Founder of aRc Legal, based in Christchurch, and aRcHub (a Facebook group for small businesses) Rachel Triplow shares her journey on practising IP law and deconstructing her services to make accessing IP law easier for small New Zealand businesses.
My choice to specialise in intellectual property law dates back to university, when a friend recommended that I choose an IP paper for one of my electives – more than twenty years later and I’m still so grateful to this friend! I’ve always been creative and love working with words, so this area of law is a perfect fit for me.
My first role out of university was as a Trade Marks and Designs Examiner at the Intellectual Property Office in New Zealand (“IPONZ”). My job was to examine applications against the legislation and case law to see whether they met the requirements for registrability. I also helped with the backlog of Hearings Decisions by reviewing and drafting Assistant Commissioner judgements for the legal team to review. It was a great way of learning more about the approach to a wide variety of trade marks and designs and keep up to date with New Zealand and international case law.
Since then I’ve practised in IP law firms and as in-house counsel both in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, learning how to balance the commercial needs of my clients against the legal realities of IP law. I also headed the IPONZ trade marks team as Assistant Commissioner on my return to New Zealand after five years overseas, where my role was to write IPONZ decisions and guidelines, oversee the examination team’s services and endeavour to harmonise our practices with those of IP Australia.
Over the twenty years I’ve been specialising in this field, it has always been frustrating to me how little weight small businesses (and in many cases, their advisors) place on identifying and ensuring they own their brand and creative concepts, when this is an essential part of their success. Often this comes down to the perceived cost implications and complexity of IP law.
So, in 2015, I went out on my own and launched aRc Legal with a particular focus on helping small businesses to protect their awesome ideas at a price they could afford. I still struggled to keep my prices down though due the subjective nature of IP law and the length of time needed to deliver the services to a standard that would give the best result for my clients.
As a result, I’ve recently deconstructed the way I offer services to clients.
I have separated my services into three parts so people can choose when to do things themselves (“Done By You” or “DIY”), when to ask for help (“Done With You”), and when to ask me just to take it all off their hands and do it for them (“Done For You”).
The new model means that legal services are more accessible to everyone based on their budget, skills and time available. I’ve specialised in intellectual property law for more than twenty years, and the need for every business to be able to protect their trade mark(s) is an essential part of their success.
The DIY option consists of templates, resources and videos so people who are just starting out and don’t have much of a budget can get themselves started on the right track.
It’s a rare thing to find an off-the-shelf template that will suit every situation or that will really be fit for purpose, so the “Done With You” option is one step up. One of my new “Done With You” packages is the “BrandBooster™” – the client does the legwork using a workbook, then jumps on two video-conference calls with me so I can check their work and guide them to the right solution using shared resources such as Google Docs.
The “Done With You” service not only reduces the costs for the client (as it reduces my time spent on administration, formatting and research), it also empowers the client to know how to know what to look for next time, and potentially how to DIY in the future.
My BrandBooster™ package has been a game-changer. Not only am I spending more time on interesting work and less time on administrative tasks (such as reporting updates from IPONZ, or chasing instructions), it’s also much easier to “sell” the lower price package rather than my full “Done For You” services. When people use my BrandBooster™ package they also get a better understanding of the full process of protecting a trade mark and the value a TM attorney adds to the process, so they make great advocates in the future too!
This type of model could work for any area of law and is one that would benefit both lawyers and clients. It seems logical to me that lawyers want to spend less time on the routine or mundane parts of their practice, and clients consistently want to spend less but get professional expertise.
It’s a model that is definitely working for both me and my clients so I highly recommend seeing whether it can be adapted in your practice.