Boutique Law Firms, Intellectual Property, Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs: Joe Robinson and Bob Shaffer from Darby & Darby to McDermott

Joseph Robinson Joseph R Robinson Joe Robinson Darby McDermott Will Emery.jpgWe’ve covered in these pages the many challenges faced by standalone intellectual property firms. One of them is competition from Biglaw shops seeking to scoop up top talent in the IP field.
Yesterday morning, Robert C. Sullivan Jr., president and managing principal of Darby & Darby, sent around an internal email announcing the departure of two prominent partners, Joseph Robinson (pictured) and Robert Shaffer. Robinson and Shaffer, who specialize in patent litigation, counseling and procurement, are joining the New York office of McDermott Will & Emery.
It’s not happy news for Darby, which a tipster describes as “one of the last IP boutiques of any meaningful size, [but] gasping for breath as it is.” Robinson, a biotech expert and noted patent litigator, is said to have been one of the firm’s top-grossing partners, “probably to the tune of about $4 million.” Darby is holding a town hall meeting to discuss the defections.
A source issues this warning to Robinson’s new colleagues at MWE:

[Robinson] is a control freak who wields the power he gets from high earnings with an iron fist…. He is a significant reason for the many partner and practice group defections at Darby in the past few years, and now he’s gone too. McDermott will love the revenue, hate the attitude.

In Robinson’s defense, does he sound all that different from many top partners or successful litigators?
Robert Sullivan’s email announcing the departures, after the jump.

Darby and Darby intellectual property law fim darbylaw.jpgFrom: Sullivan, Robert C
Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 8:45 AM
To: EX_All Personnel
Subject: Departures
Joe Robinson and Bob Shaffer have resigned from the firm to join the New York office of McDermott, Will and Emery.
While we regret their departure, we have been working on several strategic opportunities to grow the partnership ranks of the firm and enhance our revenue base. While we continue to face challenges, we feel that we have also been provided with new opportunities to rebuild the strength of the firm. We have a great brand name, hundreds of loyal clients and a business model which we believe can prosper in the current legal services market.
While our firm, like almost all law firms, has been significantly affected by the recession over the last year and half, we continue to have strong practices in many fields and in each of our offices – New York, Seattle, Frankfurt and Florida, and will continue to offer the same full range of intellectual property law services to all of our clients as we work to position ourselves to become stronger as the economy recovers.
We will be scheduling a town hall meeting shortly to discuss this further and to answer questions.

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