Having worked the intellectual property conference circuit for more than 12 years, I am frequently reminded of the apt Bon Jovi lyrics:
“It’s all the same. Only the names are changed.”
Indeed, over the years I have been fascinated by the consistency of attendance at IP conferences, with the same characters showing up year after year. While the names of these attorneys change from event to event and year to year, the ten species below are remarkably predictable. Do any of these sound familiar?
1. The In-House Counsel
This attorney has become increasingly scarce since the budget cutbacks that began around 10 years ago. When this attorney is able to obtain the internal funding required to attend a conference, s/he can be elusive because s/he rarely attends the welcome reception and invariably attends a special private dinner for in-house counsel rather than attending those offered by the conference. Further complicating matters, this attorney does not wear nametags (or “inadvertently” has it turned around so the backside is forward facing), does not have business cards and is well versed in evasive maneuvers. The most effective way to locate The In-House Counsel is to either:
- try to speak with them after they have finished speaking on a panel; or
- look for the attendees who are wearing business casual attire.
2. The Business Card Collector
This outmoded attorney behaves as if the prime directive of conference attendance is to collect the most business cards. Like those employed to distribute pamphlets on the streets, The Business Card Collector acts as if s/he is paid for every business card s/he brings back to the home office. Fortunately, this attorney does not want to get bogged down in an extended conversation (for fear it would reduce the business card count), so encounters with this attorney are mercifully short.
3. The Intake Attorney
Seemingly oblivious to the concept of reciprocity, The Intake Attorney makes frequent trips to conferences in the United States soliciting prosecution work from locals. As the name suggests, work comes in, but never goes out.
4. The Kevin Bacon Game Player
From the second you meet, The Kevin Bacon Game Player will pepper you with questions about your prior work and educational experiences until a common connection is identified.
5. The Vendor
In a ballroom full of socially-challenged IP attorneys nursing their drink at the welcome reception, you are delighted to find someone to speak with who is charming and witty. And it must be your lucky day, because your new friend initiated the conversation. Then comes the reveal . . . All is not lost, however. On a going-forward basis, you can avoid future sales pitches from The Vendor by not answering your phone when the caller ID reads “unknown” and then deleting the inevitable follow-up email that is sent moments later.
6. The Name Dropper:
This predictably loud attorney litters their conversation with references to famous clients, well-known judges and high profile attorneys whom they consider to be friends. This tactic, while obnoxious, is often well received because it is at least somewhat more interesting than hearing similarly boring stories involving low profile protagonists. If you are lucky, you may even get to hear The Name Dropper mention the name of someone who is not only attending the same conference, but is within earshot. Such a magical moment will not be soon forgotten.
7. The Premature LinkedIn Connector
This attorney is closely related to The Business Card Collector. Rather than waiting to send a LinkedIn invitation after they have met you a few times and laid the appropriate groundwork, The Premature LinkedIn Connector will send you an invitation after the most cursory encounter. In his/her zeal to rack up a large number of contacts, this attorney will even send connection invitations to those they have never met before (in which case you may also be dealing with The Vendor). This attorney is oblivious to the fact that his/her behavior results in you having an internal debate about whether or not to accept the invitation, advise LinkedIn that you do not know this person, or just do nothing.
8. The Social Media Junkie
Before even showing up at the conference, The Social Media Junkie advises everyone in his/her network that s/he will be attending. Once at the actual event, Social Media Junkies are so busy taking pictures, posting, re-tweeting and monitoring their social media applications that they do not actually speak to anyone in person or remember anything discussed at one of the sessions.
9. The Rainmaker
In many ways, The Rainmaker is the polar opposite of The In-House Counsel. The Rainmaker not only attends the welcome reception and conference dinners, but can also be found in the hotel bar both before and after these events. This well-dressed attorney prominently sports the conference nametag (even when not attending conference events) and has an unlimited supply of business cards. From The In-House Counsel’s perspective, this attorney is The Vendor, but without the charm or wit.
10. The Rookie
The Rookie is attending a conference for the first time. As such, The Rookie feels obligated to attend not only every networking event (including the pre-session breakfast), but every CLE as well. After 3-4 days of hard-core conference activity from dusk to dawn, The Rookie goes home exhausted and looking like s/he returned from war.
John M. Jackson has represented clients before federal and state courts throughout the country in patent litigation and complex commercial litigation matters. John has served as trial counsel in more than 125 patent infringement lawsuits nationally and has handed matters before the International Trade Commission. John has tried two major patent infringement cases to a jury. He has considerable experience with all aspects of the claim construction or Markman process in patent infringement lawsuits, as well as substantial experience obtaining and resisting temporary restraining orders, preliminary, and permanent injunctions. John also Co-Chairs Jackson Walker’s Cybersecurity Litigation Group and counsels clients concerning data privacy issues.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.