In Conversation with Kelly McNulty, VP, IP Administrative Services

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With over 24 years of IP leadership experience, Kelly manages MaxVal’s worldwide IP Administrative Services team. She has been instrumental in driving the company’s go-to-market strategy, onboarding clients, and driving customer success.

Can you share your background and what attracted you to the IP space?

Out of school, I joined a small boutique law firm in Minneapolis. During my tenure with the firm, I worked on docketing and paralegal projects and gradually shouldered more responsibilities within those teams. I then moved to CPA Global, where I engaged in docketing and recordation projects, file intakes, and other related tasks. My role evolved, and I eventually became responsible for managing their paralegal services team. Later, I joined Stuart Recher to establish an IP services organization at Thomson Reuters.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in the IP space for almost 25 years. But like many here at MaxVal, I love the IP space because it’s constantly changing and evolving – and I get to help customers solve challenging problems. Whether it’s helping customers with special projects, responding to changes in the law, or providing input to our engineering teams, there is always something new to learn and work on.

What is your role and key responsibility areas at MaxVal?

Kelly: I supervise MaxVal’s IP administration team, encompassing all docketing and paralegal support services. I also dedicate a part of my time to working with our internal engineering and support teams, as well as our customers, to devise the customized solutions that they need.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see within IP law firms?

Kelly: Law firms are constantly challenged with acquiring and retaining qualified staff. Finding and retaining professional IP personnel has become increasingly difficult, so outsourcing has become a real game changer. Many individuals join law firms and initially work in the docketing group but don’t want to stay in that role indefinitely. 

Law firms also struggle with establishing effective quality control measures and implementing a structured quality check and review process. Analyzing the resulting data, understanding its impact, and making proactive changes can be both time-consuming and challenging to implement. 

Shifting our focus now, how have you observed the evolution of IP departments over the past decade?

Kelly: In the past, law firms were not accustomed to using external service providers. There were concerns about managing a remote team, as it was widely believed that physical presence in the office was necessary. However, in the last few years, especially during the pandemic, there has been a notable increase in the demand for outsourcing and offshoring for administrative tasks. The pandemic really shattered the belief that physical presence was essential, compelling even the most resistant firms to embrace the idea of having a remote team.

Law firms and corporations’ growing interest in outsourcing is driven by cost management, quality, and ownership. When we act as an extension of law firms and corporations, we become partners and take on the assigned work with great responsibility. By outsourcing, they can also avoid the challenges they would face when implementing corrective actions.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to hire an IP services vendor?

Kelly: The first thing I suggest is that they get the backstory on the experience of the people who will be managing this process for them. Look for industry experts who have been there and done that. 

Secondly, the absolute and total focus should be on communication and expectation management. If there are things that they want to ensure that the vendor is going to be delivering, that needs to be clearly documented. I think communication is one of the biggest things in working with an outsourcing vendor to make sure that both parties are on the same page.

And finally, don’t hold back. If something unexpected happens, make sure to raise that issue immediately. And make sure that you have an escalation path. Do not sit on any concerns, ever.

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