Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, Intellectual Property, Litigators, Locke Lord, Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, Partner Issues, Small Law Firms

Beyond Biglaw: Leaving To Launch An IP Boutique

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Gaston Kroub of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique here in New York. He’ll be writing about leaving a Biglaw partnership to start his own firm.

This is a position I never thought I would be in. I am sure my partners feel the same way. If someone would have told me last Thanksgiving that within a year I would, together with two of my colleagues, give notice at my firm to start an IP boutique, I would have laughed. After all, Biglaw was all I knew, starting with my first full-time position as a first-year associate at Greenberg Traurig over a decade (and well over twenty thousand billable hours or so) ago. Leaving Biglaw to start my own boutique? I had honestly never given it a thought before this year.

Now that I am a whole week into the experience, I am happy to report that I have never been more excited for the next stage of my professional career. Even though I no longer have a large office with a view of the Statue of Liberty (and actually am working from home as we negotiate for space), there is something sweet about trying to build a business on my own terms, working together with partners that I have come to value and trust. After all, they had the courage to make the leap as well. While the decision was not an easy one, it already feels like the right one.

A little bit of background about me….

First and foremost, I have absolutely no regrets about my experience in Biglaw. Granted, there was a lot of hard work, travel, and time away from my family, but at the same time I have been exceedingly fortunate to have worked at great firms filled with great people. Because I kind of fell into law school, I was quite ignorant about Biglaw in general and had to learn the ropes as I went along. One thing I knew was that I had an interest in technology and an affinity for science, so I naturally gravitated towards intellectual property. I am not a hardcore engineering- or bio-type by any means, but I am a registered patent attorney who has litigated cases across a wide swath of technical areas, from pharmaceuticals to software to consumer electronics. I love litigating, and especially enjoy having a variety of cases on my plate. While no main course is as tasty as a big-ticket patent litigation, I always find myself happiest when I get to nibble at a trademark or copyright case at the same time.

Growing up at Greenberg was a big help in terms of educating me about the business side of law and the critical need to always maintain an entrepreneurial spirit. Critically, even though I was at Greenberg during a time of great growth for both the firm and the New York office (particularly between 2004 to 2008, even until I made shareholder in 2009), on the patent litigation side we did not have many institutional clients. As a result, we were always scrapping to get ourselves into consideration for high-level engagements, and I had the good fortune even as an associate to be involved in serious pitches to major clients. It helped of course that the firm was exceedingly well-managed, and in many ways was ahead of the curve as a “modern” Biglaw firm. I hope to incorporate many of the lessons I learned there into my new boutique. Most importantly, I hope that my firm can can have a bit of the fearless spirit, attention to client service, and “underdog crashing the party” attitude that characterized the best of the ideals Greenberg embodied during my time there.

On a more personal level, I also benefited tremendously from being exposed to truly world-class litigators and patent practitioners, who took the time to teach their craft. Because we did not have the armies of associates of some of our competitors, quite frequently our litigation teams were run very leanly. I know that experience will continue to serve me in good stead. Of course, not a day of practice goes by that I don’t recall something I learned from my mentors.

When the time came for me to decide whether to jump on an opportunity to lateral into Locke Lord’s New York office as a partner, it was a difficult decision for me. But I am glad I did so, because the experience I had over the past few years there played a large role in my decision to open a firm of my own. While at Locke Lord, I was blessed to have the opportunity to develop my practice and take on the responsibility of handling cases from the perspective of lead counsel and billing partner. I also benefited from being a part of a very robust IP group, whether it was the ex-Morgan & Finnegan partners in New York, or partners in Texas that I was fortunate enough to work and consult with. It also helped that the firm is also very well-managed, and I wish everyone there the best as the firm looks to continue its growth. Locke Lord’s respectful and genteel culture, and the sense of partnership that was practiced as well as preached there, are also elements that I hope we can incorporate into our new boutique. Of course, if I had not landed at Locke Lord, I would not have met the gentlemen who are now my partners. For that reason alone, the experience was an invaluable one.

But now it is on to new adventures, and part of the excitement I feel relates to this column. I (and on occasion Zach or Serge) look forward to sharing the experience of getting our new firm off the ground with you in real time. Along the way, it would be great to get feedback or questions from readers, whether about issues relating to our new firm or about our experiences in Biglaw. After five years as a partner, and more than at as an associate, I for one have plenty of experiences to draw on with respect to practicing in Biglaw. I have always been a reader of Above the Law and have learned a lot from its various columnists, so having this opportunity to try and give a little back is welcome.

Finally, a note about the title of this column. As many readers know, patent law, particularly in New York City, used to be almost exclusively the province of intellectual property boutiques. While I got my start at a general-practice firm, the lawyers I trained under primarily had come up through the ranks of boutiques themselves. Many other patent lawyers currently at Biglaw firms have as well, and nearly all remember fondly aspects of the culture at their old boutique firms. In a lot of ways, Serge, Zach, and I are taking a shot at moving beyond Biglaw to recreate a firm on a model that flourished for over a hundred years in our legal discipline. At the same time, we are hoping to put into practice all the lessons that Biglaw’s “new normal” has given to the profession. Onward.

Please feel free to send comments or questions to me at gkroub@kskiplaw.com. Any topic suggestions or thoughts are most welcome.

Locke Lord Alumni Form IP Litigation Boutique [New York Law Journal]


Gaston Kroub lives in Brooklyn and is a founding partner of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique. The firm’s practice focuses on intellectual property litigation and related counseling, with a strong focus on patent matters. He can be reached at gkroub@kskiplaw.com.

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