Outside Counsel Management: In-House Counsel’s Guide to Building Strategic Relationships

Mar 6, 2024

For many companies, patents are vital assets that protect their innovations and allow them to carve out a unique market position. To harness the full potential of your patent strategy, it’s essential to build strategic relationships with your outside patent counsel and align your business vision with your patent strategy.

Why Strategic Outside Counsel Management Matters

Firstly, we have to answer the question of why strategic relationships matter. Strategic relationships go beyond the benefit of outsourcing your IP protection for workload concerns alone.

They allow you to lean on experts who come with extensive IP expertise and specialization, in not only the technology you’re seeking to patent but also in the intricacies of the patent prosecution process. These relationships allow for specific tailored solutions to be developed with your company’s business goals at the forefront of those solutions. You provide the background of your vision and plans for the future; outside counsel provides the tailored solutions.

Next, we can’t ignore cost efficiency. The ability to hire a team on an “as needed” basis can be an efficient and effective practice. Especially when dealing with the intricacies of navigating your intellectual property budget having the flexibility of this as-needed team is a great asset to budget management. This way, you have the exact specialties you are looking for, but without the cost of full-time employment.

Lastly, these strategic partnerships provide proactive risk management. A proactive and strategic legal partner can help identify and mitigate risks early, preventing costly legal disputes and IP infringements down the line.

Now that you know the why of strategic relationships, you will probably be asking about the how. How do we build these partnerships with outside counsel so efficiently that the company’s goals and vision are fully integrated in your IP strategy? That’s up next.

How To Build A Strategic Relationship With Outside Counsel: Managing Outside Counsel Guidelines

You know that partnerships with outside counsel are important, but what are the practical steps you need to take to build those relationships? What should be prioritized?

Below is a list of my top five “must-dos” in strategic relationship building. These are the non-negotiables when building a partnership with outside counsel. A lot of these points will sound like steps you should be taking with all your working relationships, and that is true, but these are especially true of those individuals who you may not interact with on a day-to-day basis.

  1. Communicate clearly. Effective communication is the foundation of any strong partnership. Clearly articulate your business objectives, vision, and long-term goals to your legal team. Ensure they understand how your IP strategy aligns with these goals.
  2. Meet regularly. Schedule regular meetings with your outside counsel to review your IP portfolio, discuss upcoming innovations, and assess any legal challenges or opportunities. This ongoing dialogue helps maintain alignment.
  3. Encourage a collaborative approach. Involve your legal team in the innovation process from the beginning so they can proactively identify patent opportunities and potential obstacles.
  4. Prioritize transparency. Be transparent about your budget constraints and expectations. A good working relationship is built on trust, and open communication about financial matters is crucial.
  5. Establish a long-term partnership. View your relationship with outside counsel as a long-term partnership rather than a transactional one. This perspective encourages a focus on your broader business goals.

Keep these five tips in mind when fostering relationships with your outside counsel teams as these are the keys to success in partnership building.

Aligning Your Business Vision With Your Patent Strategy

You should be thinking of your IP and business goals as integrated strategies, used to secure the future revenue of your company. Work toward aligning your company’s business vision with its patent strategy.

To do this, begin by clearly defining your business goals and vision. Are you looking to dominate a specific market, expand internationally or secure a leadership position in a particular technology sector? Your patent strategy should align with these objectives.

Once you have a solid understanding of your vision, you will need to keep in mind these three things:

  1. Prioritizing innovations: When prioritizing your company’s innovations, remember that not all innovations are equal. Identify the key innovations that align with your business vision. These are the ones that should be prioritized for patent protection.
  2. Evaluating competitive landscapes: Along with taking a look within your company, it’s important to evaluate your competitive landscape. Analyzing your competitors and the IP landscape in your industry will help you understand and determine where your innovations fit and how they can give you a competitive advantage.
  3. Tailoring your patent portfolio: Your patent portfolio should reflect your business vision and goals. What I mean by this is that you should be tailoring your IP strategy to those goals. This may involve filing patents in specific regions, focusing on defensive patents to deter litigation, or pursuing a more aggressive patent strategy to establish dominance. Having a streamlined intellectual property capturing process can help with that.  As your business evolves, you will need to conduct regular assessments to ensure your IP strategy has stayed in line with the evolution of the business.

Building strategic relationships with your outside counsel and aligning your business vision with your patent strategy are essential steps for companies looking to maximize the value of their intellectual property. These practices not only enhance your IP protection but also contribute to overall business success by ensuring that your patents are in sync with your long-term objectives.

How A Patent Attorney At Dana Legal Services Can Help You

Our team at Dana Legal Services consists of patent experts with decades of experience in the field. Do reach out to us at info@danalegalservices.com, or alternatively, drop your question on our website at www.danalegalservices.com/contact/. Not ready for questions but want to learn more, head to our YouTube channel!

The information provided here is not legal advice and does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on any specific matter. For legal advice, you should consult with an attorney concerning your specific situation.

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