Considering a career in law, or a transition within the legal profession? The following profile of a day in the life of a managing partner is an excerpt from the Vault Career Guide to Law.
Kelley Clements Keller is the owner and managing member of The Keller Law Firm, LLC, a boutique firm practicing intellectual property (IP), which includes assisting clients in IP prosecution, procurement and maintenance, licensing and enforcement, brand expansion and management, domain name and Web site matters, social media issues, and IP-related business matters.
6:30 a.m.: I begin each day with coffee with my husband. Once I put the coffee on, I check my e-mail to see what is brewing for the day. This is my first engagement with the day’s material. I send out responses to the messages that require immediate response, and shoot out e-mails to the staff, letting them know about the new projects that need to be added to the queue.
8:30 a.m.: I arrive at the office already aware of the business for the day. I review my calendar and prioritize, and then I check in with my attorneys and staff—the law clerks, my paralegal, and my research assistant. The purpose of this crucial part of my morning is to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and that each person has the tools that they need to succeed in their assignments.
9:00 a.m.: I give one of my law clerks an office action refusal from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for one of our client’s trademark applications for him/her to begin researching and drafting a response. It’s a difficult argument to make, as it requires us to prove that our client’s house mark is descriptive, as opposed to generic, in order to secure federal protection.
9:30 a.m.: I am counsel in an interesting trade secret action where the defendant did not file an answer to the federal complaint. I place a call to a colleague to discuss the status of the case, since two heads are always better than one. I have come to learn that no matter how long you practice law, you never “experience it all.” We debate the likelihood of whether our client can recover attorneys’ fees under the circumstances, e.g., a request for default was entered by the Clerk of Court and a motion for default judgment is pending with the judge. Because the defendant failed to answer, the case law is a bit murky on how much our client can recover, if anything at all. It’s a very interesting fact pattern!
10:00 a.m.: I’ll spend the next few hours in phone conversations with clients, court personnel, offices (such as the PTO), or in outreach, marketing, and business development. When not on the phone, I’m sending and responding to numerous e-mails. When I encounter particular situations that reflect important principles in IP, I like to call my staff together for a quick tutorial. Such situations represent opportunities for learning, and my role as a teacher and mentor to my staff is very important to me as it gives me the opportunity to demonstrate why these principles result in predictable outcomes.
10:30 a.m.: I need to make a call to the PTO to handle a clarification of a client’s identification of goods with the examining attorney assigned to their trademark application, and ask my paralegal and one of my law clerks to step into my office and listen to the call for learning purposes. This is something I often do and find that my staff is more knowledgeable of files they work on as a result of it. The examining attorney enters the requested changes into the record, and my paralegal knows that she needs to draft a reporting letter to the client regarding this activity.
11:00 a.m.: Being the owner of the firm, I also have to manage the business in addition to practicing law. I have my usual daily meeting with my comptroller and get a financial update on our receivables and payables. In a given day, I might also spend an hour on the phone with my certified public accountant on various financial matters. If there are IT issues, I ask someone on the staff to contact our service providers to handle them. If there are any building issues, e.g., problems with heating, these also require my time and attention. It’s surprising how much time can be spent on the “business of law,” rather than the “practice of law.”
12:00 p.m.: Lunch is a time for business development, and when I’m not eating with the staff (or at my desk—a “no no”), I spend this time meeting with colleagues to work on collaboration or marketing, or meeting with potential clients. In the afternoon, I continue with more phone calls and e-mails, research for my caseload, and drafting letters to clients, opposing counsel, or relevant agencies
12:45 p.m.: I prepare for an initial consultation meeting and review my notes from my phone conversation with the new client. At this time, I am unaware of the potential client’s product, but do know that she thinks patent protection applies. We will know more after the consultation.
1:00 p.m.: The potential client arrives and our meeting begins. I soon realize that trademark protection is most applicable, possibly copyright, but definitely not patent. Intellectual property is a confusing area of law to many, so initial consultations can be very educational. We discuss the product she wants to take to market, her overall branding goals, and how I can assist her in accomplishing these goals. We also discuss finances related to the representation.
2:00 p.m.: With the meeting fresh in my mind, I draft a follow-up e-mail to the potential client, confirming what was discussed as well as laying out her various legal options. I find these e-mails give clients a good picture of the strategy that we outlined and how to plan accordingly.
3:00 p.m.: I continue to work on pending matters, such as follow-up e-mails with clients, at present drafting a motion for attorneys’ fees in the trade secret infringement case, and reviewing/approving client correspondence that my paralegal has prepared. It’s not uncommon for my mornings to be full of client phone calls, e-mails, and meetings, leaving the afternoon for knocking out substantive legal work.
5:00 p.m.: I e-mail the draft motion for attorneys’ fees to co-counsel for his review. Co-counsel responds and would like to set up a time to connect at the end of the week.
6:00 p.m.: I begin to wrap up my work for the day and shut down the office, taking care of issues from pressing business and legal matters to mundane tasks such as doing dishes, washing out the coffeemaker, and turning out the lights (welcome to owning your own firm!). I also like to acknowledge the work completed by my staff, so I shoot off a final few e-mails before calling it a day around 7:00. Off to dinner with my husband, glass of Shiraz in hand!
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