A comprehensive survey of almost 400 IP professionals across
IP law firms and corporate IP departments has revealed the
pressures IP law firms are under. They need to grow profitably
and at the same time, are subject to client requests to reduce
costs and increase strategic advice.
The survey revealed a significant gap between law firms'
perceptions of what corporates are looking for and what
corporates believe they really need from external counsel. To
generate profitable growth, law firms need to understand
clients' requirements more comprehensively, as well as organise
their firms in order to deliver efficient services within
clients' budget constraints. Despite cost pressures, the survey
identified that corporate IP departments are willing to invest
in strategic counsel that will help to cultivate a more
relevant and efficient IP portfolio.
The survey was conducted for CPA Global by independent
research company B2B International, in association with
|About the survey
The survey was designed to deliver a clear insight
into the dynamics of the IP law firm market today, as
well as providing law firms with insights that would
assist in creating stronger client relationships and
profitable growth for the future. The survey explored
the pressures faced by today's law firms, the
activities they are prioritising and their perceptions
about innovation and efficiency.
To achieve this, CPA Global sought the views of law
firm practitioners – from managing partners,
COOs and partners, to patent and trade mark attorneys
and paralegals, across 232 law firms, ranging from sole
practitioners to international giants.
Critically, the survey also sought the views of IP
professionals in corporate roles. In total, almost 150
companies provided input – from those with
less than 50 employees to some of the largest
corporations in the world. Responses were received from
around the globe. While most of the participants were
based in the Americas, Europe and Middle East, a
significant proportion were based in Asia where dynamic
change in law firms and IP management is taking
Commenting on the survey, Jayne Durden, VP Solutions
Marketing & Strategy at CPA Global, said: "CPA
Global was founded by IP law firms, for IP law firms
almost 50 years ago. Our business relies on
understanding the complex needs and requirements of a
diverse range of global clients. To properly serve the
legal IP market, it is essential we understand the
industry and can support it effectively as it
She added: "The survey provided robust confirmation
of many insights we hear anecdotally from our clients.
However, it also provides new insight into the growth
challenges that IP law firms face in a fast-evolving
market. The input from corporates provides a valuable
extra dimension, highlighting key differences in
perceptions between what law firms believe corporates
want, and the view that corporates hold on the added
value they desire from external legal resource."
Growth, profitability and pricing pressure: the law firm
The IP law firms that participated in the survey are clearly
feeling under pressure due to the need to adapt to clients'
financial constraints and generate profit. When asked what they
perceived to be the most significant challenges they would face
in the next three years, the top three items identified were
all related to cost and profitability.
The primary challenge concerned pressure to reduce prices,
with 59% of respondents ranking this issue among their top
three considerations. This was closely related to the second,
most significant challenge: maintaining or improving practice
profitability (identified by 44% of respondents). The same
proportion of respondents identified increased competition
among law firms as a significant issue.
The research also explored how law firms are addressing
these challenges. Firms are working hard to try and meet client
requirements, aiming to improve the accuracy of price
estimates, looking to embrace new and more sophisticated fee
models and, in some cases, considering discounts and fixed fee
arrangements for clients.
Business growth was a firm focus for the firms surveyed.
However, when asked about the most effective ways to grow
business, most felt retaining clients and positioning the firm
as a strategic partner were more important than seeking new
As a result, it is perhaps unsurprising that only around
half of law firms had dedicated business development or
marketing resources. Those that did felt these were not always
fully utilised or that they had the team but not the tools to
market the firm effectively. The 50% of law firms that did not
have dedicated business development resources relied on fee
earners – from partners to practising lawyers
– to take on this role.
Technology, particularly software, was considered a tool
that can help improve practice efficiency and profitability,
with 31% of respondents seeing technology that transforms and
automates workplaces as a key opportunity in the next three
years. Respondents were looking for more user-friendly,
efficient and integrated software packages, across client
relationship management, IP workflow and docketing. Cloud
computing was identified as a significant opportunity.
The survey clearly demonstrates that law firms are feeling
pressure to reduce costs, while at the same time wanting to
grow revenues and profitability. Many firms were struggling
with how to address these challenges. Law firms were keen to
optimise their offerings in the market and create efficiency
through technology. The critical question was what strategy
would achieve this?
The corporate view on IP law firms
The survey clearly demonstrated that corporate clients'
predominant desire is for law firms to better meet their needs
and requirements. Law firms that understand why work is sent to
them are far more likely to become strategic partners with
On average, the corporates that responded to the survey
outsourced around 50% of their legal work to law firms. This
was driven by two factors: firstly, the need for specific IP
expertise and secondly, to address shortfalls in in-house
The three most referenced challenges for corporate IP
departments were: pressure to reduce costs (51%); aligning IP
with business strategy (40%); selecting the right IP to protect
and maintain (37%).
The survey revealed a significant gap between law
firms’ perceptions of what corporates are
looking for and what corporates believe they really
need from external counsel
When asked what corporate IP departments expect from a great
law firm, expertise and experience came at the top of the list,
with participants commenting on the need for realistic advice,
commercial understanding and strategic thinking. Second on the
list, came responsiveness, particularly through fast and
accurate communication. Pricing was the third consideration,
cited by 24% of respondents.
IP departments were asked what would differentiate a law
firm's offering. The responses ranked quality of service (70%),
specialisation (59%) and deep sector and business understanding
(50%) as more important criteria than cost (26%).
The message is clear: law firms that wish to receive
business from corporate IP departments need to demonstrate
significant relevant IP experience to clients. They need to
help corporates understand more clearly where IP is driving
business value and they need to provide strategic advice that
can actively help in cost control.
One area where there was a disconnect between the views of
law firms and corporates was around innovation and
transformation. Participants were asked about these terms in
the context of their respective relationships. In response, law
firms focussed on the tools that would drive innovation, such
as technology, digitisation and automation when responding. IP
departments focussed more on the outcomes of innovation and
transformation as they saw them. These included higher quality,
added value, expertise and flexibility. For corporates, the
tools that drive excellence are less important than the
outcomes. Law firms that want to grow need to identify the
means to deliver a higher quality, more effective and flexible
service and implement this quickly.
|How CPA Global helps law firms
create successful strategies for growth and
Founded in 1969 by and for IP law firms, CPA Global
is the world's leading IP management and technology
company. The company has 23 offices across four
continents, serving more than 10,000 customers and
connecting millions of global IP users every day.
CPA Global recognises the challenges faced by law
firms and is committed to helping law firms drive the
efficiencies they need to achieve via technology and
CPA Global helps law firms in the following
- IP diagnostic service. This
delivers expert analysis of a law firm's current IP
operation, focusing on best practice use of people,
processes and technology to mitigate risk, increase
efficiency and profitability and recommending
strategies to transform your firm.
- IP support services. Teams of
specialised IP professionals can be integrated into
your firm's processes to help reduce costs and
increase capability and capacity to support your firm
and your clients.
- Professional services. CPA Global
employs around 2,000 expert IP professionals
globally. The company's expert professional services
team provides implementation, upgrades and
maintenance of IP software and services.
- The IP Platform. Cloud-based
technology solutions for critical aspects of IP
management, from docketing and filing to renewals. By
centralising all services in one platform, CPA Global
ensures that data entered in one app will be
reflected across the entire platform. CPA Global
delivers a single sign on environment for all apps
and software, reducing the need for law firms to
integrate technology within an existing environment.
This saves both time and cost of deployment.
- Accurate data. The IP Platform
offers seamless access to verified data through IP
One Data – CPA Global's patent database and
matching engine, covering more than 100 million
patent records. IP One Data offers a consolidated
view of IP data, augmented by external IP data
sources. The verification process ensures information
is cleansed, using best in class big data technology
and proprietary algorithms.
- The IP Platform serves as a means
of bringing the industry together, further connecting
global IP networks. Law firms can identify partners
in new territories via the platform as well as using
it to showcase expertise and experience to CPA
Global's customer base of corporations.
Winning strategies for law firms
Law firms that are looking to grow successful IP departments
need to balance the following objectives: improving or
maintaining practice profitability; driving business growth;
improving client service by demonstrating relevant expertise
and experience, and strategically applying this to a client's
The survey reveals law firms believe that a lack of time and
resources is a significant challenge to creating improved
practice efficiency with 70% of respondents citing this as an
issue. The next most significant barrier was a fear of
disrupting day-to-day operations and services (54%). Other
barriers to change were people-related: 45% felt law firm staff
were not flexible enough, with 40% citing partners as resistant
Technology, particularly software, was considered a
tool that can help improve practice efficiency and
profitability, with 31% of respondents seeing
technology that transforms and automates workplaces as
a key opportunity in the next three years
Law firms need to cast aside these concerns, particularly
around a lack of time or resources. Specialist third parties
such as practice management specialists or IP efficiency
experts can help firms identify opportunities for automation
and improved efficiency. Partners and IP practitioners are far
better deployed demonstrating expertise and differentiation
from other firms to existing and prospective clients than
acting as change enablers internally. It makes sense for law
firms to conduct a thorough audit of their own IP processes and
practices, identifying where technology can play a role within
the firm, before committing to specific resources. This is a
further area where third party expertise can be utilised.
Law firms that take a more strategic approach, as demanded
by corporates, should be able to identify ways in which
corporations can save money. Firms that can clearly demonstrate
the value of specific IP filings to corporations can help them
unlock cost savings. By highlighting IP that delivers
significant return on investment, law firms can help corporates
make more strategic choices over filings and renewals and
maintain the most effective IP portfolio.
Technology services can help law firms drive efficiencies,
supporting the staff that are central to delivering client
satisfaction, as well as protecting practice profitability.
Additionally, technology and automation can reduce the amount
of time that fee earning resource is spending on
administration, freeing them up to refocus on the strategic
counsel that corporates value so highly.
Law firms that can use technology that creates fast,
responsive and relevant support services at the heart of their
day-to-day operations will find themselves in a position to
satisfy clients' baseline requirements for high-quality service
and value for money. Platforms that capture and manage data and
provide an analytics engine for reporting enable law firms to
help corporates better analyse their IP portfolio and generate
the business insight from data that can align IP strategy more
closely with business strategy.
The use of technology to enable higher level staff to focus
on how and where to show strategic skills
Corporations are demanding that law firms move up the value
chain – reducing the cost of day-to-day or functional
activities and focussing senior personnel on strategic counsel
that drives improved business growth.
Technology solutions can help law firms drive efficiencies
and reduce the cost of day-to-day activities by automating time
intensive data-driven tasks.
Beyond efficiencies there is a further benefit to deploying
technology within an IP law firm – insight from IP
data. The most effective IP technology solutions will enable
law firms to quickly understand more about their clients' IP
portfolios – where they are strong and weak, which
territories are delivering most return on IP investment, and
even where strategic partnerships, mergers or acquisitions
could prove valuable to corporates.
The use of technology frees up the time of fee earners to
support corporate IP professionals, armed with insight that can
help drive better return on investment from IP assets.
Technology enables law firms to cement their position with
clients, add strategic value and help corporates identify where
they can be more efficient and effective.
The research provides insight into the challenges faced by
law firms in the 21st Century. Corporate clients are demanding
more value from IP and looking for ways that law firms can help
them achieve this – be it from reduced cost, more
strategic counsel, or both.
Successful law firms of the future will need to be more
aligned to the challenges facing corporates, understanding them
more effectively, and delivering the services that help them
In the future, successful law firms will need to be less
focussed on individual patent and trade mark filings and
renewals, and more focussed on the strategic value of an IP
portfolio to a corporate client. By delivering more efficient
day-to-day processes, law firms can ensure they are closely
aligned to the needs and demands of the corporate IP
department, yet still have the time and resources to ensure
their own growth and profitability.