17 March 2019

Survey – How Is Life As a Trans-Tasman Patent Attorney?

Take the Survey Last week I looked at aggregate numbers of patent attorneys employed within different sectors of the Australian/New Zealand markets – listed-group firms, privately-held firms, corporate, research/university, and government – and observed that there has been a notable drift over the past 15 months from the listed groups to privately-held firms.  In an upcoming post, I will look beneath the aggregate numbers at more detailed figures showing that the loss of experience from the listed-group firms is significantly greater than the overall changes in numbers indicate.  For example, while the net reduction in patent attorneys employed across the three listed groups is just 34, the actual number of departures from firms in these groups since January 2018 is 66.  Furthermore, the difference has not been made up by experienced hires, but mostly by registration of new attorneys, who were presumably already working as trainees (for want of a better generic term) within the listed-group firms prior to achieving qualification.

Right now, however, I want to ask a favour of all trans-Tasman patent attorneys.  While all of these numbers tell us what is happening, they do not tell us very much about why or how it is happening.  Some feedback that I receive, in the comments beneath these articles, and through conversation and other channels, suggests that there are attorneys working within the listed groups who are not very happy with the current situation.  On the other hand, I have also heard of people welcoming the new opportunities that the listed-group model provides.  Management within the listed groups would like us all to believe that most of their ‘losses’ are people who were close to retirement in any event, or who are unsuited to a competitive environment that is demanding ever-greater efficiency and productivity.  Privately-held firms, for their part, have a vested interest in promoting themselves as offering greater independence, stability, partnership opportunities, and so-called ‘work-life balance’ (a term that I detest, by the way, although that is a topic for another time).

I would like to make some attempt to get to the truth of this, so the favour I am asking of trans-Tasman attorneys (and current trainees, along with any trade marks attorneys and IP lawyers working with specialist IP firms who may wish to participate) is to complete a survey that I have prepared.  While not scientifically designed or conducted – for one thing, the respondents are going to be self-selecting and anonymous, so I am relying on people’s honesty and integrity in responding – I have nonetheless put considerable thought into the questions, and the structure of the survey, and am hopeful that the responses will provide insights that the publicly-available data alone cannot.


For the survey to be useful, however, I need responses from across the profession.  I am hoping for at least 200 participants, representing firms of all sizes and ownership structures.  So, assuming you qualify, here are a few reasons why you should complete the survey, and why you should encourage your colleagues to do so.
  1. It is quick and easy.  Most of the questions are multiple choice. All of the compulsory questions are multiple choice.  If you do not want to spend time typing longer answers, you do not have to.
  2. It is mobile-friendly.  You can complete the survey wherever you want, on whatever device you choose, beyond the prying eyes of your employer or IT department (if that in an issue for you).
  3. It is completely anonymous.  I have absolutely no way to track the identity or location of any respondent.
  4. It will benefit the profession as a whole.  I am unaware of any other attempt to conduct such a survey publicly and independently.  All results and analysis will be published openly on this blog.  The data will not be made available for private use by individual firms, for any reason.
  5. It will benefit your firm.  I genuinely have no idea what the responses will reveal.  As I have said, anecdotally I hear different views from different people, both within the listed groups, and privately-held firms.  I therefore suspect that even the management of these firms have little visibility of the true sentiments among their staff and within the profession more broadly.  Whether or not you like the answers, the truth will set you free!  (Or, at least, assist you to manage more effectively.)

I am considering conducting a similar survey for clients (including foreign associates) of Australian/New Zealand IP firms.  However, I am not sure whether I would receive a sufficient number and diversity of responses to make this worthwhile.  If anyone is interested in seeing me conduct such a survey, and would be willing to assist in promoting it to likely respondents, please get in touch.  You can communicate via the comments below, or via the email link in the menu bar above.

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