Frequently Asked Questions
You're a solo freelancer, but does that actually mean semi-retired?
No, I am definitely still in business, for certain clients and projects. That said, I am looking to do significantly less pure legal work than the 60-hour weeks I've been working over the past 30 years. This means saying no to work that in the past, I would have taken on. I want to roughly halve my workload compared with full time legal practice.
I won't be taking on any employees, or partnering with another practitioner, but I do have my favourite lawyers, patent attorneys and other advisers whom I recommend for work that I don't take on myself. I don't receive any referral fees or other benefits for this.
So what work are you taking on?
Projects that I find interesting, for people who I enjoy working with. Within that overall framework, I now limit my practice of law to:
- advice on IP portfolio management and IP commercialisation strategy
- structuring IP deals and planning for negotiations
- reviewing and commenting on existing or proposed contracts (but not drafting them)
- helping with negotiations, inside or outside the room
- training and mentoring
Sometimes I am asked to review and analyse complex documentation and/or difficult situations, to advise on a way forward. This can be some of my favourite work, but I will no longer write lengthy reports or opinions in these matters. I can tell you what I think you should do, in a meeting or on a phone call, backed up by a short email. If that's not enough for your purposes, you’ll need to retain someone else.
I understand that these limitations won't suit the needs of many current and potential clients in many matters. Other service providers are available, and I'm happy to make recommendations.
I'm in the middle of a deal that has to close quickly - can you help me urgently?
If you're an existing client with a genuine emergency, I'll move heaven and earth to help you out, and I will do whatever it takes (within my capacities as a solo freelancer who usually has a significant backlog of work). But sometimes I will just have to say no, and suggest you go elsewhere - probably to a large firm where a partner will have a team standing by who can jump on the work immediately, for which you'll be charged accordingly.
I choose not to participate in unnecessary panics over timing, and am mystified when a party to a deal wants to self-impose arbitrary deadlines on progressing or closing the deal. This simply invites a response from the other side of "well of course we can close quickly - all you have to do is sign our last mark-up of the contract!". For companies that have desirable and valuable IP assets or commercialisation capabilities, good deals are done by negotiators who act like they don't need the deal desperately, and are happy to take their time.
What technical fields do you practise in?
My science training is in chemistry and life sciences, and that is the focus of my practice. That said, I regularly turn my hand to IP matters in mining, medtech and other forms of engineering, including the 'deep tech' patentable aspects of IT. But I can't claim expertise in software contracts, web-based businesses, and other fields where patents are not at the core of the business.
Who will do my contract drafting work?
I'm highly specialised in IP, so my clients have always had to instruct other lawyers for most of their legal work. Clients now retain me to give advice on strategy (including the structuring of contracts), to help with negotiations and dealmaking (including reviewing and commenting on agreements), and to up-skill their people, while using a law firm or their in-house legal team to draft the contracts for the deals I am working on. This is now the only way I operate when helping with transactions.
Why the change, given you're not at retirement age?
I have many personal interests to pursue, that I've neglected during a busy legal career. I'm an active angel investor who wants to make more investments, I love to travel, I need to exercise more, and I have family and personal relationships that deserve more of my time.
Can I schedule a call or meeting with you to discuss an interesting project?
It depends. If you are looking for an IP transactions lawyer, there is a lot of readily available information about what I do, how I do it, and whether I am right for the job - including this website. We probably don't need to meet or talk, for you to decide whether I can do the work. Send me an email with a solid description of what you need done, and if I have capacity (and it's within my areas of work above), I'll send you an engagement letter. Otherwise I hope you won’t mind if I politely decline. If I can‘t take on work I’ll do my best to suggest a good alternative.
If you have some other activity, role or relationship to propose that is both intriguing and genuinely to our mutual advantage, please send me an email outlining the opportunity. I'll let you know whether or not I'm interested in meeting up or talking. I don't take calls unless they have been scheduled in advance, so email is best.
If you are happy to make less money will you do my work for free? Or work for shares?
No. I value the contribution I can make to my clients' businesses and I expect them to do the same. When trying to do a lot less work, I'm obviously going to prioritise work that I get paid for. When I work for free, it's as a volunteer mentor or expert-in-residence at start-up incubators and accelerators, as part of an organised and formal volunteering program.
I do occasionally invest in client start-up companies, if they meet my criteria for an arm's length angel investment. This may mean that they then have more funds available to pay my fees. I never agree to 'success fees'; often the best advice I can give a client is not to go ahead with a proposed deal, so it makes no sense (and creates a conflict of interest) if I am in a position of not getting paid when the client takes that advice.
I am planning an IP deal - when should I engage you?
Early. I add the most value long before draft contracts are being passed around. I help clients to know what deal they want to do, with whom, and how best to argue for that deal. One of my most valuable 'products' is a half day workshop for this purpose. But if I am engaged after commercial terms have been agreed in principle, there's a limit to what I can do. So if you plan to engage me, do so when you start thinking about your deal.
Will you speak at my conference / event?
I really enjoy public speaking (and small group training), and I'm good at it. But I no longer have any need to promote my practice, or to give presentations as a form of business development, or to raise my profile. I am trying to schedule fewer professional activities, not more.
So, if you are looking for an eminent, entertaining and knowledgeable speaker for your conference or event, I'm happy to be considered. But I will expect to be paid (including travel and accommodation). I may waive my fee (but not expenses) if the organiser is a non-profit industry association or charity.