December 01, 2016

Product Note: Quality Trademark Docketing Is Crucial for IP Solos and Small Firms

Sonia Lakhany

Any trademark lawyer will tell you that managing deadlines can be a huge challenge. You absolutely cannot miss a deadline. There is no good explanation to give your clients, and they may altogether end up losing rights in their marks. If you’re the owner of a small firm, every client counts. Your reputation must be spotless, and risks for malpractice must be avoided at all costs to ensure your livelihood and the future of your law practice.

 

When I started my practice, keeping track of the deadlines in my clients’ portfolios was one of my primary concerns. In fact, I noticed that some of my very first clients had expired or abandoned trademarks because their previous attorneys had missed critical filing deadlines. I knew that I couldn’t let the same thing happen when serving my clients. Effective docketing was the key to preventing deadline/date issues, so I realized I needed to invest time, and perhaps even part of my firm’s budget, in that side of my business.

When trying to choose a docketing method, I was initially only familiar with the methods used by the large firms I had worked at previously. Those firms had managed their dockets manually or used antiquated software that was both expensive and difficult to operate―a regrettable combination. Manual data entry also meant that it was hard to keep track of both the deadlines and when each mark needed to be updated. I was very anxious about the fear of possibly discovering a deadline just in time. I wanted the peace of mind to know that my deadlines were organized and managed in one central place.

Initially, when creating my own “do-it-yourself” docketing solution, I relied on spreadsheets and sometimes even Post-it notes to ensure I wouldn’t miss any deadlines. Besides being time-consuming and cluttering up my desk, these methods caused me a lot of stress, and I was always worried that something was going to slip through the cracks. Initially I was hesitant to use software, mostly because of budget concerns, but one of my friends recommended Alt Legal, an intellectual property-specific docketing software. With little to lose, I eventually decided to check it out.

Because my docket is mission-critical data for my practice, I wanted to invest the time to ensure I was comfortable with trusting this essential aspect of my practice to Alt Legal. At INTA 2015, I was able to meet with Alt Legal’s CEO Nehal Madhani. Madhani was knowledgeable about intellectual property law, trustworthy, and clearly committed to easing the workloads of trademark practitioners. Shortly after INTA, I scheduled a demo with him. All of my trademarks and deadlines instantly appeared, and I was up and running with Alt Legal at the end of our demo with little to no time wasted with data migration or learning the interface. The Alt Legal team made getting started quick, straightforward, and affordable.

Within a month of signing up for Alt Legal, I tore up all the Post-it notes stuck around my desk and happily deleted the manual spreadsheets keeping track of my deadlines. I’ve been using Alt Legal for over a year and a half now, and it has absolutely changed my practice. For about $100/month, Alt Legal gives me 24/7 access to my docket from anywhere in the world. As a bicoastal traveling attorney, this is a must for my practice. Automatic deadline and status emails tell me what’s coming up in the next few weeks and months wherever I am, so I’m never surprised with a deadline that’s only days or even weeks away. I can (and do) check my docket even from the wi-fi on a plane!

The software also has other features that I never imagined myself needing but that have become hallmarks of my practice. The most important feature to me is the intake form. I send my clients a branded form through Alt Legal, and my clients complete the information needed for me to prepare the trademark application. The questions are written in plain English instead of legalese, and I can add notes or examples or even fill out parts of the form for the client before sending it to them. Then, after my client completes or supplements the form, I receive an automatic notification. I can review the form online, change the information, or ask the client about it. When I’m satisfied that I have all the information, I can automatically transfer the clients’ entries directly into USPTO trademark applications without having to worry about whether I’ve spelled the names correctly or misread the number “1” when the client meant to type the letter “l.” The process is so smooth for my clients that they are very pleased―I receive a lot of compliments from them about this.

Alt Legal also has a client portal that my clients can use to see their trademark applications in real time. They don’t need to email or call me to ask the status of their trademarks: they can see all this information for themselves as often as they want.

I also appreciate that the software comes with free and unlimited support. Sometimes I have questions at 2 a.m., and I always get the help I need. When I request features, the Alt Legal development team delivers in record time. The team at Alt Legal really cares about putting out a great product.

As a small business owner, I am concerned with return on investment of any purchase I make.  Alt Legal more than pays for itself. I estimate that between the automated docketing and the intake, I save easily two–three hours on each trademark filing. For my practice, that adds up to hundreds of hours each year. The simplicity and automation save me the overhead of having to hire several assistants or paralegals, so I can keep my overhead low. But mostly the software frees up my time so that I can do what I’m best at: connecting with clients, building relationships, and bringing in business. My practice has grown at a rate I never expected, and I know the efficiency I have gained because of Alt Legal has contributed to my success.

Entity:
Topic:

Sonia Lakhany

Sonia Lakhany is the Managing Attorney of Lakhany Law, PC, an award-winning trademark law firm with offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles. In addition to her law practice, Sonia is an instructor at the Trademark Institute of Training, where she lectures on trademark law basics and the mechanics of trademark prosecution. Sonia speaks regularly on intellectual property under the name “@LadyLanhamEsq" (a word play on The Lanham Act, which is the federal law that gives trademark protection in the United States). Sonia also serves as Of Counsel to multiple law firms throughout the United States. Her work has been recognized and featured in numerous magazine and news articles such as Entrepreneur Magazine and Business News Daily, as well as on radio and television programs (see here). Most recently, she was awarded Best Personal Brand of 2015 by the Technology Association of Georgia. Before founding Lakhany Law, PC, Sonia practiced at firms in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia. Sonia can be reached via www.lakhanylaw.com.