This software will help you streamline your IP law practice
Running a law practice in 2021 is no small feat. With the digitization of documents, filings and court calendaring systems, the added complexities involved in tracking that data can make it difficult to stay on top of the daily challenges of managing a thriving law firm and busy caseload. That’s where law practice management software comes in. It helps lawyers streamline their law firms from client intake to the final bill and beyond.
Law practice management software has been around for decades now, but cloud-based versions have only recently gained mainstream acceptance in the legal industry. Notably, the pandemic accelerated this trend as law firms sought to run their firms remotely due to social distancing requirements.
Of course, law practice management software isn’t always one-size-fits-all. Some practice areas require very specific feature sets that aren’t typically included in the more traditional law practice management software systems that I cover in this article. That’s why as the demand for cloud-based law practice management software has increased, so too has the demand for more specialized legal practice management software.
When I first started writing this column in 2018, there weren’t many cloud-based software tools available for specific practice areas. However, as I shared in last month’s column, this market has expanded greatly in recent years with many new entrants into the space. As a result, my plan is to write about some of these products over the next few months.
In this column I’ll be focusing on intellectual property management software for trademark and patent attorneys. Some of these providers also provide copyright docketing tools, but there doesn’t seem to the same demand for copyright exclusive or focused software. The tools discussed below are not intended to be all-inclusive but instead are a selection of the more well-known software programs available.
Additionally, it’s important to note that the software programs discussed below include cloud-based options, which means all data will be housed on servers owned by a third party. And, as I’ve emphasized in the past, whenever you entrust your law firm’s data to a third party, you have an ethical duty to thoroughly vet the technology provider that will be hosting and storing your data. This includes ensuring you understand how the data will be handled by that company; where the servers on which the data will be stored are located; who will have access to the data; and how and when it will be backed up—among other things.
Managing your patents and trademarks
Now, let’s take a look at some of your options when it comes to IP practice management software. On the trademark-centric side, two choices to consider are Alt Legal and WebTMS, both of which provide primary functionality related to managing the trademark process.
WebTMS is a company that has been in the space for more than 20 years. The software helps trademark attorneys manage the registration process from start to finish, starting with prosecution and then moving along to registration to renewal. It includes international trademark coverage with document template capabilities that assist in streamlining document creation throughout the transaction. More recently, it has started to offer a cloud-based version of its software along with a premises-based version and a hosted version. A free trial/demo is available but pricing is not provided on the website.
Next, there’s Alt Legal. Alt Legal was founded in 2013, so it’s also well-established. Like WebTMS, its software streamlines the trademark docketing process. It includes automated IP docketing that detects and updates trademark filings and applicable deadlines. Customizable docket reports are also included, along with a “trademark watch” feature that notifies attorneys of any confusingly similar trademarks.
Notably, although Alt Legal’s coverage has historically been limited to the United States, just last week the company announced that it was expanding to include international trademark data in its platform. Alt Legal has always been cloud-based and offers a 7-day free trial. Pricing starts at $50/month for up to 50 docketed matters, with subsequent pricing levels including increasingly more matters.
Now let’s turn to two products that focus more on patents but also include some trademark management functionality: PATTSY WAVE and AppColl.
First, there’s PATTSY WAVE, a company that provides tools to automate IP practices. This software includes automated docketing tools, built-in template creation for letters and forms, and customizable reporting. There is no pricing information available on the website, nor is there any mention of a free trial.
AppColl is another option. AppColl offers two tools to help with the IP management process: Invention Manager and Prosecution Manager. Invention Manager streamlines the patent approval process and includes the ability to create reports and track spending. Prosecution Manager increases the efficiency of the prosecution phase of IP management, and functionality includes docketing, contact and matter management, billing, and documents and forms. There’s also a client portal available, AppColl Tandem, that allows corporations the ability to view their IP folio so that they can view the data contained therein and generate reports. A 30-day free trial is available and pricing starts at $100/month.
For IP lawyers seeking to improve efficiency and reduce costs, these software platforms are worth checking out. Depending on your needs and areas of focus, one of these tools is sure to be a good fit. But before committing, take advantage of any free trials and give the software a test drive. That way you can make sure that the available features are a good fit for all members of your legal team. Then, make sure that you fully understand the costs. Finally, once you’ve settled on the software tools that works best, you’ll be well on your way to reaping the benefits of your investment.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, attorney, author, journalist and the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com, Above the Law and the Daily Record; has authored hundreds of articles for other publications; and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].