Is retirement from the practice of patent law the best option?

It is certainly possible to sell your patent law practice. Perhaps a more fundamental question is whether you should retire. If your mind and physical health will enable you to stay active in your profession, would it make more sense to stay involved in the patent practice?

I can’t speak for others, but I know a few things about myself. First, complete retirement without a gameplan for the next stage in life would be a recipe for misery. I need to stay active mentally and socially. Second, my most rewarding moments are spent doing things that not only enrich me, but also help others. It is deeply satisfying to work on goals that bring some tangible benefit to others. Retiring from a decades-long IP profession only to play golf just doesn’t work for me. If possible, I would like to pursue endeavors in and outside of work that make a meaningful contribution to the lives of others. Perhaps you can relate.

There may come a time when the choice to retire from the practice of patent law is right or necessary. Life happens, and many contingencies are simply out of our control. You also may have a host of other pursuits that, with more available time, can shift from a wish list to a to-do list.

What are the important questions to ask when you’re ready to sell your patent law firm?

Even if you are not ready to pursue full retirement, it is not too early to explore the crucial questions to ask when the time comes to sell your patent practice:

  • What signs provide some assurance that the new patent attorney will take good care of the clients?
  • How does the buyer handle docketing and client communications to avoid missing deadlines?
  • How do we avoid higher legal fees for the clients as a result of the sale of the law practice?
  • How much will the retiring patent attorney (seller) receive for selling the IP law practice?

Thinking through these questions now will enable you to plan ahead so that you won’t be caught off guard when you are ready to transition to a new stage in life.

What are key factors to consider when you sell a patent law practice?

As lawyers, it is only befitting that we understand the rules concerning the sale of a law firm. Keep in mind that rules regarding the sale of a patent law practice would require the selling practitioner to cease in the private practice of law, or in the particular IP area of practice being sold.

Besides the rules, what other factors should be paramount in your decision to sell your patent practice?

The competence of the prospective buyer should be a top factor. After spending years taking care of your clients, it’s only natural that the prospective buyer should be an experienced patent attorney with a high regard for doing the right thing for their clients. Therefore, not every buyer is going to be a good fit even if they have the financial resources to purchase your patent practice.

For example, our firm might not be a good fit for your clients if any of the following is objectionable:

  • I have turned down clients based on subject matters that were personally objectionable (e.g., e-cigarettes).
  • Companies have chosen not to work with us based on our unwillingness to work in a certain way.
  • Our firm’s IP practice is primarily focused on patent prosecution, trademark prosecution and TTAB matters.

How do you ensure that client IP matters will be handled competently?

Every IP matter handled by our firm is entered in our cloud-based docketing system. This ensures that no deadlines will be dropped. Furthermore, we automate certain client communications based on trigger events so that clients will receive timely reminders in advance of deadlines.

How do you avoid increasing fees charged to clients by reason of the sale?

This part is easy. We charge flat rate attorney’s fees that are transparent on our site. Any new clients transferred to our firm would pay the same flat rates available to both existing and prospective clients. If you primarily bill on an hourly basis, then our flat rates might even be lower.

What would be the financial terms of a patent law firm sale?

We believe a formula that aligns the interests of both the seller and buyer would be most effective in facilitating long term success. If you are seriously considering selling your patent law practice, contact Vic to explore whether our firm would be a good fit.

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Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Lead Partner at Innovation Capital Law Group
We align ourselves with Davids fighting Goliaths. Our registered patent attorneys work as a team to equip startups and founders with solid IP rights that facilitate funding, growth and sales. Email or call us so we can get to work on your IP: (949) 223-9623 | vlin@icaplaw.com