IP SUPPORT - market trends 2017


As a busy year here at IP Support comes to a close, I thought I would take some time to reflect upon this year’s recruitment projects and note some of the most noticeable trends in our sector in 2017.

The Rise of the Hybrid

Over the past 12 months I’ve noticed a sharp increase in the amount of hybrid positions we have been recruiting for. The term hybrid combines the work of a secretary and administrator or formalities officer.

Advances in technology have helped fee earners to become more self-sufficient and this in turn has led to firms reassessing the definition of the secretarial/administrative role. The traditional secretarial role has somewhat diminished and now the majority of secretaries are responsible for covering a hybrid role. This new type of role offers the post holder a more varied and enjoyable workload and has seen secretaries take on more work that was traditionally carried out by a formalities department.

We now often see the title Patent/Trade Mark Administrator, Formalities Clerk, Secretary or Paralegal cover a broader range of secretarial and formalities duties. This can be very confusing when looking for a new position, as essentially different firms call the same job different things.

We take the time to get to know our clients and the definitions of their support roles. My advice to those looking for a new position is to always ask your recruiter for a job specification. Whilst the job title may sound the same as what you are currently doing – it could be that the definition of a patent/trade mark secretary or administrator is completely different in another firm.

The IP Service Provider

The industry is changing - word of mouth is a powerful thing! As firms become better educated on the reliability and efficiency of IP service providers, it seems we have seen a larger number of clients outsource certain parts of the application process. In turn, this creates more jobs within the IP services industry.

A job in this environment offers a completely different angle on IP administration or formalities. It’s more client focused and it’s a great opportunity to use your knowledge in a totally different way.

I’ve made some excellent contacts in the services industry over the past 12 months and it’s really opened my eyes to the many advantages of outsourcing certain types of formalities work. It’s certainly something I would recommend my private practice/in-house clients consider going forward.

This year has seen us assist a number of individuals make the transition into IP services companies. In most cases, it wasn’t something that they had previously considered. But after speaking about their frustrations and expectations, decided this was the route for them.

If you would like to hear more about what a position in this type of environment might look like, please do get in touch.

The Paralegal

Earlier on in the year, I wrote an article about the role of an IP Paralegal for CITMA (https://www.citma.org.uk/membership/paralegal_membership/specialist_tips_for_your_career_as_an_ip_paralegal).

Traditionally, the title paralegal was reserved for those with a legal education (via LLB/GDL and the Legal Practice Certificate). However, recent changes in the profession have seen support staff entrusted in a broader more involved role. Paralegals now get involved in more complex matters that were historically carried out by trainee or junior attorneys. This hasn’t gone unnoticed.

We regularly advise on the duties of a modern day IP Paralegal. It seems both CITMA and our clients are keen to issue the Paralegal title for those who are qualified and operating at a higher level. In an industry where different firms use different titles for the same job – it certainly helps to add clarity to and reward those who are operating at a higher level. 

Regional Recruitment

There has been a sharp increase in the number of regional recruitment projects we have worked on in 2017.

Technology and advances in the web versions of IPO services, patent management systems and document management systems mean that it’s no longer essential for support staff to be based in the same office as the attorneys they work for. This has led to a rise in the recruitment of support staff outside of London and the South East - and has seen some of our clients instruct us on a much higher number of regional projects.

Whilst we continue to assist clients increase regional headcount, we have also worked with a number of businesses in recruiting for their newly opened offices. This has led to exciting openings for support staff. Working alongside an attorney to help build up an office can be a challenging and exciting project - and it often leads into a broader role with more autonomy.

Records, Docketing & Renewals

With the rise of hybrid roles and the number of patent secretaries and administrators taking on a dual role, we’ve noticed an increase in demand for high quality records/docketing and renewals clerks. As systems developers and administrators continue to develop the robust systems our industry use, they need reliable and incredibly diligent clerks to maintain accurately, well-populated records systems.

There seems to be very little movement in this area and we have seen a number of counter offers made when records staff look to move on. Thankfully, it seems the profession is realising how important having a strong, stable and knowledgeable records team is!

Looking forward to 2018

I am looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings and how the industry continues to reshape itself.

We are keen to add more than just a recruitment service to the industry we serve. We aren’t just interested in speaking to those in the market for a new job or a new hire – in fact, I’m quite happy to take my recruitment hat off and just talk IP! I guess a little part of me still misses it!?

Thanks for reading, I hope you all have a good end to the year and a lovely festive break!

Daniel John

Director, IP Support


020 7776 8966

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