What In-House Counsel Want Part I: Our Interview with Global Head Trademarks, Novartis Pharma AG.

What In-House Counsel Want Part I:
What are you looking for at INTA?

Myrtha-Hurtado-RivasInterview with Myrtha Hurtado Rivas, Global Head Trademarks, Domain Names & Copyright, Novartis Pharma AG, March, 2015.


Kathryn: We are all preparing for INTA this year. As in-house counsel, what would you say your main goal for the Annual Meeting is?

Myrtha: My primary goal is to tackle any important issues, meaning an important case/litigation or a problem that has arisen over the last 6 months. If we have been unable to resolve it over the phone or email then INTA is a good place to deal with these issues face to face. Often, it is a chance to give feedback – what has worked well and what hasn’t.

Preparing for a Meeting with You

Kathryn: That leads to my next question. What do you want your counsel to be prepared to discuss at these meetings?

Myrtha: One of the issues we have at INTA is that the people we meet with aren’t actually the people who did the work. When we meet at INTA, we want to give specific feedback and get specific answers in return. For example, “In this specific case, the way you answered this or that, the way you were with the authorities or whatever, we liked that/we didn’t like that”.

It is understandable that Firms may not be able to bring their whole Team to INTA, however the person we are meeting with should be aware of our cases. Before I go to INTA, I go to my Team and ask them for feedback about the people I will be meeting with and I come prepared to speak to those issues. Our Agents should be doing the same. They should also have given some thought to how they can improve based on our feedback over the year. For example, if we have indicated that they have done something we like, they should actually come with a proposal and say, “We realized you liked this, so we propose to apply a similar attitude/process/solution to some other aspect of what we do together.” Likewise, if we have flagged that something has not gone well over the year, they should be proactive and come to the meeting and say, “We realize in this case, we weren’t at the top of our game. These are the reasons why…We propose to handle it differently in the future, so this does not happen again and this is how …”. Finally, ideally we would like to be informed of any changes of law relevant to our industry.

How to get a Meeting with You

Kathryn: Let’s be honest, for a lot of attendees, the biggest goal for INTA is to get a meeting with someone in your position whom they do not currently work for. How would one of my clients be able to convince you to meet with them when you already have counsel in their country?

Myrtha: Let’s put it this way, most often we accept to meet people when there has been a referral from someone else in the industry. Given how regulated our industry is, it is important for us to find people that have proven experience and knowledge.

Also, table topics. I have been to a couple in the past where I have been impressed by people on the basis of how they talk, how they structure what they say, how they share things, and how candid they are during these sessions. I will make notes of people that impress me and call upon them if I need a second opinion or I need to tackle a complex issue in their jurisdiction.

Kathryn: Interesting. Has there ever been a time where you accepted to meet with someone based on an email?

Myrtha: The thing is you cannot send one standard email for everyone and expect a response. I think it’s probably self evident to say this but perhaps not because I get thousands of these emails. If you are directing your email to a pharmaceutical company, you need to say, in one paragraph, why you are a law firm that is able to handle pharmaceutical work. We are not interested in hearing that you will have ten representatives at INTA, and you are ranked so and so and are fantastic and have lately been on a winning streak. If I get “caught up” by an email, it is going to say, “We know you are the Head of the Trademark Group. Our Firm has an expertise in this domain and we deem we can help you with x in our jurisdiction”. Best case scenario, the writer includes information about a recent case they have won for a client who is also in my industry or somehow shows that they have regulatory knowledge, which is a decisive factor for us, If I see an email like that, then I say, “You know what? This guy is representing another pharma company and they have all the things I am looking for in a law firm. I should keep them in mind.” I respond well to people who come across as flexible, proactive, dynamic and want to share their successes, provided they are relevant. I will certainly keep these people’s names in mind and will often respond personally and say, “At the moment we have an agent in your jurisdiction, but we will keep your name on file in case I need a second opinion or I need to change agents.”

These people, if they are smart enough, will not insist on having a meeting with me at INTA. If I meet them at an informal event, and they come up to me and say, “I am the guy who sent you the email. Good to meet you.” I will remember that person.

Why Focusing Matters

Kathryn: That’s a great example. SC&C works together with its clients to show up at INTA focused and prepared. We work on identifying their ideal clients and the area of their practice they are committed to grow this year. If they make their list short enough, then they can have the time to do the type of research that results in the kinds of emails and meetings you are talking about.

Myrtha: Exactly, I have given similar advice to people that are trying to grow their business. I always ask, “Are you committed to focusing on a specific area?” If you really want to focus on the pharmaceutical industry then you have to go to PTMG. And if you go to PTMG, make sure you don’t go alone as a managing partner, but bring the people that actually do the work with you. I want to see your Team.

You need to convince in-house counsel that you know your stuff and don’t push for work immediately. Just try to work on an open, human relationship first. And then try to go from there. The people that have pushed for work, they sometimes get it, but the relationship is never as long term as those who patiently meet 2 to 3 times before receiving work. It’s having the right balance between getting in touch and not being too pushy. From time to time, when you really have something concrete to share that could be of interest, share it with a potential client. They might be interested.

Find more: Tips For INTA Meetings: What In-House Counsel Want

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