BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

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BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:07 pm

Summer associate in V20 BigLaw here. I need to pick a practice group by tomorrow morning: either general litigation or patent litigation.

I've worked mostly with the patent group this summer and have enjoyed the people and the work. It's a smaller group within the firm and very siloed, such that I would have probably zero chance of doing non-patent work (except for pro bono). Patent associates at my firm get better experience sooner (e.g. taking depositions first year) because it's a smaller group and cases are more leanly staffed. I have good relationships with the lawyers in this group and enjoy the work.

OTOH, I could choose general litigation. It's a much larger group, more diverse cases (which I find attractive), more of the firm's all-star partners are general litigation, and I'm still interested in securities, class actions, tort law, contract law, defamation . . . all the things the general litigation group does. But plenty of people get stuck on one major case or group of cases (e.g. RMBS) and are just as pigeonholed as patent lawyers are.

Any thoughts on which to choose? If I choose patent, am I committing to being a patent lawyer for the rest of my career? I have better relationships with the lawyers in the patent group so am leaning towards choosing that, but at the same time am reluctant to isolate myself from the largest, most prominent, and--from a high-level perspective--the most interesting group at the firm.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:18 pm

pw? :D

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:pw? :D


Offer some advice and I may reveal!

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Stevoman » Thu Jul 27, 2017 8:57 am

Need more info... define "patent litigation." Motion practice? If so, anyone can do that; you may be siloed in your firm, but aren't as badly pigeonholed in your career as you seem to believe. IPRs? If so, that's a lot more specific of a skill set, and you're probably going to be stuck doing that for a while.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:00 am

Stevoman wrote:Need more info... define "patent litigation." Motion practice? If so, anyone can do that; you may be siloed in your firm, but aren't as badly pigeonholed in your career as you seem to believe. IPRs? If so, that's a lot more specific of a skill set, and you're probably going to be stuck doing that for a while.


Thanks - yes it would be motions practice up through trials. And opportunities to do non-patent work via pro bono.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:33 am

If it is motions stuff, other than general subject matter of the case there won't be a whole lot of differences between the two groups. Are you expected to shift from general lit to a substantive area at any point?

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Stevoman » Thu Jul 27, 2017 10:45 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Stevoman wrote:Need more info... define "patent litigation." Motion practice? If so, anyone can do that; you may be siloed in your firm, but aren't as badly pigeonholed in your career as you seem to believe. IPRs? If so, that's a lot more specific of a skill set, and you're probably going to be stuck doing that for a while.


Thanks - yes it would be motions practice up through trials. And opportunities to do non-patent work via pro bono.


Then I think it's up to you. Motion practice is, IMO, portable enough that you shouldn't be doomed to a life of patent litigation. I'd probably go for the patent litigation group, since good working relationships and better experience are very valuable.

Also, I'm probably talking out of my ass a bit here, but I would venture a guess that the general litigation group probably has a lot more partners and a lot more associates to compete against...there might be a better path to partnership in the patent group.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby jhett » Thu Jul 27, 2017 10:55 am

Is the patent group still going full steam? Patent lit has slowed down recently, so that might be a consideration. If the group is still bringing in lots of business despite the downturn, that's pretty good.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 27, 2017 11:01 am

jhett wrote:Is the patent group still going full steam? Patent lit has slowed down recently, so that might be a consideration. If the group is still bringing in lots of business despite the downturn, that's pretty good.


I don't think patent lit has slowed, so much as there was a mass client-exodus from a select few firms (e.g., Fish) that had a ton of EDTX stuff going. There's still plenty of lit going at my firm.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby glitched » Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
jhett wrote:Is the patent group still going full steam? Patent lit has slowed down recently, so that might be a consideration. If the group is still bringing in lots of business despite the downturn, that's pretty good.


I don't think patent lit has slowed, so much as there was a mass client-exodus from a select few firms (e.g., Fish) that had a ton of EDTX stuff going. There's still plenty of lit going at my firm.


Agreed. And biosimilar litigation has already started to heat up. I doubt it'll ever reach the glory HW days but it should create steady work for years. And if the supreme court somehow knocks down IPRs, it's gonna be crazy. I wouldn't bank on that though.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:49 pm

jhett wrote:Is the patent group still going full steam? Patent lit has slowed down recently, so that might be a consideration. If the group is still bringing in lots of business despite the downturn, that's pretty good.


What kind of patent work is the OP looking at? I'd think twice about doing high tech IP, because it has been very cyclical the last few years.

Life sciences work, not so much - it seems like that's been much more stable.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jul 28, 2017 9:23 am

Anonymous User wrote:
jhett wrote:Is the patent group still going full steam? Patent lit has slowed down recently, so that might be a consideration. If the group is still bringing in lots of business despite the downturn, that's pretty good.


What kind of patent work is the OP looking at? I'd think twice about doing high tech IP, because it has been very cyclical the last few years.

Life sciences work, not so much - it seems like that's been much more stable.


I'd agree with this. If most of the clients are biotech/biochem patent lit probably wouldn't be a problem, but I would not go into a biglaw firm to do software patent litigation under any circumstances right now.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jul 29, 2017 11:04 am

All that work is still out there. It's just at boutique firms, many of which pay as much (or even more) than biglaw.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:00 pm

The received wisdom on TLS had been to avoid general lit because you don't develop expertise and thus are not marketable when you try to leave. I was also choosing between patent and general lit (with a powerful partner in patent trying to convince me to do it) but I chose general lit, which I've enjoyed. I'm only a 3rd year so I haven't tried to leave the firm but my guess is that it remains true that there are typically better exit options for patent attorneys.

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Re: BigLaw: Patent group or general litigation?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:All that work is still out there. It's just at boutique firms, many of which pay as much (or even more) than biglaw.


Depends on the firm, but there seems to be less work out there in the aggregate. You can blame a combination of section 101 jurisprudence, post-grant proceedings (especially IPRs), enhanced fee shifting, tougher venue provisions, etc., but there's certainly less high tech patent litigation work going on than there was, for example, five years ago.

Cases that used to settle for a million now settle for 100k. I used to draft proposals with budgets in the three million range. Similar cases are now budgeted for a million. Do the math.



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