IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

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IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 10, 2017 9:46 pm

I am currently deciding between some bigger firms that have robust IP practices and the bigger IP boutiques in DC. Think comparing A&B/JD/Kirkland/Latham vs. Finnegan/Fish/Sterne/Rothwell generically. What should I be considering between the two business models and how to differentiate my interests? I think I'm more interested in the patent lit side, but I would like some exposure to lit and pros if possible. I'm also on the tech/electronics/electrical focus.

Appreciate anyone's input on how to make these decisions. Thanks everyone.

tbird

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby tbird » Fri Aug 11, 2017 3:40 am

I think a lot depends on your long-term goals. Either type of firm can likely give you good experience early on. But if you plan to stick it out, then there are substantial differences. It seems to me that those biglaw gp firms are more likely to enforce an "up or out policy."

You should consider how many partners that do your practice area are at the office you are considering. For example, if your gp firm has a strong ip practice, but only like 5 partners in your office in the group, you will likely work with only them a lot, so hopefully you like them. I am at one of those firms you listed in the boutique list, and I see it a as a big pro that there are tons of partners in my office, and my firm cross staffs a lot so I have a lot of opportunities to network within the firm and work with a lot of different people. Maybe others would see this as a con and would prefer more structure with less options.

I'd base a lot of the decision on health of the firm. This can be hard to gauge as a law student, but if you ask young associates or know people, you can usually get a feel. Associates are generally pretty honest about what life is like at the firm.

On the other hand, there may be a lot more opportunity to build business at a gp firm with cross selling. The conflicts space at a boutique can get tight. Even if someone wants to give you their work you might not be able to accept it. If you are the BD type, you can refer all types of business to other partners in other practice areas and get credit for it at a gp.

Finally, among the various firms, some will be known for certain things more than others. For example, Sterne does a ton of post-grant work, and some of the others do more litigation. I'd go where your interests lie (which it sounds like you are undecided). Hope that helps, feel free to PM me if you have other questions.

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 11, 2017 10:24 pm

tbird wrote:I think a lot depends on your long-term goals. Either type of firm can likely give you good experience early on. But if you plan to stick it out, then there are substantial differences. It seems to me that those biglaw gp firms are more likely to enforce an "up or out policy."

You should consider how many partners that do your practice area are at the office you are considering. For example, if your gp firm has a strong ip practice, but only like 5 partners in your office in the group, you will likely work with only them a lot, so hopefully you like them. I am at one of those firms you listed in the boutique list, and I see it a as a big pro that there are tons of partners in my office, and my firm cross staffs a lot so I have a lot of opportunities to network within the firm and work with a lot of different people. Maybe others would see this as a con and would prefer more structure with less options.

I'd base a lot of the decision on health of the firm. This can be hard to gauge as a law student, but if you ask young associates or know people, you can usually get a feel. Associates are generally pretty honest about what life is like at the firm.

On the other hand, there may be a lot more opportunity to build business at a gp firm with cross selling. The conflicts space at a boutique can get tight. Even if someone wants to give you their work you might not be able to accept it. If you are the BD type, you can refer all types of business to other partners in other practice areas and get credit for it at a gp.

Finally, among the various firms, some will be known for certain things more than others. For example, Sterne does a ton of post-grant work, and some of the others do more litigation. I'd go where your interests lie (which it sounds like you are undecided). Hope that helps, feel free to PM me if you have other questions.


Thank you so much for this. It was super helpful.

If I feel like an IP boutique is the right call for me, do I have any reason to doubt that? I'm thinking a possible slowdown due to IPRs/PGRs becoming potentially unconstitutional and recent SC decisions affecting the business model in lit.

Obviously this type of decision can affect the rest of my career, and I just don't want to push myself into a practice that might dry up.

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 11, 2017 10:40 pm

This is the exact same question I had!


Thanks!!!

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 12, 2017 12:26 am

As a general matter I think it largely depends on how committed you are to IP. If you are sure you want to do patent law (or TM/copyright I guess?) then I would probably recommend one of the boutiques. As an earlier post pointed out, I have gotten the sense that there is less of an “up or out” policy compared to the big GP firms you mentioned. Further, I completely agree with tbird about the opportunity to work with a large number of different partners at the boutique firms. If you get stuck working for an asshole at a GP firm you could be out of luck. I’d also take this one step further and say that the environment at the smaller firms may be *slightly* more humane than at a large GP.

All that said, if you are not set on IP it might be worth going to a GP firm. If you think other areas of law may interest you the ability to move between practice groups (via formal mechanisms or just helping out on a random matter) is a huge advantage. If you end up not liking IP at the boutiques your only real option is a lateral move.

The other part of the equation is specific firms you are deciding between. This will probably come off as a bit pretentious but there is a pretty large gap between Fish/Finnegan and Sterne (I don’t have any experience with Rothwell). Similarly, there is a gap between Latham/Kirkland/A&B and JD—at least in terms of their respective IP practices. Frankly I don’t know how much this really matters; I certainty wouldn’t live and die with the “complex work for sophisticated clients” line. However, I do believe there is some non-negligible difference in the type of work you will be exposed to, the caliber of the attorneys you work with, and, to a lesser extent, the exit options available to you.

Finally, I would not factor in recent or possible changes in patent law into my decision at all. It seems unlikely that SCOTUS will gut a fairly large section of the AIA. Even if that did happen, to me, this would just lead to an increase in DC litigation—a more lucrative practice than IPR. As to other recent decisions I assume you mean Heartland. Not sure how this would really have a significant impact on the business model. More generally, I think it is very difficult to predict the impact of any one case and even more difficult to extrapolate this out to how viable a practice may be in the future. There are more than enough tangible differences in the firms you have listed to make a decision based on goals, preferences, fit, etc. without worrying about trying to crystal-ball the future of IP law.

tbird

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby tbird » Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:51 am

Totally agree with the above regarding changes in the law. I tend to doubt the SC is going to kill IPRs, but as a litigator I hope that it does.

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 18, 2017 9:49 pm

OP bumping because I'm going to be making this decision in the next week. I appreciate tbird and the anon who helped frame things for me. I'm definitely leaning heavily toward the boutique (FWIW, the distinction between the boutiques mentioned means I'd be at one of the stronger boutiques), and I (think) I understand the landscape of IP practice generally, but I'm still somewhat hesitant of being wrong.

Thank you all for the help.

QContinuum

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby QContinuum » Fri Aug 18, 2017 11:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP bumping because I'm going to be making this decision in the next week. I appreciate tbird and the anon who helped frame things for me. I'm definitely leaning heavily toward the boutique (FWIW, the distinction between the boutiques mentioned means I'd be at one of the stronger boutiques), and I (think) I understand the landscape of IP practice generally, but I'm still somewhat hesitant of being wrong.

Thank you all for the help.


May be able to provide some insight into at least one part of the equation - feel free to PM me.

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 19, 2017 11:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:The other part of the equation is specific firms you are deciding between. This will probably come off as a bit pretentious but there is a pretty large gap between Fish/Finnegan and Sterne (I don’t have any experience with Rothwell). Similarly, there is a gap between Latham/Kirkland/A&B and JD—at least in terms of their respective IP practices. Frankly I don’t know how much this really matters; I certainty wouldn’t live and die with the “complex work for sophisticated clients” line. However, I do believe there is some non-negligible difference in the type of work you will be exposed to, the caliber of the attorneys you work with, and, to a lesser extent, the exit options available to you.


What's A&B--Alston & Bird? If so, this must be an Alston & Bird associate's trolling?

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 19, 2017 11:47 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The other part of the equation is specific firms you are deciding between. This will probably come off as a bit pretentious but there is a pretty large gap between Fish/Finnegan and Sterne (I don’t have any experience with Rothwell). Similarly, there is a gap between Latham/Kirkland/A&B and JD—at least in terms of their respective IP practices. Frankly I don’t know how much this really matters; I certainty wouldn’t live and die with the “complex work for sophisticated clients” line. However, I do believe there is some non-negligible difference in the type of work you will be exposed to, the caliber of the attorneys you work with, and, to a lesser extent, the exit options available to you.


What's A&B--Alston & Bird? If so, this must be an Alston & Bird associate's trolling?


OP here. Are you suggesting A&B would be on par with JD, or that A&B doesn't belong in the list altogether? Because everything I've understood is they have a strong IP practice, relative to the market.

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 20, 2017 12:30 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The other part of the equation is specific firms you are deciding between. This will probably come off as a bit pretentious but there is a pretty large gap between Fish/Finnegan and Sterne (I don’t have any experience with Rothwell). Similarly, there is a gap between Latham/Kirkland/A&B and JD—at least in terms of their respective IP practices. Frankly I don’t know how much this really matters; I certainty wouldn’t live and die with the “complex work for sophisticated clients” line. However, I do believe there is some non-negligible difference in the type of work you will be exposed to, the caliber of the attorneys you work with, and, to a lesser extent, the exit options available to you.


What's A&B--Alston & Bird? If so, this must be an Alston & Bird associate's trolling?


OP here. Are you suggesting A&B would be on par with JD, or that A&B doesn't belong in the list altogether? Because everything I've understood is they have a strong IP practice, relative to the market.


Different anon.

A&B has a solid IP practice, but if you're going to distinguish JD then it's silly to keep A&B on the same tier as Kirkland as if they're equals. If you're just looking for general prestige, here's vault's IP list: http://www.vault.com/company-rankings/l ... sRankID=20 (obvs doesn't have Sterne or Rothwell on it — they're too small)

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Re: IP showdown: Biglaw vs. IP boutiques

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 20, 2017 8:11 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The other part of the equation is specific firms you are deciding between. This will probably come off as a bit pretentious but there is a pretty large gap between Fish/Finnegan and Sterne (I don’t have any experience with Rothwell). Similarly, there is a gap between Latham/Kirkland/A&B and JD—at least in terms of their respective IP practices. Frankly I don’t know how much this really matters; I certainty wouldn’t live and die with the “complex work for sophisticated clients” line. However, I do believe there is some non-negligible difference in the type of work you will be exposed to, the caliber of the attorneys you work with, and, to a lesser extent, the exit options available to you.


What's A&B--Alston & Bird? If so, this must be an Alston & Bird associate's trolling?


OP here. Are you suggesting A&B would be on par with JD, or that A&B doesn't belong in the list altogether? Because everything I've understood is they have a strong IP practice, relative to the market.


Different anon.

A&B has a solid IP practice, but if you're going to distinguish JD then it's silly to keep A&B on the same tier as Kirkland as if they're equals. If you're just looking for general prestige, here's vault's IP list: http://www.vault.com/company-rankings/l ... sRankID=20 (obvs doesn't have Sterne or Rothwell on it — they're too small)


Gotcha, that makes sense. Obviously I listed multiple firms to maintain anonymity and picked a few strong IP practices at GPs and boutiques, had no intention of parsing among them.



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