This week, I continue my written interview with Wendy Chou regarding her experience putting on conferences of interest to the IP community. (And in the case of the LF Dealmakers Forum, a conference of interest to anyone for whom litigation finance is important, irrespective of their practice area.) Please see below for Wendy’s answers to my second and third questions, focused on how she has adapted to putting on conferences in the midst of a pandemic, and what role her conferences play in getting deals done in the IP sector.
As usual, I have added some brief commentary to Wendy’s answers below but have otherwise presented her answers as she provided them.
GK: What was the biggest challenge you have had to deal with in organizing events in the era of COVID-19?
WC: Well the challenges have been manyfold, as you can imagine, but the initial challenge was deciding on whether the physical event could be held safely. The timing was such that for a while we held out the hope that we could have a physical event, but we eventually had to make a final decision — and happily made the right decision — that we would go virtual this year.
Once that decision was made, we had to determine how to structure the virtual events, begin the platform selection, and of course continue our work with getting the thought leaders involved and curating the content.
Although organizing events in the middle of a pandemic has proven extremely challenging, it’s created some opportunities. At a personal level, I’ve spent a lot of time on Zoom calls (like everyone these days), have gotten to know my sponsors and speakers even better, understanding the challenges they face, and am learning about how we’ll be able to incorporate virtual events into our platform in the future.
I think it’s clear to all of us that the event space will be forever changed: although we will certainly go back to physical events when it is safe to do so, we’ll also be incorporating virtual events into our platform, and are striving to use the virtual space technology to create an environment where benefits of well-constructed events can be had at various times throughout the year, not just for a few days annually.
GK: I found it particularly interesting to see Wendy’s observation that the pandemic has allowed her to get to know her customers even better, as it comports with my experience over the past few months. Yes, it may be harder than ever to expand our circle of contacts, but it is true that the pandemic has created an environment whereby stronger connections with clients and colleagues can be forged, if only because everyone is doing their best to remain productive under these surreal conditions. Moreover, I do think that the idea of more frequent virtual events, as a complement to physical events, can be very helpful for busy lawyers and their clients, both in terms of keeping people abreast of important developments, as well as providing more opportunities to network and get CLE credit from the comfort of the (home) office. There will be a premium, of course, on producing quality content, an area where Wendy and other IP event programmers have already demonstrated their capability.
GK: There are more funders than ever targeting firms and clients. How do you see Dealmakers helping to facilitate investments, both in IP and other sectors?
WC: One key is to create forums where there is a good diversity of voices including small and medium-sized businesses, large corporations, and for the IP space, sole inventors and entrepreneurs, along with law firms and investors. Having that good cross-section allows funders to better understand their client base and to deploy capital more efficiently. It also helps with equal access to justice. While we don’t pretend to offer the solution to that complex problem, we strive to give claim holders in a variety of sectors, including IP, better access to funding sources, and therefore create an environment in which funders can explore a wide range of opportunities.
Another aspect of what we do at Dealmakers is to create more transparency regarding the funding process. Because of the inherent legal and ethical issues in litigation finance, as well as some misconceptions, it’s critical to have all voices heard. As I like to say, good dialog can prevent bad legislation and regulation.
GK: I think Wendy’s points on the value of events offering different perspectives are well-taken, especially in the IP industry, where there are a variety of voices clamoring for attention at any given time — each with something worthwhile to add to the debates of the moment. Likewise, with a relatively new phenomenon in the IP space in the form of litigation funding, the importance of having as much information about how the process really works available to all can’t be overstated. With their prominence, events like Dealmakers Forums make an important contribution to getting that message out, along with the content that helps provide answers to questions that IP lawyers and their clients may be confronting as they think about whether litigation finance is right for their projects.
My thanks to Wendy for the insights and cooperation, and I wish her the best of luck with the upcoming Dealmakers Forums. If past performance is any indication, they will be well worth attending, even virtually. In my view, this is the year, even for those for whom a trip to New York City to attend in-person may previously have been difficult, to try and attend at least one of the Forums, especially if your client base is interested in litigation finance in any way. It is always a privilege to hear from someone who is at the forefront bringing together financial muscle and IP movers-and-shakers, and I thank Wendy for agreeing to this interview. I am always open to conducting interviews of this type with other IP thought leaders, so feel free to reach out if you have a compelling perspective to offer.
Please feel free to send comments or questions to me at [email protected] or via Twitter: @gkroub. Any topic suggestions or thoughts are most welcome.
Gaston Kroub lives in Brooklyn and is a founding partner of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique, and Markman Advisors LLC, a leading consultancy on patent issues for the investment community. Gaston’s practice focuses on intellectual property litigation and related counseling, with a strong focus on patent matters. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @gkroub.