Nolte Lackenbach Siegel Intellectual Property Law Group is a boutique IP law firm with a large and very active US and international patent and trademark portfolio. The firm uses a split-docket approach to manage its patents and trademarks on two separate systems, each optimized to docket these distinct matter types. Nolte uses Alt Legal to docket its trademark matters and has found that Alt Legal's advanced automation has enabled the trademark group members to work efficiently and keep up with client demand.
Managing Partner | Nolte Lackenbach Siegel IP Law Group
Nolte Lackenbach Siegel Intellectual Property Law Group is a boutique IP firm with nearly 100 years of combined experience. The firm prides itself on providing value-added, cost-effective services tailored to the needs of each client. The firm has a large trademark docket with nearly 7,000 active USPTO matters and nearly 6,000 international matters. Nolte is one of the top 10 trademark filers nationwide. This busy boutique firm has to work efficiently in order to keep up with demand. Key to Nolte’s success is their trademark docketing software: Alt Legal.
Renee Duff is the Managing Partner for the Trademark Practice and the New York office of the firm. Kim Hassiak is a Trademark Paralegal who works closely alongside Renee, managing the firm’s docket and designing ways to streamline the firm’s workflow using technology. Kim previously worked as a project manager at IBM, and she uses technology to solve problems and make things work well for Nolte’s clients.
Alt Legal Is an Outstanding Solution for Merging Firms and Replacing Outdated IP Docketing Software
When Renee initially joined Nolte Intellectual Property Law Group, the firm was primarily patent-focused. That changed when Nolte acquired Lackenbach Siegel, and the newly combined firm had a robust portfolio of patent and trademark matters. Naturally, a key decision had to be made around docketing both types of intellectual property matters.
Lackenbach Siegel had been using a legacy IP docketing system that was no longer supported by the provider. Renee, being tech-savvy and forward-thinking, recognized that the current IP docketing system was a serious problem. “We were essentially waiting for the docketing system to break. We needed to get our information out of there and into a system that would reliably support our practice. In fact, the legacy system was sitting on a server that just recently broke!”
When Renee sought to replace the unsustainable legacy docketing system for Nolte’s trademark matters, she immediately turned to Alt Legal. Renee had worked with Alt Legal in her solo practice and at Nolte before the merger, and she was very familiar with the system. “I discovered Alt Legal at the very beginning when it was initially launched, and I’ve grown with the company.” Renee spearheaded the firm’s migration to Alt Legal, moving all of Nolte’s and Lackenbach Siegel’s trademark matters to Alt Legal, while maintaining the firm’s patent matters on a separate patent-focused docketing system. Renee saw the benefit of moving the firm’s trademark matters to a trademark-specific docketing system like Alt Legal. At Alt Legal, we call this the “best-in-class” approach, where an organization decides to split its patent and trademark dockets onto two separate systems, each specifically built to best manage that matter type.
For more information about splitting a docket, check out this article by Alt Legal’s CEO: Best-in-Class or All-In-One IP Docketing Software? Which is Better?
Designing a Customized, Tech-Savvy System with Alt Legal
For a tech-savvy, forward-thinking lawyer like Renee, technology has always been an important tool to help her work more efficiently, grow her practice, and allow for workplace flexibility. “Over 15 years ago, I set a goal to establish a trademark law practice where I could accomplish anything anywhere. The technology back then wasn’t there, but it’s here now.” Her thinking had great foresight as the world headed into a global lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many attorneys without access to their offices and paper files. “With COVID-19 and everyone working remotely, it changed the way a lot of firms looked at things. Firms really had to stop being reliant on paper files, and they couldn’t trust 20-year-old servers to run their local files. It was a ticking time bomb.” Renee recognized that the traditional law firm workflow involving paper files as a way of distributing work had to change. “We had to get our information out of the paper files. If people aren’t coming into the office or can’t come into the office, we need to have a better way to do things.”
With this vision of an efficient, paperless system where users could access information from anywhere at any time, Renee knew that Alt Legal was the best choice to manage Nolte’s busy, and fast-growing trademark portfolio. “From my perspective, Alt Legal was always the best option for a trademark docketing system because it had all of these technologically-advanced features.” To supplement her firm’s docketing needs, Renee combines Alt Legal with Smartsheet, a project management software which manages the firm’s workflow and assignments. Renee worked closely with Alt Legal customer service, at no additional fee, to customize the connection between Alt Legal and Smartsheet so that Smartsheet always downloads new dockets and users can access all client information, while directly linking to Alt Legal for more detailed information.
Why Alt Legal Stands Out—Automation and Commitment to Innovation
“Trademarkia and Legal Zoom have commoditized trademarks. If you’re trying to grow your practice, it comes down to how fast you can do things and how you can work more efficiently.” While Renee understands that trademark prosecution is a highly-complex, multi-step process, she knows that the ultimate goal is to complete these tasks quickly and accurately and minimize the administrative and repetitive aspects of trademark practice. Alt Legal helps Renee and her team perform docketing and related trademark prosecution tasks faster by delivering a fully-automated system that is also incredibly easy to use.
Renee appreciates the thought that went into doing exactly that. For example, one of the ways Alt Legal makes trademark docketing easier and more efficient is by minimizing the number of windows/tabs you need to click through to get to the information you need. “When you add extra clicks into the docketing process, it takes more time and is frustrating. One click might not seem like it makes a difference, but if you do it 100 times, it adds up.” Alt Legal’s interface is modern and intuitive and designed with the user in mind. For example, you don’t need to run a query and watch it load to see which deadlines are most pressing.
“Other IP docketing systems I used were so antiquated. Everything had to be entered manually, reports were unintuitive, and template letters were difficult to run.”
Alt Legal’s advanced automation has been key to helping Renee provide outstanding client service even though she and her team are managing such a large volume of marks. “Trademark practice involves so many reminders and notices, but you still want to give the best service you can and offer those ‘personal touches.’ With so many points of contact, the work has to be automated. You can’t pay as many people as you’d need to do this work manually. Alt Legal has made this possible by automating so many aspects of the trademark prosecution process.”
Renee recognizes that lawyers still require paralegals to do other important work, but she appreciates that Alt Legal allows the repetitive, non-billable tasks involved in trademark prosecution to be handled automatically.
“You have to use technology to keep the costs down. Even though you pay for the technology, in the long run, it allows us to work with more clients and use tech to our advantage when trademarks have been commoditized.”
Additionally, Renee and her team have been very satisfied with Alt Legal’s commitment to innovation and product improvement. Renee has noticed how Alt Legal continually takes her suggestions to build a better system. “I always tell Kim, ‘Check with Sophia [Alt Legal’s Director of Customer Success] to see if Alt Legal allows us to do that.’ If it doesn’t, Alt Legal always takes our suggestions and works our ideas into their next builds. It really helps that Alt Legal understands what we are doing. Ultimately, listening to our feedback helps Alt Legal improve the software, which helps us to work more efficiently.”
Nolte Utilizes Alt Legal’s Advanced Features to Improve Efficiency and Bolster Client Relations
The trademark team at Nolte utilizes a number of Alt Legal’s advanced features to help facilitate workflow and improve client service. Kim said that she especially likes Alt Legal’s ability to store important notes about clients and their matters. “It’s great to be able to keep all of our notes in Alt Legal. We note everything from who we are communicating with about the matter to client instructions to indicating that we haven’t heard from the client. This is a spot that we can use however we need.”
Another important Alt Legal feature that Nolte frequently uses is the custom tag system that allows users to add tags to any matter. This can aid users in filtering for certain matters that may not share other filtering criteria. Renee commented, “Tags are great, and we love being able to manage the tag system.” Nolte uses Alt Legal’s custom tags for a variety of purposes, but in particular, to ensure client satisfaction. Renee shared, “We have a custom tag called ‘special client handling,’ which helps us to know exactly when and when not to notify these clients about the status of their marks. We want to ensure that we are keeping our clients happy and communicating with them only when they want to be notified about the statuses of their marks.” Renee also shared that the custom tags help to identify which clients should receive monthly bills and which clients do not get billed for certain tasks—Alt Legal’s custom tags help to distinguish between different types of client handling.
Another key feature that Nolte’s trademark team takes advantage of is the ability to manage different matter types within Alt Legal. While Alt Legal was specifically designed as a trademark docketing system, it is fully adept at handling TTAB matters, including oppositions and cancellations. Alt Legal also dockets matters including copyrights, disputes, patents, licenses, and custom matters. Nolte currently uses Alt Legal to docket TTAB oppositions and cancellations, conflicts, disputes, and foreign dispute matters. Renee indicated that she also dockets custom matter types and patents, “We docket state trademark registrations in Alt Legal. We also keep a backup patent docket for certain clients. While I am not a patent attorney, I’m happy to maintain a patent docket for clients. This is particularly helpful when the client wants to see their worldwide IP portfolio and they need to see all patent and trademark matters at once.” Renee also sees additional utility with Alt legal as a way to docket the firm’s copyright matters. “We have a huge file room in our basement, and I’d like to keep track of our copyrights in Alt Legal. Having those files in a docket would be tremendous.”
Alt Legal Helps Nolte Attract New Clients
Not only does Alt Legal help Nolte manage internal workflow and maintain strong client relationships, but its no-cost docket access also helps Renee to bring in new clients. Alt Legal offers unlimited user access with all subscriptions so that organizations can provide anyone with read-only or edit access to the docket at no additional cost. Many IP docketing software companies charge a fee for additional users (sometimes called “seats” or “licenses”) which can range from $200-$1,000 annually for a single read-only “seat.”
However, we believe our pricing should be simple to understand, just like our software. Alt Legal provides all subscribers with unlimited users, whether designated as read-only or edit access. Renee said, “As more people have grown up with technology, they are expressing an interest in having access to their dockets because, as with anything else, it’s what they are used to. With read-only access to Alt Legal, we allow them to see exactly what’s going on with their filings.”
For Renee, offering real-time access to the docket has been an important selling point in obtaining new clients. “We’ve been using it in our marketing as a benefit to working with us. If you want more information, we can give you more! If you don’t, we can do that too! Everyone wants something that is easy.”
“If your clients wake up in the middle of the night and need to know the status of a mark, they can go check the docket! They don’t have to wait until the morning or when someone responds to their email. And the best part for them is that they don’t get billed for checking the docket!”
Nolte Appreciates Alt Legal’s Superior Customer Support and Training
Nolte’s trademark group was immediately impressed by Alt Legal’s outstanding customer support team. Everyone at the firm has access to Alt Legal, so the full group scheduled a training together. Alt Legal helps make training large teams easy by offering unlimited, complimentary, and ongoing training. When Nolte first merged with Lackenbach Siegel, Renee set up a group training session, which everyone found very helpful. Many members of the trademark group had never used an automated trademark docketing system before and were thrilled to discover a new type of system that didn’t require any manual input.
When new personnel join the trademark group, new users take advantage of Alt Legal’s complimentary, ongoing training, and that they use Alt Legal’s live chat feature to connect with customer support and address their questions. Renee reports, “I encourage everyone at the firm to use the live chat function to get answers to their questions. It helps me focus on what I need to do and not be one person at the firm who understands how to use the docketing system. As a result, everyone is able to use the system effectively. It takes a lot of pressure off of me and helps me avoid burnout.”
Meanwhile, for Kim, her background is as a project manager at IBM. When she began working at Nolte, that was her first experience using trademark docketing software and working as a trademark paralegal. She found that it was very easy to get up to speed with using Alt Legal. “It’s very intuitive! I was learning everything at once – trademark prosecution and Alt Legal. It was pretty simple to learn!” Anytime she had a question, Kim would reach out to Alt Legal’s customer support team, “Sophia [Director of Customer Success] is phenomenal and can get anything figured out! I often use the chat and make requests for software developments.”
“The Alt Legal team is a pleasure to work with. Whenever I have an issue, the team is on it and gets back to me. I feel like I have great support, and they always take my suggestions. Alt Legal’s customer support team and I always get excited about the same things in trademark docketing!”
Ever since the Nolte team migrated to Alt Legal, the entire trademark group has been thrilled with their new docketing system. Renee tells all her friends and colleagues, “Sign up for Alt Legal! It’ll make your life that much easier!” Kim adds, “I’m always looking for the fastest and most efficient way to do things and Alt Legal helps me accomplish just that!” Renee has been completely satisfied with how Alt Legal has developed over the years and how it has continually served her practice, no matter the size of her portfolio. “I ran my entire solo practice on Alt Legal, and now we run a docket of nearly 13,000 live matters on Alt Legal.” Also, Renee noted how other IP docketing software companies failed to provide the level of technology and service that she expected, “With other IP docketing software vendors, I felt like I was sold such a bill of goods that was not delivered on. A different system I had tried was both expensive and useless to me. When comparing Alt Legal to this system, I absolutely tell people to choose Alt Legal. I say go for it!”