Chairing the IP Law Committee

Last week, IP Draughts attended his last meeting as chair of the IP Law Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales (the national bar association for English and Welsh solicitors). The appointment was for 3 years; he is now time-expired and ineligible for re-appointment as chair.

After last week’s meeting, we held our annual dinner. It was a pleasant affair, made more special for IP Draughts by the kind words he received from other members about his time as chair. Some of these words had been recorded in a framed poster – a kind of Wordle of quotes – that was presented to IP Draughts and now sits on his office wall. He is very grateful for the sentiments and for the poster.

He is also grateful for the support that he has received during the last 3 years, from both members of the committee and Law Society officials. Particular mention should be made of Lauren Rabaiotti, now our policy officer, but once our committee secretary. Her enthusiasm, diligence and aptitude have helped to make the chairing role a smooth one. She is increasingly taking the initiative in guiding the committee to actions – not an easy task in such a specialised area of practice.

He would also like to thank James Love and Michelle Blunt, who are retiring from the committee, for their expert and helpful contributions over several years.

Here are some brief thoughts on what works, in IP Draughts experience, when chairing a body of this kind.

  1. Enthusiasm. Leading by example, with enthusiasm and commitment helps to encourage everyone to give up their time to the cause.
  2. Tone. Left to their own devices, some IP lawyers can be rather critical. Setting the right tone, particularly at meetings, helps people to be relaxed and engaged, and willing to speak up. In IP Draughts’ view, a little irreverent humour is a positive contribution. Avoid having meetings that are like an appearance before a hostile judge.
  3. Balance speaking and listening. It is legitimate for the chair to start off debates by stating his or her views, but then he or she should actively listen to the other members, and encourage contributions, particularly from quieter members.
  4. Respect. The committee has some national, or even international, expert in their subjects. You don’t have to be the best at everything – let them take the lead, but within a framework that you help to set. Be respectful of their expertise and that of support staff, and patient but politely insistent in urging them to meet deadlines and deliver work product.
  5. Personal initiatives. While you don’t have to lead every initiative, leading on some where you have expertise helps to demonstrate commitment and set tone. You have an opportunity as chair to develop your own agenda; within reason, this is a good thing rather than an abuse of power.

IP Draughts stated, when he became chair, that he wanted to bring IP closer to the centre of the Law Society’s thinking. He believes he has had some success with this aim. The presence of the incoming President of the Law Society, Christina Blacklaws, at last week’s dinner, was an illustration of this success. He also thinks he has had some success in increasing cooperation among the various IP professional bodies in the UK, including those representing IP barristers, patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys. Our joint note on Brexit and IP, delivered to government last December, was an example of this cooperation.

An issue that he has noticed, but not yet found a complete solution to, is how to encourage new and younger members of the committee to speak up more and give their views. Law is still a hierarchical profession, and we have some very experienced and talented members on the committee. It can be a little daunting for younger members to give their views in such company, despite IP Draughts’ best efforts. Sometimes, members only really “come on stream” in their second 3-year term of office. This may be a symptom of a wider issue in the legal profession, rather than something that can easily be fixed within one committee, though this does not excuse us from trying to mitigate it where we can.

IP Draughts wishes the best of luck (not that she needs it) to his capable successor, Carolyn Pepper, and he looks forward to continuing on the committee, as a co-opted member, for a further (but final), and hopefully not too arduous, 12 months.

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What do you do with 13 years of Nectar points?

For the last 13 years, Anderson Law’s office administrator, Linda Olley, has been collecting Nectar points when she buys office supplies from Viking Direct. Who knew that a small firm’s purchases of photocopy paper, biros and the like would accumulate over 43,000 points during that time?

As a charitable act before she retires, Linda has redeemed them with Oxfam, who will provide 86 units of water purifiers for use in developing countries.

A typical act from our excellent administrator – we will miss her.

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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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Finding an overseas lawyer

This blog recently mentioned the network of high-quality, overseas lawyers that IP Draughts has built up over many years. It is with mixed feelings that he announces that his network reduced by one yesterday.

Eric Runesson, who first provided Swedish-law comments on our book about biotech transactions over 10 years ago, has left private practice and therefore must be scratched from IP Draughts’ list. The reason he has left private practice is that he is taking up a position as a judge of the Swedish Supreme Court. Congratulations, Eric!

As one door closes, others open. Last Monday, IP Draughts was in Copenhagen, moderating a panel discussion on GDPR at the American Bar Association conference on life sciences. The discussion went well, and he was impressed by the quality of the panel members, namely:

  1. Holger Bielesz, an Austrian lawyer, mainly a commercial litigator, with the Vienna firm, Wolf Theiss.
  2. Christina Hultsch, a German national and US-qualified lawyer who practises at Porter Wright in Ohio. She has a life-sciences practice with an emphasis on regulatory and transactional matters.
  3. Susanne Kudsk, a Danish lawyer who works at the University of Aarhus and has been very busy helping Danish universities and hospitals with GDPR issues recently.
  4. Jorg Rehder, a dual-qualified US and German lawyer, now practising in Frankfurt, who previously lived and practised for many years in the USA. Jorg has an international transactional practice, in the course of which he has become knowledgeable about GDPR.
  5. Amie Taal, who runs her own consultancy in the UK, which advises companies on electronic data issues, including GDPR compliance programmes. She previously worked at Deutsche Bank in New York, so she is also familiar with US data privacy rules.

Finally, on the subject of people, IP Draughts is sad to be coming to the end of his 3-year term as chair of the IP Law Committee of the Law Society. He will miss working with the talented group of English IP lawyers who make up the committee. He has to retire under Law Society rules, which remind IP Draughts of the film, Logan’s Run.

The committee’s annual dinner last week was a de facto retirement party for IP Draughts. He was very touched to receive, as a retirement gift, a framed poster (or word cloud) of kind remarks by members of the committee about him. It is now hanging on the wall of his study.

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