“Best Practices for Patent Quality” Webinar Features Patent Expert Elaine Spector

Best Practices for Patent Quality
Webinar Hosted by Patent Bots and Harrity & Harrity, LLP
Join leading patent attorneys from Harrity & Harrity (Elaine Spector), McDermott Will & Emory (Bernie Codd), Holland & Hart (Michael Drapkin), and Patent Bots (Jeff O’Neill) as they explore best practices in the processes, tools, and metrics underlying higher patent quality.
Questions covered in this webinar include:
  1. What are you doing at your firm to ensure that your clients are getting a high-quality work product?
  2. What is the metric that you use to gauge quality?
  3. Are you tracking anything relating to quality on an individual attorney basis?
  4. What tools do you use in relation to quality?
  5. Are your quality processes today the same as they were 5 years ago and if not, how have they changed?
  6. When do you use tools like PatentBots, Patent Draftr, ClaimMaster, and Patent Optimizer?
  7. How are you using examiner analytics in patent prosecution to improve quality?
  8. Whose work is reviewed and who is reviewing it?
  9. Are all clients work reviewed and if not why not?
Watch Now!

To see more tips for achieving patent quality, visit our Practical Patents page.

 

Tech Transfer IP | Prosecuting Patent Applications with Elaine Spector

Prosecuting Patent Applications with Elaine Spector
Lisa L. Mueller
Lisa L. Mueller | June 23 2021

Click here to listen to audio

Welcome to another episode of Tech Transfer IP. Today I am pleased to speak with Elaine Spector. Elaine is a patent attorney with Harrity & Harrity with over twenty year’s experience in intellectual property law. Elaine’s current practice consists primarily of prosecuting patent applications with a focus on electromechanical technologies.

Before joining Harrity & Harrity, Elaine worked in private practice for over fifteen years handling various intellectual property matters, including patent application drafting and prosecution, trademark prosecution and enforcement and litigating complex patent cases in federal courts. Her extensive litigation experience provides her with a unique perspective in prosecuting patent applications.

Listen as Elaine shares some key differences between working in a University Tech Transfer office and working in a law firm. She also talks about the Rooney Rule and how Hannity has improved it by making it Rooney Rule 2.0, and how the Rooney Rule is different from the Mansfield Rule.

Elaine discusses her company’s rigorous hiring process to remove bias, the factors that contribute to the problem of having a small amount of diverse individuals in the legal profession, and the programs her office has launched to help bring more women into her firm, like the Annual Women’s Patent Law Workshop and the Minority Firm Incubator Program to name a few.

Elaine shares some suggestions for small firms that might struggle to develop diversity and inclusion procedures, standards, and programs. She says that reaching out is one action step patent professionals can take to improve diversity for the Patent Bar.

In This Episode:

  • [02:26] Welcome to the show, Elaine!
  • [02:48] Elaine shares her career journey from a University Tech Transfer office to a law firm.
  • [06:16] She worked at John Hopkins Technology Transfer, which later changed its name to Tech Ventures.
  • [06:46] What are some of the key differences between working in a University Tech Transfer office and working in a law firm?
  • [09:18] Elaine discusses the Rooney Rule 2.0 and how Harrity takes the rule even further.
  • [10:28] How is the Rooney Rule different from the Mansfield Rule?
  • [12:39] Elaine doesn’t believe that the “Heavy Stick” approach suggested by some corporations will be effective in helping meet diversity requirements.
  • [15:01] Elaine speaks about her company’s rigorous hiring process and how it removes the likelihood of bias.
  • [17:20] Can you tell us about the factors contributing to the problem of not enough diverse individuals in the legal profession?
  • [20:01] Elaine discusses Harrity’s office’s Annual Women’s Patent Law Workshop.
  • [21:46] Elaine discusses another program Harrity has recently developed which is training women and helping them pass the writing part of their application process.
  • [22:31] Elaine shares some other programs her firm has that focus on diversity and inclusion.
  • [24:28] Elaine speaks about the Minority Firm Incubator Program they are launching.
  • [27:39] Harrity has launched a diversity channel this year with a weekly vlog.
  • [28:58] How does your diversity committee handle these programs?
  • [31:01] Elaine shares some suggestions for small firms that might struggle to develop diversity and inclusion procedures, standards, and programs.
  • [33:04] Elaine believes the changes proposed by USPTO will help with gender diversity, and she shares some other degrees that should be included.
  • [35:05] What is the one action step patent professionals can take today to improve diversity for the Patent Bar?

To learn more about Harrity’s diversity efforts, visit harrityllp.com/diversity. For more diversity resources, including all Driving Diversity episodes, check out The Diversity Channel.

 

John Harrity, Harrity Team

Law360 Law Firm Leaders: Harrity & Harrity’s John Harrity

Law360 (October 16, 2019, 2:04 PM EDT) — John Harrity has served as managing partner of Harrity & Harrity LLP, the patent law firm he founded in 1999 with twin brother Paul Harrity, since 2016. During that time, the law firm’s revenue has grown by 127%, profits have gone up by 167% and the attorney headcount increased by 100%.

Here, Harrity discusses how his law firm has streamlined and automated the patent application process a la McDonald’s, why lawyers are not paid based on origination credits and why charity is such a big part of the firm’s culture.

How is your law firm different from a traditional law firm?

There’s a lot of ways that we’re different. From the very beginning, we’ve had this focus on quality. People talk about quality in our field, but one of the things we like to do when we talk about something is we want to make sure that it’s measurable. From the very beginning of our firm, my twin brother and I, we started with the traditional question: Why us? Why would anyone send us work over the thousands of firms doing patent prosecution and preparation? After some discussion, we honed in on quality. We implemented a couple of procedures, one was adopted from my brother’s former firm, Finnegan, and the other we created on our own.

We made sure everything goes through a very thorough second attorney review. It’s all about expectations here. Attorneys know that when they hand something in to me, there’s a certain level of quality that’s expected. And when we send things out to clients, there’s a certain expectation. When we send it to an inventor or in-house counsel, we’re going to send something that thoroughly, accurately and technically describes your invention and in our eyes is ready to be filed.

It’s tracking some statistics in relation to that to see: Are we succeeding or are we failing? How often, when we send out a patent application to an inventor or in-house counsel, do we get “looks good” [in response]? That’s our level of expectation. Going back to the beginning of the firm, so over the course of 20 years and having drafted over 5,000 patent applications, 67% of the time we’ve gotten a “looks good.”

The other [quality procedure] is writing style. I liken it to McDonald’s. Why is McDonald’s successful? Every McDonald’s you go to in the United States and you order their premier burger, the Big Mac, it’s going to have the same look, the exact same flavor every single time. And it’s going to come out in roughly the same amount of time. Our uniform writing style works exactly the same. Individual companies have preferences for how they want their patents to look, often the attorneys that work internally have individual preferences. We have a uniform writing style for every single attorney and every single company so that when they come to our firm, regardless of the drafting professional, they’re going to get their uniform writing style every single time.

Your firm has eliminated origination credits. Why have you done that and what kind of impact does it have?

Let’s think about origination credits. When you look inside these firms that have origination credits, what you see inside these firms are law firms within a law firm. You’ve got all of these partners with their origination credit, rowing in different directions. When you look at my firm, every client here is the firm’s client. We make business decisions about whether to bring on a client and whether to keep a client. Our firm’s mission is to be the No. 1 firm in the world doing what we do. We do patent applications and prosecution and we just do it in the electrical and mechanical space. I can tell you, every single individual at my firm, we’re all rowing in the same direction. Since we opened up 20 years ago, every single client has been the firm’s client. I might manage some of them and be the face to our firm for a particular client, but it’s the firm’s client, it’s not mine. That’s why we can be so agile, and move so quickly in the field, because we’re all rowing in the same direction.

How does the law firm then figure out how to determine whether a particular lawyer is successful?

We track some statistics internally. Every patent application that’s drafted at my firm, every response to a rejection from the patent office that’s drafted, goes through a second attorney review. And if I’m the reviewer, I fill out a scorecard and I’m grading this application or response on a little over a dozen different categories. This gives feedback to our attorneys. You can see your statistics for the year, you can compare them to last year. If you’re struggling in a particular area of drafting a patent application, don’t you want to know what that area is? There’s a quality score that all of our attorneys have.

There’s also a production element. One of the things we do is we pay our attorneys for production. We’ve experienced, in the lifetime of this firm, the same thing other firms experienced. The pricing of patent applications continually went up from 1999 until it plateaued for four to five years and then we started seeing it dip and it’s come down almost all the way to 1999 numbers. Back in 2013, one of our clients decreased their prices and we had a discussion internally and said, this is a wake-up call. We can walk away from the client and say we only do work for top-paying clients. If we do that, there will be less and less companies willing to pay top dollar and every firm in the United States is going to be lined up fighting for that work. The other route, the one we chose, is: Let’s get efficient. I put [the patent application process] in steps. Which of these steps must be performed by an attorney? All of the other steps, I hand those off to support staff members. And then, at the beginning of this year, I said: Let’s start automating some of the stuff the support staff is doing and let’s start automating some of the stuff the attorneys are doing.

2012 was before our efficiency journey. Our top drafting attorney drafted 54 patent applications that year, second place was 42. Last year, we had four attorneys draft more than 90 patent applications. We had one attorney in December draft 19 patent applications. This year our automation tools have rolled out. We have an attorney this year who is on track to draft 150 patent applications.

Let me tie that back into pay. You join our firm and when you’re assigned a patent application to draft, you’re given a number of hourly credits. If the hourly credit is 40 hours, you get that same hourly credit regardless of your actual time spent on it. So if you spend 40 hours, you’re getting hour-for-hour credit. If I can get you efficient, without sacrificing quality, down to 20 hours, now you’re drafting two patent applications. If I can get you down to 10 hours, then in that same 40 hour period you’re drafting four, which means you make four times as much money. The big producers at our firm make what partners make at other firms.

What tasks and processes have you automated?

One simple one I‘ll tell you about is form filling. There are certain forms that need to be filled out when you’re filing a patent application. And these forms were taking our staff about 15 to 30 minutes. Now it takes them about five seconds to fill them out — it’s being populated based on our docketing system.

You had a massive heart attack in 2016 at age 49, how has that impacted the way you operate your law firm?

Let me start with charity. I had this health scare back in 2016 and it really set the firm on a different course. I was in intensive care for eight weeks. It took me a couple of months after that to actually get back to the firm. I became hugely service-focused and that bled over to everything we do at the firm now. Harrity for Charity, that’s our giving back initiative. We’ve committed at the partner level to give 5% of profits to our partner charities. Those are the American Heart Association, that was my health scare, I had a heart attack; Inova Children’s Hospital; UNICEF; and Zero, which is the fight against prostate cancer. What makes Harrity for Charity infinitely better than the 5% coming out of partner profits is every single employee at my firm is committing a portion of their paycheck to one or more of these partner charities. Service is hugely important to us.

On the diversity side, we started our diversity journey kind of late in the game. We started our firm in 1999 and we started diversity efforts in November, 2015. At the time we started the conversation, we were 8% [ethnically] diverse at the attorney level. We implemented our Rooney Rule 2.0. What we’ve done is this. For every single position at my firm, support staff included, when we interview a white male for a position, we will interview a non-white male for that same position. Fast forward three years and we’ve gone from 8% diverse to 30% diverse today.

The newest thing we did is our minority firm incubator. It is a unique, innovative program. We’re willing to spend the time and money to make this thing successful. What we’re doing is creating minority-owned firms, female-owned firms that are replicas of our firm. We’re going to teach them what we do here and spin them off into their own firms. What makes the program a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is we’re going to line up companies that will commit to give work to these minority-owned firms. Accenture has already made that commitment. The biggest pain point any time you start your own business is: Where am I going to get the work? We’re going to get [top patent-owning] companies to make that commitment to try them out.

They’re completely independent. They’re with us for three years; the fourth year, they leave our firm to start their own.

By Aebra Coe
Editing by Katherine Rautenberg

About Harrity & Harrity, LLP

Harrity & Harrity is a patent preparation and prosecution firm specializing in the electrical and mechanical technology areas and is considered a Go-To Firm for the Patent 300™. Our clients have come to trust in our high-quality work, experienced people, industry leading innovation, and outstanding service. For more information, visit harrityllp.com.

 

Flexibility for Lawyers, Clients Helps Harrity & Harrity Stay Competitive

Law.com (September 10, 2019) “We allow our attorneys to work where they want, when they want, and how much they want,” managing partner John Harrity says.

Firm Name: Harrity & Harrity, LLP
Firm Leader: John Harrity, Managing Partner
Head Count: 30 attorneys, 20 professionals
Location: Fairfax, Virginia
Practice Area: Intellectual Property
Governance structure and compensation model: Management by a three-person management committee, compensation is a pay for performance model
Do you offer alternative fee arrangements? Yes

**The following answers were provided by Harrity and edited lightly for style.**

What do you view as the two biggest opportunities for your firm, and what are the two biggest threats?

Our biggest opportunity stems from the fact that we are consistently able to provide high-quality, uniform patent work in a timely and efficient manner. Other firms, especially those that are using the traditional law firm model, are struggling to compete in today’s competitive, price-conscious patent environment. While some firms think that it is impossible to provide outstanding customer service in today’s environment, we are thriving. Our biggest threat is the difficulty we have attracting superstar attorneys to join our firm. This has long been one of our challenges. Big Law firms offer high starting salaries to attorneys who have very little experience. It can be difficult for us to compete when our model is pay for performance.

Some other opportunities for our firm are related to our remote staffing model. We don’t need every attorney at the firm to operate from our central office location, so we benefit from a pool of candidates that many law firms won’t consider because the candidate is interested in working remotely, or isn’t in the geographic footprint of other firms. We also see opportunity in the price pressure that is impacting the practice of patent law—while the big law firms struggle to find profitability in this area while bowing to the price pressures mandated by the large corporations that are setting the pricing standard for patent applications, we leverage technology and process improvements to ensure efficiency without sacrificing quality or our ability to make a profit.

The legal market is so competitive now—what trends do you see, and has anything, including alternative service providers, altered your approach? Is your chief competition other mid-market firms, or is your firm competing against big firms for the same work?

We go head to head with law firms of every size. Although we don’t directly compete with alternative service providers, I would still consider them to be competition. In the patent field, we have seen pricing for patent application drafting and prosecution come down, and we don’t expect it to go back up. Law firms tend to think that Patent 300TM companies will come to understand that higher prices are required to be able to provide outstanding customer service, including outstanding quality. This just simply isn’t the case. We have been focusing on efficiencies for more than six years. When I say efficiencies, I’m talking about leaning out our process steps and creating automation tools. Being able to provide outstanding customer service while charging less for patent services is not only doable for us in today’s patent field, but we are also simultaneously able to pay our attorneys top dollar.

There is much debate around how law firms can foster the next generation of legal talent. What advantages and disadvantages do midsize firms have in attracting and retaining young lawyers, particularly millennials?

I think we have a huge advantage over the big firms with respect to attracting and retaining young lawyers, including millennials. One thing you hear about with respect to millennials is that they want freedom. So, we give it to them. We allow our attorneys to work where they want, when they want, and how much they want. This freedom is an instrumental reason why we attract such a large group of candidates for open attorney positions. In addition to this freedom, we have a pay for performance model, which allows hardworking young professionals to make substantially more than their peers at the big law firms.

Does your firm employ any nonlawyer professionals in high-level positions (e.g. COO, business development officer, chief strategy officer, etc.)? If so, why is it advantageous to have a nonlawyer in that role? If not, have you considered hiring any?

An integral (nonlawyer) member of our firm is Rocky Berndsen, who leads Harrity Patent Analytics. He oversees an analytical team using cutting-edge capabilities to analyze patent data and extract insights for clients to use when making strategic decisions regarding patent portfolios. The team recently published its inaugural Patent 300TM Report, which ranks and analyzes the top 300 companies, organizations, and universities in the patent field.

What would you say is the most innovative thing your firm has done recently, whether it be technology advancements, internal operations, how you work with clients, etc.?

In September, we introduced our Minority Firm Incubator program, established to help train, cultivate, and launch minority-owned patent law firms. The program is an integral and innovative part of our ongoing initiative to advance attorneys who will contribute to the diversity of the patent field. Our firm will select two candidates from a pool of skilled applicants, and begin training them through an exhaustive four-year program that will not only prepare them to draft and prosecute patent applications, but also prepare them to successfully run their minority-owned patent firm as a business. In addition, what makes this a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is that these selected attorneys will develop, during their time at our firm, relationships with Patent 300TM companies that are part of our program. Ultimately, the selected attorneys will learn how to successfully run their law firms abiding by Harrity & Harrity’s proven best practices, then formally launch their firms assisted by the already established corporate relationships.

Does your firm have a succession plan in place?  If so, what challenges do you face in trying to execute that plan? If you don’t currently have a plan, is it an issue your firm is thinking about?

As a 20-year-old firm, our leadership is far from retirement age, but that has not stopped us from putting succession framework into place. We have established training programs that will help our associates develop the leadership and management skills they need to ascend the partner ranks. We have also engaged outside resources to make sure we’re doing the things we need to do to prepare for the day—many years down the road, we hope—when the firm’s leadership will transition to a new guard. We are prepared for that, and see no imminent challenges to implementing our succession plan.

About Harrity & Harrity, LLP

Harrity & Harrity is a patent preparation and prosecution firm specializing in the electrical and mechanical technology areas and is considered a Go-To Firm for the Patent 300™. Our clients have come to trust in our high-quality work, experienced people, industry leading innovation, and outstanding service. For more information, visit harrityllp.com.