Interview: Farah Bhatti, Esq.
Farah Bhatti is a shareholder and chairwoman of the Buchalter PLC’s intellectual property practice group in Los Angeles. As a former trademark examining attorney at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, she has extensive experience in managing large U.S. and international trademark portfolios and counsels clients on securing worldwide trademark protection, formulating worldwide trademark protection and registration strategies, and registration and enforcement of trademarks and copyrights on their behalf. Bhatti currently serves on the Middle East, Africa & South Asia Subcommittee of the International Trademark Association’s Anti-Counterfeiting & Enforcement Committee.
Q: How did you become a rainmaker?
A: Very early in my career, I recognized that I should not rely on others to give me work. One of my previous mentors encouraged me to find a particular industry in which I had an interest and meet people in the industry who could help me network and meet others. I found a colleague that was in-house at an apparel company and we quickly became friends. She introduced me to other in-house attorneys, which led to my involvement with a nonprofit organization that helps startup apparel companies. Through this nonprofit organization, I was able to participate in panel discussions at an apparel trade show. The greatest benefit of speaking at the trade show was that I was one of the only attorneys on any panel and quickly became recognized as an “apparel” attorney, specializing in intellectual property issues. To this day, I can walk around the trade show and will have people come up to me saying that they remember seeing me speak two or three years ago and are now ready to engage me to work on their matters. So basically it’s all about finding your niche and a way to get in front of people that need your services.
Q: How do you stay a rainmaker?
A: I continue to attend networking events, conferences and other seminars in the apparel field, including trade shows where other legal professionals may not be present. I am active in the nonprofit organization that helps startup apparel companies and sit on their board of directors. Mostly, I never pass up an opportunity to be on a panel discussing legal issues. When you are the only attorney there, it is likely you will pick up at least one client since most businesses have at least one legal issue that needs to be attended to.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring rainmaker?
A: Never give up. And once you begin marketing by either attending conferences and meeting people to build up your network, writing articles or giving presentations, do not expect to see immediate results. It is like planting a seed — it may take years to see results. You also need to keep up these activities. Most other rainmakers I know agree that you can never stop marketing yourself. Marketing yourself today will ensure that you have work two to three years down the line. Once you stop, you cut off your future work.
Q: Tell us a tale of landing a big client.
A: I work with many consultants in the apparel industry that work with startup companies. Oftentimes, these companies are very small and have one trademark that needs to be registered. A few years ago, I had a consultant friend call and ask if I could help his client register a trademark. Another attorney had unsuccessfully tried to help the client register and they wanted to see if maybe I could help. I reviewed the files, told them what I could do and a few months later, we had successfully registered the mark. I thought that would be the end of the engagement since there was nothing more to do and the client was small. In the meantime, unbeknownst to me, the client had been growing very rapidly and expanding its business. In one year, the client became a multimillion dollar internet apparel sensation, shipping products to over 50 countries worldwide. It was being written up in every journal and magazine coming across my desk that dealt with the apparel industry. Once I realized how large the client had become, we started advising on all kind of issues, from employment issues and taxation issues, to worldwide protection of trademarks, copyrights, Internet issues, sweepstakes, etc. A small client almost instantaneously blossomed into a very active and very large client. A true American success story and one that makes you realize that even though a client may be very small today, you never know where they will end up tomorrow — so do your best for every client and hopefully when they make it big, they will remember and stay loyal to you!