Lawyer or programmer?

  • In the next decade, trademark departments will become leaner, faster, more tech-focused and more diverse
  • There are likely to be fewer lawyers but more consultants, business analysts and technologists
  • Developing systems and software in-house can have some serious benefits

With so much change likely in the next decade, trademark departments will look very different; they will be leaner, faster and with much more technology involved. As one in-house counsel predicts: “If you’re doing back office and administrative tasks, there will be changes.” Increasingly, trademark teams will also be more diverse – not just in terms of gender, race and sexuality, although this will happen – but also in terms of skills and qualifications.

There will probably be fewer lawyers, more consultants and business analysts and a lot more technologists. As one in-house lawyer contends, when it comes to hiring people may pause and think: “Do we need another lawyer, rather than a programmer?” The answer to that question may depend on the extent to which companies develop their own systems and software rather than buying it in. For many, the latter seems the most attractive option, but there may be benefits to in-house development, if it can be budgeted for.

First, it gives you more control over the technology and ensures it is tailored to your business needs. Second, it reduces your dependency on outside providers who may change the service or pricing. And third, perhaps decisively, it may give you a product you can commercialise. “Legal departments in-house are all cost centres. That notion is subverted if you can develop something saleable,” one counsel argues. It may seem alien to some in-house counsel, but the commercial potential of any new product is definitely something that should be considered when it is being developed. For an example, look to Anaqua – a docketing tool initially developed by BAT and Ford and now a successful product in its own right.

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