Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

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Re: Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'd actually like to follow up on this issue. I'm a first year pros attorney at a boutique. I've seen at least one lawyer, a partner, at my firm halt his billing rate from rising once he was senior. I've also seen it keep rising for partners, or rising every few years whether or not the budgets change. The one who didn't keep it moving was so he could hit his requirements without making his budget unmanageable. Would you recommend that strategy if the firm allowed it?


I've never seen that before, but it could be a viable strategy. However, it would be better if the firm tackled the issue at an institutional level rather than have attorneys find ad hoc solutions. For example, the firm could use alternative fee arrangements for some clients (e.g., flat rate), provide discounts, or could vary the billing rate based on the budget constraints of the client. I say this because limiting your own billing rate may hurt you depending on the firm's compensation or performance practices. For example, at my IP boutique salary was tied to billing rate. So if you held your billing rate steady, you wouldn't get a raise. Also, they may compare you unfavorably to your peers who have not held down their rates and are generating more profit. This may be especially true in GP firms, where you are compared to peers in other practice groups.

In sum, get to know the culture of the firm and what's possible when making these decisions.

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Re: Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 18, 2017 3:17 pm

What was a typical day like for you in all 3 jobs? I.e. your schedule on an average day.

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Re: Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 18, 2017 5:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What was a typical day like for you in all 3 jobs? I.e. your schedule on an average day.


Biglaw
I don't think I had many typical days because I was doing a mix of pros, lit, and transactions, in addition to random non-IP matters the firm assigned to me. Like I mentioned previously, prosecution is very predictable and I'll describe a typical day below when talking about the IP boutique.

Typical day on a transaction: receive agreements from general corp team at random times, spend up to few hours reviewing IP provisions and marking them up with guidance from partner, and send markup back to general corp team. Sometimes participate in a portion of a deal call with opposing counsel (they dial us in for like 5 min to discuss the IP provisions and then we drop off). If there is due diligence involved, I spend my days (and nights depending on the deadline) reviewing all the docs in the data room. Very little visibility as the corp folks don't tell us specialists much about the overall deal itself and the timing, so very unpredictable schedule. Deals start and stop on a dime, so it was difficult to schedule my other work when I was on one.

Typical day on a litigation: spend most of my time either reviewing litigation documents (patents, claim charts, opposing briefs/motions) or researching/drafting such documents. If reviewing discovery, just sit around clicking through docs all day. Regular calls/meetings to discuss strategy. Sometimes business trips to meet client or review evidence (either on our side or held by opposing party). I never had the opportunity to go to court. Schedule is quite predictable - the partners gave me clear deadlines, so unless some emergency came up I could work 9-7ish.

IP Boutique
My typical day was 9:30-6. Most of the time I was either reviewing/analyzing documents (OA, prior art), or drafting patent apps or OA responses. A few times a week I could be on conference calls with inventors or patent examiners. Really not that much variation from day to day, unless there's a rush assignment. Even the other work, such as opinions and FTOs, could be done during regular work hours.

In-house
I work during regular business hours (9-5ish). At the beginning of a typical day, I plan to either draft something (app or OA response) or review a draft provided by outside counsel. During the course of the day, I get interrupted by various things - meetings, agreement negotiations, questions from outside counsel, IP (and sometimes non-IP) questions from inventors and other internal people, fixing issues that crop up on other patent matters, some bureaucratic BS. Hope by the end of the day I accomplished what I set out to do in the morning.

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Re: Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:30 pm

How do you think about in house attorney's job security? Some people say in house positions are destined to short lived.

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Re: Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:14 pm

Any input on salary/salary negotiation for in-house positions? I'm a 4th-6th year associate expecting an offer for an in-house patent counsel position soon. Thoughts on reasonable range to request?

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Re: Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:04 pm

You mentioned avoiding foreign clients at all costs. Could you elaborate on that a bit more?

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Re: Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:How do you think about in house attorney's job security? Some people say in house positions are destined to short lived.


Whether in-house positions are short lived is highly company specific. Here are some factors to consider:
1. The performance review system. For example, does the company utilize a ranking system that forces some people to be classified as under-performing? Is there an up-and-out system (like for partnerships at some firms)?
2. Attrition history. How long do people stay at the position, and what are their reasons for leaving? Does the company burn through people ala Amazon?
3. How lean the legal department is. Generally, the smaller the legal department, the harder it is to replace you. If you are part of a small army of in-house lawyers, you are easier to replace.
4. Is the company a likely acquisition target (e.g., a late stage pharma startup)? If so, then your position may become "redundant." Consider whether there has been attempted acquisitions in the past, or whether acquisition is a stated goal of the company.
5. How the company values the legal department. Is it an integral and trusted part of the company? Or do they view legal as a rubber stamp or fun police, and scapegoat legal when things go wrong. Similarly, do they give legal a generous budget, or try to cut costs to the bone?

Anonymous User wrote:Any input on salary/salary negotiation for in-house positions? I'm a 4th-6th year associate expecting an offer for an in-house patent counsel position soon. Thoughts on reasonable range to request?


Salary is dependent on region, and to a lesser extent industry type (e.g., IT, pharma, hardware, financial). Do plenty of research beforehand on salary ranges in your area, for example using Glassdoor, Salary.com, or other resources. I've heard that my company has passed on several biglaw applicants before because their salary expectations were too high, so it's important to do your homework. If they ask you for a salary expectation, don't give an exact number but rather a range (should include the average but weighted towards the upper end).

A couple other tips for negotiation:
- Don't disclose your current salary. If they are insistent on this (or in my case, asked to fill out an electronic form where it's a required field), give a range instead of an actual number.
- Think of justifications for asking for salary that is higher than their initial offer. Use the market research, but you can also include personal factors. For example, if you jump shortly before a salary increase or bonus payout at your firm, tell them what you are foregoing.
- If they are not willing to increase salary by much, try asking for non-salary benefits that are important to you, such as increased vacation days, flexible schedule, moving fees if applicable, technology/bar association/conference allowance, etc.
- If you aren't getting anywhere with the HR rep you are dealing with, ask to speak with an HR supervisor. They may be able to offer more.

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Re: Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:You mentioned avoiding foreign clients at all costs. Could you elaborate on that a bit more?


When domestic US clients file for patents in other countries, the US firm / US client hire foreign counsel to manage the actual filings and paperwork. Depending on the client's preference, we may give foreign counsel wide latitude in formulating patent prosecution strategies and office action responses. However, more usually we come up with the strategies and responses, and simply ask foreign counsel to follow our instructions (and add/adjust per their professional judgment and local laws).

A similar thing happens when foreign clients file for US patents. They hire a US-based law firm to handle the prosecution on the US side. In many cases, the foreign client simply instructs US counsel on how to respond to each office action. Thus the US-based attorney becomes a paper pusher rather than engaging in real, substantive legal work. The US attorney also does not have an opportunity to draft applications because the first filed applications are usually in the client's home country or a PCT and the US attorney just files a translation. There are a number of firms, mostly IP boutiques in the DC area (e.g., Oblon), that have predominantly foreign clients. The associates there churn through mindless work with minimal to no client contact, and burn out fairly quickly. Also, from an in-house standpoint that's not the kind of experience we want.

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Re: Biglaw -> IP boutique -> In-house - taking Qs

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:You mentioned avoiding foreign clients at all costs. Could you elaborate on that a bit more?


Not OP, so I don't know what their rationale is. Based on my personal experience it tends to be a lot of executing other people's instructions to you, or just sending instructions to someone else who does the real work for you (depending on whether you are the foreign associate for a foreign client or the U.S. counsel sending instructions to the foreign associate). It's really banal work and not high-billing. It's good to have a little bit just to learn about foreign prosecution, but you won't feel any sense of fulfillment doing it.



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