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Interview with Robin Rolfe

Marcasur 2011 (Spanish Language)


About career:

  1. Is your agenda complete after the INTA? What is the balance of this edition?My career has not been so much of a plan as it has been an evolution. I was always interested in law but I found that my skills and intellectual curiosity were more satisfied working with lawyers to build their businesses and organizations than in practicing law. INTA was personally and professionally fulfilling. After INTA, RRR opened the door to new challenges and experiences.
  2. First of all let us briefly review your professional career, how were your beginnings as a lawyer at Inc. Chesebrough-Pond’s and the law firm, Lowenstein Sandler?After graduating from college (university), I attended a paralegal training institute and was qualified in corporate law, commercial litigation and estates and trusts. I liked the work and working with lawyers but I was ambitious and there were no paths for promotion, so I became a lawyer. I worked at the Lowenstein firm while I was in law school and after as an attorney in the corporate department, where I was introduced to trademark practice. When I decided I wanted to specialize in trademark law, I went in-house to Chesebrough-Pond’s (now Unilever), which had a diverse global portfolio of brand names.
  3. How was born your vocation as a lawyer? [Answered above.]
  4. And then you were Executive Director of INTA for 17 years: what part of the success of the INTA lies in your management?I would love to take credit for all of INTA’s accomplishments during my tenure but what made (and makes) INTA great is its members. I think my role was to facilitate change in the association so it could be both responsive and proactive.It was the members’ dedication that turned USTA into INTA both in name and in action — by developing leadership positions on public policy issues and legislative initiatives ,and by providing timely information to the bar, business, government and judiciary through communications, education and publishing.

About Robin Rolfe Resources, Inc:

  1. A professional career that now sees you as president of Robin Rolfe Resources, Inc. What is your job as president?I don’t care much for titles and president is simply a corporate formality. Being the founder and principal of a professional services firm means you do what it takes to turn your vision into reality. That is my job.
  2. How do you regard yourself as President? [Answered above]
  3. In general terms, tell us about the consulting working team: who comprises it? How are you organized? Who are your customers? What kind of services do you offer?Robin Rolfe Resources provides custom management consulting services to law firm, law department and providers serving the legal profession. Our work is not restricted to IP related practices but that is where my roots are.Our custom services means that we listen to clients and help them reach their objectives. We rely on our accumulated knowledge and experience in similar circumstances to develop client specific solutions.The firm is currently organized into three teams.The Consulting Group assists law firms and legal departments to address their needs with a broad range of law practice management services ranging from strategic and succession planning – to client satisfaction, reputation and benchmarking studies – to organization structuring, professional development and compensation plans – to marketing and business development programs.The Associations Group provides planning, marketing, programming and administrative services to professional and trade organizations, as well as law firm networks.The Legal Support Group works with businesses that provide products and services to the legal community by helping them develop and implement marketing and sales programs.

    We also offer meeting and event planning, including retreats, galas and client or conference related receptions and entertaining.

  4. You recently merged with Graulund IP Services (Denmark), what can you tell us about this joint work?I have formed an alliance with Tove Graulund but we have not merged our companies, which have several differing purposes. Where our interests intersect, which is in assisting IP practices to meet clients’ needs and increase business, we combine our complementing knowledge of the American and European IP communities. We also share an extraordinary global network.
  5. In your view and in relation to improving the practice and increasing business, what common problems do law firms and IP lawyers face today?Unquestionably, the most immediate threat is the commoditization of IP practice. IP lawyers must learn to manage efficiencies and costs and focus on providing value by aligning their services with their clients’ objectives.
  6. What kind of services is most demanded by your customers?In recent years, law firms’ priorities almost always include increasing business. Latin firms also tend to be concerned with differentiating themselves from competitors, client retention, firm rankings and marketing materials such as websites and brochures.Corporate IP departments are frequently looking for benchmarking studies of staffing and reporting structures.
  7. The difference in the treatment of Latin American and American customers must be very different, what particularities do you find in each of them?The differences are not as significant as the question suggests.
  8. Would you share a case or problematic situation that finally made you grow professionally?A law firm asked us to help it maintain its highly valued internal culture and transition its leadership.  From its inception 15 years earlier, the firm was led by a management committee consisting of a strong managing partner who was now nearing retirement age and two other partners.We conducted an extensive assessment of the elements that constituted the firm’s culture to understand morale, personality mix, emotional intelligence, communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and management and leadership skills. We also reviewed the current management structure and identified alternative management models.Based on our findings and recommendations in a 2-day partnership retreat, the partners unanimously adopted a new management structure and elected new leadership. In our final report, we included a recommendation that the firm assign a significant role to the founding managing partner to redirect his energy and keep him connected to the next phase of the firm’s development.Satisfied with all that had been accomplished, we did not press this point with the new leadership and they did not flesh out a role for that partner. Within 18 months, he left the firm and started another firm because he was restless.The lessons I learned from this otherwise successful engagement were: (1) change is hard even when it is embraced, and (2) in law firms, the business asset is the people who must feel needed and appreciated.
  9. In your opinion, what should a lawyer new to the law market do and/or understand in order to improve his/her law practice and business development?First, I would say that clients expect you to have excellent legal knowledge but doing good work will not be enough. What clients judge are results and the way you treat them. Bad results sometimes happen. Clients can and will forgive them if you have treated them well. Improve your law practice by focusing on how well you treat your clients, not just doing good work.The formula for business development has three essential parts. Potential clients need to know you (they do not hire firms/lawyers they have never heard of), they must want to business with you (they need to feel comfortable with you) and they must trust you.

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