"I am organising a meeting of sole practitioner IP/IT law firms to explore the possibility of sharing certain costs and resources, particularly those of working towards Investors in People and Lexcel accreditation. Also, it would be worth seeing whether a group of us could get 'consortia buying power' for common expenses like Professional Indemnity cover, buying information services and Continuing Professional Development (CPD).If any reader of this post would like to contact Shireen, she can be emailed here.
One reason for this is the regulatory changes being brought about by the Legal Services Act (LSA). Some have predicted these regulatory changes will reduce the number of small firms by more than one third (see eg here).
While I believe the prospects for small niche IP law firms are excellent, some adjustments are clearly desirable to achieve the economies of scale that larger firms enjoy. For example, it is very time-consuming to get Lexcel accreditation, as there is a need to put in place many systems, procedures and policies. Additionally, keeping on top of the minutiae of the ever-changing Money Laundering, Solicitors Regulation Authority and Solicitors Accounts rules and regulations is challenging for smaller firms.
Sharing costs with other sole practitioner solicitors may be a possible solution to better manage the time commitment and resources these matters require. For example, how about if a group of IP law firms were to hire an Investors in People or Lexcel consultant to run through all the generic material with us, spending time individually with each of our practices thereafter to help us prepare for accreditation? Another benefit of combining forces may be for the group (if regulatory burdens became overwhelming) to employ a part time ex-solicitor working from home to develop expertise in money laundering, SRA rules etc. Similarly, there could be scope to share CPD costs/events.
This is all at a preliminary exploratory stage and to some extent it depends on the take-up and interest from other IP law firms as to what happens next. If there is insufficient interest among IP sole practitioners for Investors in People and Lexcel, or to buy certain information services like the Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents, I may instead look to combining forces with non IP/IT sole practitioners for certain areas of common interest, and with both IP law firms and trade mark and patent attorneys for other areas of interest.
So, initially I am just targeting sole IP/IT solicitor firms because one of my aims is to consider the possibility of harnessing our buying power for professional indemnity insurance. Once we have the first exploratory meeting it will become clearer how to move forward thereafter.
I propose to set up a meeting early in the New Year to discuss this with any interested solicitor IP/IT sole practitioners. So if you are interested please let me know:
1. Whether you prefer a breakfast, lunch or evening meeting and any days of the week or fixed dates that you are unable to accommodate in January or February.
2. Whether you are interested in applying for Lexcel or Investors in People.
To reduce the barriers presented by distance, I intend ultimately to use web-enabled remote meetings as the preferred method of communication within the group, and to keep physical meetings to an absolute minimum".