In lieu of a real-life Christmas present, I thought I would share with you my go-to happy thoughts about the practice of IP. If you’ve had a long year of billable hour pressures, admin, and office politics, maybe some of these thoughts will resonate enough to reignite a spark.
YOU GET TO LEARN NEW THINGS
Each new file is a whole new world to dive into and discover. Even the most humdrum-sounding technology is always fascinating once you get immersed in it and talk to the people who have spent their lives immersed in it. And not only do you learn all this new information, you synthesise it and make sense of it. Like a human wood-chipper, you take in massive quantities of straggly branches of knowledge – and out comes tidy, beautifully-packaged bundles. That’s amazing.
you’re not clearing gorse
Speaking as someone who once had a job gorse-clearing, I can confidently tell you that although gorse-clearing is also important, you are lucky not to be doing it. I sometimes reflect on my gorse history as I sit in my beautiful, minimalist chambers with lots of blonde wood and lush indoor plants, without an iota of sweat or sunburn or thorns.
I also think about the time I heard one of the top research scientists in the world, Hope Jahren, say what a privilege she felt it was to work with her mind all day, every day. I agree. We get to spend our days bending our minds around interesting, complex problems and that is truly a privilege. When I was a newly-fledged lawyer I was shocked to realise that I would be paid real money just to think and write and figure things out. No more serving endless Jim Beam and coke to leery drunks, no more scrubbing out deep fryers at fish and chip shops, and no more gorse cutting.
YOU’RE LIVING ON YOUR WITS
Like some Cockney grifter getting hauled before the Barnaby Rudge to explain his latest misdemeanour, you too rely largely on the quickness of your mind to get by. Sure, that mind might have been polished by a university degree or two, but day to day it’s often native wit and real world experience that counts. That can be a lot of fun.
YOU’RE PART OF A TEAM
I admit though, all this living by your wits stuff can also be tough. Everyone knows the stomach-lurching feeling of realising you have messed something up, that you have missed a deadline, that you have forgotten to include something important, that you have sent a document to the wrong person, that someone is angry or disappointed because of something you have done or failed to do. None of that is fun, and none of that is wholly avoidable – sorry! But it is still ok. As they say, some days you’re the windscreen, and some days you’re the fly. But at least in the New Zealand IP scene you never have to be the fly on your own. Even if, like me, you don’t have a formal team at work, you can always find a safe corner in this close-knit, squabbling IP family. Call me any time if you are in a tough patch. Even if we don’t know each other yet, we’re bound to have lots in common (including tough patches).
YOU’RE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER
And you’re part of something even bigger than your immediate IP family. Maybe no-one claps for IP practitioners, but nonetheless you are part of something that has importance and history and heft. The legal systems in which you ply your craft have been refined through years of case law and years of interplay between competing interests. You are a crucial cog in a vast national and international machine. What you do, and how well you do it, matters.
YOU GET TO HELP PEOPLE
When I tell people about one of the best IP lawyers I know, I often mention what it must feel like to be one of his clients. Like an Ashley Bloomfield of lawyers, he doesn’t sugarcoat things, but neither is he ever rattled. His clients feel that they can trust him implicitly to help them carry their burdens. And sometimes he helps carry them for a long, long way. I’ve seen him work with clients over many years, never losing faith, always being there for them. They adore him for it, and I’m sure your clients feel the same way.
So there you are. It turns out you’re great. I hope you enjoyed this, or next year it’s socks. Merry Christmas all!