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What does it mean to describe a firm as "progressive"?

Many private practice firms would describe themselves as “progressive” but what does that really mean, particularly for candidates considering their career options? 

We challenged Lesley Evans, Chief Executive of Haseltine Lake, to explain what she means when she describes Haseltine Lake as a “progressive firm” and to suggest what questions candidates should be asking to find out whether a particular firm is or is not progressive.


Here’s what she told us:

For a firm to be progressive, it has to have defined what progress it is trying to make in its markets and its organisational capabilities.  I don’t think you can be progressive in the abstract – so you have to have some goals and objectives and to be looking as expansively as possible at how those can be achieved.  I think interview candidates should feel free to ask about a firm’s goals and what it is doing to achieve them.   

Having said that, I think there are some broad trends or characteristics that can serve as reasonable indicators of whether a firm is or is not forward thinking, and most of these can be tested by good questioning from candidates during the interview process.   

1)      Is there a professional management structure?  Has the firm invested in senior executives with the right professional skills and experience to run the business?  Or are the Partners dabbling?  Patent attorneys don’t necessarily make the best managers or business leaders (although there are some notable exceptions). 

2)      Is the business investing in really good people in all roles?  Does the calibre of its Partners, attorneys and support staff show that it takes itself and its clients seriously?

3)      Is it a meritocracy?  Are people rewarded for doing a good job and rewarded exceptionally for doing an exceptional job?  Are there good career prospects throughout the business and is there space at the top for the very best to grow through to Partnership?

4)      Does the business think internationally?  Is there a real commitment to international markets and a plan of attack for the amazing array of IP opportunities that exist outside Europe?

5)      Is the firm investing in its brand?  Is it finding new ways to add value and extend services and improve its offering to both clients and staff?

6)      Is the firm providing the best possible infrastructure?  Does it make a continuing investment in the IT and other resources that it needs to deliver a really flexible service geared to the needs of individual clients?  Or is it still stuck in the “one size fits all” mode?

7)      Is the culture proactive?  Does the firm have a clear development plan and create opportunities to win work from existing and new sources or does it simply respond to opportunities as they present themselves?

8)      Does the business learn from its mistakes?  You can’t be creative and innovative and expansive without getting things wrong sometimes – but a progressive firm will always learn from that and won’t make the same mistake again. 

Candidates who prepare some questions around these topics should be able to generate some really interesting discussions and flush out some worthwhile insights during the interview process.

To find out more about a current vacancy in the Haseltine Lake Engineering department click here.

If you are interested in finding out more about positions with Haseltine Lake please contact Pete Fellows on +44 (0) 20 7903 5019 or email contact@fellowsandassociates.com.

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