix of technical ability, personality, and ambition to improve, we would love to hear from you. And if you are already qualified and would like to work with us, please let IP Draughts know. Although we don’t have a formal vacancy for a qualified lawyer, we are always interested to hear from people who might add something to our team.

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Diversity in IP practice: what does it mean?

The IP professions, and the UK legal professions generally, are keen on promoting diversity in the workforce.

The Law Society and SRA impose diversity obligations on solicitors, for example requiring each firm to collate diversity statistics and publish them. IP Draughts’ firm’s statistics – now a little out of date – can be found here. Before being accepted as a member of a Law Society committee, would-be members must take an online course on diversity. Committee chairs are required to take further online courses on diversity and disability. Shortlisting of applicants for committee vacancies is done “blind” without seeing the names of the applicants.

The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and other IP professions have formed IP Inclusive, and an increasing number of firms have signed up to its charter.

Some might say that such initiatives are particularly necessary in the legal professions, which are perceived as lacking diversity.

IP Draughts attended a meeting earlier this week – all the other participants were not lawyers – at which one of the people present referred to an initiative to help women to progress in the workplace, and another participant expressed the view that the best person should be chosen for a job, irrespective of gender. IP Draughts commented that how one defined the requirements of the job might affect who would be regarded as “best”. He cited the example of the UK Supreme Court, where only one woman has been appointed, and where traditional selection criteria may militate against certain types of candidate.

This exchange reminded IP Draughts that the legal professions may be ahead of some other sectors when it comes to talking about diversity. This is not meant to be a cynical comment. Talking is the first step in getting new attitudes embedded in an organisation.

An issue for IP Draughts is that diversity can mean so many different things, and that initiatives to improve diversity may tackle the most visible examples – gender and skin colour – while failing to improve the overall culture of an organisation. Measuring diversity through statistics is a very blunt instrument; it may result in improved statistics but not fundamentally change attitudes.

The UK Intellectual Property Office recently sent IP Draughts a copy of its corporate plan for 2017-2020. Most of the document is concerned with the IPO’s outward-facing activities. Among its high-sounding corporate objectives was the following statement on its internal values, which IP Draughts found very encouraging:

We believe we are an organisation where difference is valued and one where our people feel able to bring their whole selves to work. Nobody in the IPO should have to change who they are when they come to work just to ‘fit in’*.

*A 2013 study by Deloitte revealed that 61% of respondents covered up an aspect of themselves at work.

Giving people space to be themselves at work is, in IP Draughts’ view, an extremely important part of the larger diversity agenda, and it is good to see the IPO focussing on this aspect. Much earlier in his career, IP Draughts was in a job where he felt he had to suppress a significant part of his personality in order to ‘give the right impression’. It made him determined, when he started his own firm, to create a different atmosphere for staff.

Giving people space needs to be combined with recruiting people whose skills and attitudes will contribute to the common enterprise. For example, if ‘being oneself’ means being anti-social, disruptive, lazy or incompetent, then that contribution is not being made. But as long as the overall objectives of the organisation are being met, and the individual is making a positive contribution, they should have reasonable freedom to be themselves.

IP Draughts was interested to read the news that a leading international law firm, Linklaters, is offering people a 40-hour week in return for a one-third salary drop. This could be viewed as an initiative that will help to promote diversity, whether it be for the person who has caring responsibilities, or the person who simply isn’t cut out for 60-hour weeks (if that is what is usually required) or who isn’t interested in being a millionaire but wants to do good work in a prestigious firm.

Ultimately, valuing people as individuals, and reducing the expectation of social conformity, may lead to greater progress on all aspects of diversity than targets, statistics or policy statements.

 

 

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The perils of advising on contracts

perilA recent case in the English High Court illustrates several points: the need for care when advising on contracts; that proving negligence based on oral advice is difficult; that failing to meet the required standard of care doesn’t give the client a blank cheque for all commercial losses, some of which might have been incurred even if perfect advice had been given; and that people can be obstinate and spend far more on bringing a claim than is justified. Oh, and that coy references to a “former CEO” who is referred to repeatedly in the judgment but not named are fairly pointless in an era of online social media.

The case of Commodities Research Unit International (Holdings) Ltd & Or v King & Wood Mallesons LLP [2016] EWHC 727 (QB) (05 April 2016) was reported on BAILII last week. King & Wood Mallesons, formerly known as SJ Berwin LLP, had advised on the termination of the employment contract of an unnamed “former CEO”. (Hint: if you search on LinkedIn for CEO CRU Group, the identity quickly becomes clear: the individual in question has publicly stated his former employment at that company and the dates on which he was employed.)

Various allegations of negligence were made against Berwins, including allegations that advice was given in meetings. All of the allegations were dismissed except for one. CRU Group sent Berwins the employment terms of the CEO and asked for advice.

UK employment lawyers will be aware of the legal implications of including a clause in the employment contract that allows the employer to terminate immediately and make a payment in lieu of notice, sometimes known as a PILON clause. For reasons that need not concern us here, the omission of the clause potentially affects the enforceability of post-termination restrictive covenants as well as the tax treatment of severance payments. In the present case, the presence or absence of a PILON clause affected the date on which termination of the employment occurred, and whether certain rights under a long term incentive plan vested by that date.

no pylonesThe employment terms that were sent to Berwins did not include a PILON clause, and Berwins advised on that basis. However, the terms that they saw included a reference to “the company’s general terms of employment” which they failed to notice. At a later time, after the advice was given and used, the general terms of employment were identified, and they did include a PILON clause.

The court held that Berwins had been negligent in failing to pick up on this reference and ask for a copy of the general terms of employment at the time they advised.

The advice was used by CRU Group when negotiating an exit agreement with the CEO. In light of the commercial pressures of the negotiations, it might not have made any difference if CRU Group had received correct advice on this point. The court held that there was a 35% chance that, if correct advice had been given, the financial terms of settlement would have been more in CRU Group’s favour, to the tune of £337,500. On that basis, the court awarded 35% of £337,500 to CRU Group, or £118,125.

CRU Group had been claiming a much larger sum, well over £2,000,000, including the costs of litigation with the former CEO of nearly £1,000,000. IP Draughts wonders what the costs of the present case were, which involved 5 days of court hearings and the use of leading counsel on both sides, not to mention the professional witnesses who included leading counsel who had advised on the litigation with the CEO. He suspects that an award of £118,125 may be close to a Pyrrhic victory.

IP Draughts is left speculating why Berwins failed to pick up on the reference to general terms of employment. The responsible partner (Nicola Kerr) had, according to the judge, “a very high reputation as a solicitor providing advice on employment matters”. Was the omission caused by the partner relying on an advice memo from a junior associate, less than 2 years qualified (it appears, from another LinkedIn search) at the time? Was it because the client was apparently extremely difficult, and would not have reacted well to being asked to produce further documents? Was it because the employment terms were set out in various crappy documents, for which Berwins were not responsible, and which may not have been consistent with one another, so that a reference to other terms could well have been a drafting mistake?

Whatever the reason, this case shows the importance of “pushing back” to the client and either demanding further documents where they appear to be relevant, or making clear that advice has been given without the benefit of seeing them.

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