Patent Lawyers Happier Than Most?

Lawyers are happy in the Springtime. The months approaching April mean higher billable hours as tax season approaches. The smell of green abounds as lawyers help balance the books of their corporate clients.

What else makes attorneys happy? Going home early on a Friday or—surprisingly—staying late on Friday to work, if it’s for a rewarding case.

Lawyers, like other employees, are happier and more productive in their jobs when they’re intellectually engaged. A 2010 study by James K. Harter and colleagues showed that lower job satisfaction led to poorer performance in companies, according to the New York Times article, “Do Happier People Work Harder?”

Gallup estimates that the cost disgruntled American workers is a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity each year (via NYT).

We’ve already discussed that law firms can combat the too-unhappy-to-work blues by offering a legal issue roundtable.

A forum for discussion and learning surrounding legal issues or news will increase firm-wide happiness. A quick conversation in the morning can lead to higher levels of productivity all afternoon.

Even the U.S. government realizes the economic value of happiness. They’ve proposed incorporating an official Happiness Index alongside more traditional economic measures, like GDP.

But, if your firm is not ready to adopt more innovative approaches to workplace happiness levels, you’re in luck. This month, your firm should be busy with more than just double-checking tax returns.

This month, patent lawyers are especially happy.

On March 15, 2013, the new First-To-File patent system takes effect. For your clients, this could have important consequences and require immediate action.

Based on their patent strategies, your clients may want to get in that provisional application before the new system rolls out. In fact, some firms strongly believe the changeover will have detrimental impacts on inventors—which could be the end of your key engineering client.

Morrison & Foerster LLP recommends the following to inventors for the first-to-file changeover:

  1. Work with your scientists, engineers, or other inventors now to determine if they have new inventions that are ready or will soon be ready to file patent applications upon so that you can file any patent applications on March 15, 2013 or earlier.
  2. Accelerate research and development on commercially important inventions so you can file patent applications on them by March 15, 2013.
  3. Ensure that any new U.S. provisional patent applications that you file between now and March 15, 2013 are as complete and well drafted as any non-provisional patent application that you would expect a patent examiner to examine. If you add any new material when converting to a non-provisional application after March 15, 2013, you risk your invention being subject to the first-to-file system.
  4. File a second U.S. provisional application or foreign priority application or file a non-provisional conversion application on March 15, 2013, if you have additional material to add when converting to any U.S. provisional applications or foreign priority applications you filed on March 16, 2012 or later.

Read more about the downsides to the First-To-File system here.

Whatever your beliefs about the new patent system, however, one fact remains. Law firms should prepare notes on the regulatory changes and circulate them to clients.

The clock is ticking, and the litigation strategies of your law firm should be marching in time with it.

If you don’t want a happiness and productivity-boosting roundtable, why not a strategy session for your litigation department regarding patent cases. Now is definitely the moment to seize.

“I decided it would be fun to do patent trials,” said Richard Posner, former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, to the NY Times. Surely, with all the new changes in patent law, the fun has only begun.

Never fear, patent lawyers—you’re happiness levels (and billables) have never been higher!



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