Expert Tips for Staffing Your Intellectual Property Practice

Three Robert Half legal professionals walk down a hallway

With intellectual property remaining an in-demand area of law for the foreseeable future, staffing your practice remains not only a high priority but also a challenge.

Both legal departments and law firms are actively hiring professionals to assist with patent filings, trademark infringements and other intellectual property matters. To ensure your staff's abilities remain in sync with client demands, consider these suggestions when attempting to fill vacancies or augment your team with new employees:

Let business priorities drive staffing decisions

This may seem like a no-brainer, but employers often make staffing decisions in knee-jerk fashion – that is, they aim to replace a departed employee with someone who has basically the same skills and experience. Instead, a big-picture view is in order, one that factors in how the business environment has changed since the position was last filled and how that might affect the way you should allocate work in general going forward.

Many law firms are reconsidering their staffing mix in an effort to meet client demands for more cost-effective legal services. It might make sense, for example, to replace an intellectual property lawyer with a couple of versatile paralegals with intellectual property expertise who can interact with clients and assist with all aspects of case management. Or, it might be wise to replace a senior lawyer with a junior associate, which could help your firm keep legal costs in check while also developing a prospective future leader for your firm.

Be open to a range of options

Recognize that not every case or project phase requires a full-time employee. Your firm may be able to bridge resource gaps with short-term staffing solutions, such as engaging project lawyers, paralegals or legal support staff on an as-needed basis. This staffing approach is tailor-made for the legal profession because it allows firms to respond more effectively to fluctuating caseloads and to better manage costs. This is especially critical when it comes to complex and time-consuming projects, such as eDiscovery. The approach also allows firms to tap into professionals who can supply specialized expertise that is needed for a limited time only.

Consider contract-to-hire arrangements

In a tough hiring environment for intellectual property talent, you may want to bring in prospective hires on a contract basis. You can take advantage of their help while having an opportunity to observe firsthand their strengths, personality and corporate culture fit before making a job offer.

Partner with a specialized staffing firm

Finding specialists in areas such as intellectual property can be difficult and time-consuming. More than half (56 percent) of lawyers polled in a Robert Half Legal survey cited at least some challenge in finding skilled legal professionals. A specialized staffing firm can help save you time and reduce the costs involved in finding highly skilled temporary professionals. In addition, a staffing firm can help you determine the best types of professionals for your particular needs and the optimal staffing mix for your business.

Intellectual property will remain a priority at companies of all sizes in virtually every industry. That means competition is likely to further intensify for lawyers and legal support professionals with expertise in patent, trademark and copyright law. The law offices most poised to succeed in this environment will be those that are most adept at matching their staffing strategies to their business opportunities.