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Four Prominent Patent Litigators Leave Finnegan Henderson

On the “Our Professionals” section of its website, Finnegan Henderson boasts that it has “375 lawyers focused on IP.” It may be time to revise that downward: “371 lawyers focused on IP.”

Last night, the high-powered, intellectual-property-focused firm announced four notable partner departures. The Finnegan partners in question practice in the generally hot area of IP litigation (although we’ve heard anecdotal reports of cooling, including stealth layoffs of IP litigators — see here and here).

Who are the departing Finnegan partners, and where are they going?

The partners in question are John Alison, Steve Anzalone, Paul Goulet and Tom Jarvis (click on each partner’s name for a PDF version of their bio; the bios are still on the Finnegan site but will surely come down soon).

How big a loss is this to Finnegan? “Pretty big,” a source at another IP firm told us. “Jarvis is the ITC man, and ITC is a big money maker.” A different tipster gave us greater detail:

[I]t’s a big deal because these four guys were responsible for major chunks of the most profitable work that kept the whole ship afloat. They had the big ITC cases with unlimited budgets from top-tier clients (primarily HTC in its fights with Apple et al.).

Also, most of the core partners that made Finnegan into what it is (or was a couple years ago) have been, or will soon be, pushed out or retired. It’s the end days for Don Dunner, Doug Henderson, Pat O’Reilley, Ford Farabow, David Hill, etc.

So the ITC guys were supposed to take over. Without the founding core / name partners, or the ITC guys, the firm is left with very few rainmakers. It’s hard to see how they can continue to recruit and retain top talent — not to mention fund 8+ offices — without these guys or the huge cases they brought with them.

Where is the Finnegan foursome headed? Word on the street is that they’re going to Winston & Strawn.

We haven’t confirmed this — a Winston spokesperson has not yet responded to our inquiry — but it wouldn’t surprise. In the past year or two, Winston has made high-profile hires in litigation — such as Gerald Shargel, the prominent criminal defense lawyer, and Jeffrey Kessler, the noted sports litigator.

UPDATE (8/8/2013, 11 a.m.): Yup, the four partners and six other lawyers are going to Winston. Here’s the Winston press release.

What does this mean for the future of Finnegan? The firm has seen some notable group defections over the past year. Back in April, five trademark lawyers left Finnegan to start Kelly IP. Back in August, two patent partners left Finnegan to launch Bookoff McAndrews.

One source predicted more defections from Finnegan in the future. Maybe they should change their website wording to “More than 300 lawyers focused on IP,” in case this prediction comes to pass.

We have previously discussed the challenges facing IP-only firms like Finnegan. For counseling and other non-litigation matters, they face competition from boutiques, often formed by their own alumni; for large-scale IP litigation, they face competition from Biglaw, which boasts the bodies needed to effectively litigate major matters.

Some of the issues facing Finnegan relate to the model of trying to be a big IP-focused firm, but some of the wounds may be self-inflicted. As a tipster told us:

A lot of credit for these defections should go to Barbara McCurdy, who just passed the torch to James Monroe, who sent the email [about the departures]. Sure, much of [the trouble] involves the economics highlighted in that New Republic article. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone at Finnegan who thinks she didn’t mismanage the firm into the ground over the past few years. For proof, just look at the fact that she’s the first managing partner in the firm’s history to not get a second term.

This [latest departure] has been rumored for many months, and associates have been leaving in droves in anticipation of it. I don’t have data for you, but surely associates have been keeping track (though Finnegan has done well in keeping people silent).

Indeed. Finnegan’s internal announcement of the defections informed employees to direct all inquiries about the departures to Linda Williams, the director of marketing, or Steve Moore, the executive director. The firm wants its people to be tight-lipped about these partner losses.

And Finnegan itself is keeping silent. We reached out to both a spokesperson and to Barbara McCurdy but have not yet heard back from them. (If and when we do, we’ll update this post.)

If you have interesting information to share about Finnegan Henderson or any other notable IP-focused law firm, please feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477). The world of IP law is one of the most interesting sectors of the law firm world, and we know there are all sorts of interesting stories that are just waiting to be covered — with your help. Thanks.

(Flip to the next page to see Finnegan’s internal announcement of the departures.)

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