Finders Keepers

Fishing For A Firm

When choosing an attorney, consider the size of the firm. You'll find patent attorneys at three types of law firms, each with its own advantages.

A small patent law firm--maybe with just one attorney--is your first option. The good thing about hiring such a firm is that the attorney you speak with will most likely be the same one who writes the patent application. There is little chance your work will be spread around to others in the firm. Small firms also have less overhead than larger firms, so they can afford to charge less. They can usually give you a very accurate estimate of when the work will be finished because they're responsible for their own calendars. Mark Gilbreth of Gilbreth & Strozier PC, an intellectual property law firm in Houston, says, "When you hire a small firm, you know who your lawyer is. No patent filing is too small for a small firm."

You may decide instead to choose a large patent law firm with 30 or more patent attorneys. A large firm offers a wealth of talent to draw on. Chances are, this type of firm will have an attorney with relevant experience in your invention's specific field. Large patent firms are also skilled in litigating patent lawsuits. This can be very beneficial should your patent come under attack. If you choose one of these firms, you'll probably meet with a skilled patent attorney who will develop a patenting strategy. He or she will then assign the initial drafting work to an associate under his or her direction. This process can be very cost-effective for you because the associate bills at a lower hourly rate.

A large general practice law firm with a patent division is the third place to look for a patent attorney. Since most entrepreneurs will need legal advice on more issues than just patent law, a large general practice firm can serve as a legal grocery store where you can shop for solutions to your various legal needs. You also have the advantage of not wasting time re-educating a firm about your business every time you need legal assistance. Also, a large firm has a wide range of contacts throughout the business community, which can be a great benefit to you and your business. And of course, your validity is enhanced when others know you're using a large, prestigious law firm.

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This article was originally published in the July 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Finders Keepers.

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