I’m pretty sure my boss is going to fire me. Please just hear me out.
I work at a well-known law firm here in the Metro Detroit area. My official job title is ‘Paralegal’ but I don’t really feel like a paralegal, but rather some type of permanently exasperated, perpetually anxious, paper-chaser and people administrator.
We are a patent law firm, meaning that people come to us with inventions that they want to patent. Typically, I would hope that these inventions would be along the lines of manufacturing and processing, business efficiency type patents. The easy ones; the “yes-or-nos,” the “open-and-shuts.” It would make my job a lot easier at least. But that’s rarely the case. I just got off the phone with the would-be inventor of “Phun Putty” – a slimy substance that I’m fairly confident is just Play-Doh mixed with Silly Putty. It took me roughly 6 hours of billable time to prepare a report explaining why we don’t believe exploring this option is worth our time. At the end of our phone call, he angrily declared that he wants me to “get the molecules tested” on this vile concoction, in order to somehow prove its patentable validity. But that’s not why I’m going to get fired.
“Please, just hear me out.”
At my firm, the “client relations management system” is a Google Sheet that all the attorneys modify and use, each in their own subtly inconsistent ways. But that’s not what I’m choosing to complain about. When a new “lead” comes in (someone trying to patent Phun Putty,) we create a new entry in our misused Google Sheet CRM about this person, their product, their information, all the relevant information.
After a potential patent becomes a case, we use Google calendar to track activities and move the case forward. We have a hodge-podge of several resources – some are free, some are not – to conduct preliminary research, to create forms, to write responses, to edit filings and on and on. We also use a checklist to proceed, a CPA product for billing and a docketing software that creates emails, reminders for us. It also gives us notification of allowance. Then towards the end of the life cycle, we use another system as a reminder system for all of our payments. There are lots of potential error points, a lot of reminders, papers, systems and absolutely no room for human error – which can lead to the entire application being abandoned in its final stages. But just hear me out.
The reason I’m going to get fired is because I forgot to set up a payment nearly half a year ago, and therefore we inadvertently abandoned a nearly-completed patent application. What this means is that somewhere, right now, a new inventor is meeting with a bank to get a loan on an assembly plant in order to work with a large Detroit automotive company to manufacture a new cut-away bearing that will be used to make power steering 3x more effective – except because of me, he doesn’t actually own the patent, and my career is over.
My boss has been in his conference room with senior leadership all morning, and hopefully Andy the recruiter calls me back before they summon me to the conference table and explain to me that my services are no longer required.
If I had had a software made to fit the workflow of our case life cycle, this all could have been prevented. It would work without requiring a degree in computer science, or a tech-type person as an administrator. And not only will many other stressed-out paralegals lose their jobs under similar circumstances too, but the entire industry is collectively losing so much on lost hours, years, decades of unnecessary headaches, tears, and terminations. But if you’ll excuse me, senior leadership is summoning me, and unfortunately, no one is going to hear me out today.
The above story is a fictitious account of what many paralegals, and administrators in numerous other industries, have actually gone through. If you’re going through something similar, or interested in hearing more about our easy-to-use workflow automation platform, please contact us!