IPTA Emergency Practice Support Service




A. The EPSS is available to all members of the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys (“IPTA”).
B. The purpose of the EPSS is to provide assistance to Affected Members in managing their practices during an emergency.
C. In providing the EPSS, IPTA is not giving legal, financial or business advice to the Affected Members, their clients or the Caretaker Attorney.
D. If the Affected Member decides to engage a Caretaker Attorney, that is a matter wholly between both parties. IPTA is not a party to that engagement.


  • Affected Member – the IPTA member that seeks or requires EPSS.
  • Caller – the person who contacts IPTA (he/she may be the Affected Member or an authorised person such as an employee, a relative or close contact).
  • EPSS – IPTA’s emergency practice support set out below.
  • IPTA Council Team – the IPTA Executive Secretary and the IPTA councillors that the Affected Member agrees to be informed of the request. A minimum of two IPTA councillors is to be on the IPTA Council Team. The default is the President and one Vice-President.
  • Primary Contact (“PC”) – one member of the IPTA Council Team who is the primary contact for the Affected Member. The identity of the person who is assigned the role of PC will be decided through consultation with the Caller (or subsequently, the Affected Member). It is possible that a first preference may not be available or able to assist.
  • Caretaker Attorney – one or more IPTA members who agree to provide support under the EPSS to the Affected Member.
  • Emergency Plan – a practice management plan documented by an IPTA Member in the event that emergency practice support is required. An Emergency Plan Checklist outlining recommended items to be addressed in the Emergency Plan is available to IPTA Members.
  • IPTA Executive Secretary – person employed by IPTA in role of IPTA Executive Secretary.
  • IPTA Secretariat – The secretariat function of IPTA, comprising staff members of IPTA, including the IPTA Executive Secretary.


IPTA recommends that IPTA members and their firms have the following measures in place to ensure they are prepared in case they need to call on the EPSS:

  • IPTA member (or their firm) to maintain professional indemnity (PI) insurance. EPSS is unavailable to IPTA members who do not have PI insurance, and/or are unable to add the Caretaker Attorney’s details to their policy when required.
  • IPTA member to ensure that deadline management systems are robust. IPTA member to ensure that there are systems or procedures in place to enable a Caretaker Attorney to provide assistance under the EPSS.
  • IPTA members are encouraged to have an Emergency Plan. IPTA members are also encouraged to share their Emergency Plan with a third party or the IPTA Secretariat. Emergency Plans or Emergency Plan Checklists provided to the IPTA Secretariat will be held in the strictest confidence, and only accessed in the event of an emergency. An Emergency Plan Checklist template is available to members upon request.
  • IPTA members are encouraged to explore Income Protection, Total and Permanent Disability, or other personal insurance, in addition to PI insurance.

IPTA maintains the following procedures in preparation for receiving a request for emergency practice support:

  • All IPTA councillors and the IPTA Executive Secretary are familiar with the EPSS procedure and the checklist for taking a call from a Caller.
  • IPTA Secretariat maintains the currency of the information on the EPSS procedure on the IPTA website, including contact details to make use of the service.
  • The IPTA Executive Secretary maintains records associated with any requests made for emergency practice support assistance. These records are held in strict confidence.


Phase Two involves an Affected Member (or someone acting on their authority) reaching out to IPTA seeking EPSS. Such support is typically required in urgent circumstances, for example, where the Affected Member is unable to continue working and/or there is the potential for loss of client rights within a short time period. The approximate time period over which the caretaker services may be required is envisaged to be up to about one month. If it becomes apparent during this initial time period that a longer-term arrangement is required, this may be pursued under Phase Three.

When a Caller contacts IPTA for EPSS, the following procedure will be followed:

1. The Caller makes a call to the IPTA Executive Secretary or IPTA councillor.

2. The IPTA Executive Secretary follows a call checklist in taking the call. The call checklist contains information on details to be taken during the call, including details of the caller, details of the Affected Member, ascertaining the nature of the need for help and identifying a Primary Contact (PC). If the Affected Member calls an IPTA councillor, the IPTA councillor should follow the checklist in taking the call and then provides details of the call to the IPTA Executive Secretary.

3. A summary of the initial call is kept by IPTA Secretariat in strict confidence.

4. Following the call, the IPTA Executive Secretary immediately contacts the IPTA Council Team agreed to with the Caller, which includes the requested PC, to inform them of the Affected Member’s situation. Action should be taken within 24 hours.

5. The PC will contact the Caller (or Affected Member direct, as appropriate) as soon as possible and preferably within 24 hours of the initial call.

6. The PC will:
a. Ask if the Affected Member has an Emergency Plan. If so, the PC will, if appropriate, make use of that Emergency Plan in future steps.
b. Ask if the Affected Member has a pre-arranged or preferred Caretaker Attorney in mind, or identify possible attorneys or firms of attorneys who may be able to provide assistance to the Affected Member’s practice as a Caretaker Attorney;
c. Contact the identified attorneys to explore availability and suitability to assist as a Caretaker Attorney;
d. Report back or update the Caller/Affected Member seeking EPSS, to obtain their agreement on a plan for moving forward.
e. Ask if the Affected Member wishes to use a specific explanation for their temporary absence, for providing to Caretaker Attorney.

7. PC will flag and assist parties to recognise the insurance position, so as to gather sufficient information from the insurer for the Affected Member, and the insurer of the Caretaker Attorney, to allow the Caretaker Attorney to step in.

8. The PC will communicate the following to the Caretaker Attorney:
– The Caretaker Attorney is to use their best endeavours to avoid loss of rights of the Affected Member’s clients.
– The Caretaker Attorney is to act with professional integrity.
– The Caretaker Attorney is being engaged solely by the Affected Member and not IPTA.

9. The PC will communicate the following to the Affected Member:
– Invoicing for work completed during the caretaker time period of up to one month will be at the discretion of the Caretaker Attorney. The Affected Member is solely responsible for engaging the Caretaker Attorney.

10. PC to contact the Affected Member regularly once the Caretaker Attorney arrangement is in place to ascertain all is running smoothly or if any additional EPSS is required to progress to Phase Three.

It is noted that IPTA is not able to provide financial or legal advice, or to negotiate agreements on behalf of Affected Members. The objective in Phase Two is to assist the Affected Member in ensuring that actions are taken on client matters to avoid loss of rights. The Affected Member continues to be responsible for the client matters. IPTA bears no such responsibility for client matters.


The object of Phase Two is to assist in getting a Caretaker Attorney in place as soon as possible to meet emergency needs. In some cases, the Affected Member will be able to return to practice. If not, Phase Three is entered, and IPTA suggests that a formal arrangement be made directly between the Affected Member and the Caretaker Attorney (or another attorney) to transition to a longer-term arrangement.

Issues to be considered in Phase Three may include some or all of the following:

1. The Affected Member may provide the Caretaker Attorney an updated explanation for the arrangement to be used by the Caretaker Attorney in client communications, that takes into account the expected time of absence before the Affected Member returns to practice.

2. The Affected Member may plan a transition back to their practice, if feasible.

3. If it becomes apparent that the Affected Member may not be able to return to their practice for some time, the PC may provide a sounding board to discuss with the Affected Member their options for longer term arrangements, specific to their situation.

4. The PC may remind the Affected Member to consider claiming on Income Protection, TPD or other insurance as may be available.

5. If the member is deceased, the PC may flag to the executor or trustee of the estate that they consider the value of the business and/or options for the sale or other disposal of the same.

IPTA’s objectives are to assist a Affected Member to safely return to their practice, and if that is not possible, to assist the Affected Member in reaching an alternative solution. IPTA is not able to provide financial or legal advice, or to negotiate agreements on behalf of Affected Members.

The PC will support communication between the Caretaker Attorney and the Affected Member.


IPTA would like to acknowledge and thank the following IPTA members for their contribution to the development of the EPSS procedure and documentation:
Dr Marguerite Port; Dr Andrew Jones; Dr Claire Gregg; Mr Michael Caine; Ms Jennifer McEwan, Ms Christine Emmanuel-Donnelly and Ms Janelle Borham.