Yesterday we wrote about a managing partner’s abrupt departure from her firm — a departure that the remaining members of management noted in a somewhat snarky email.

At the time, we didn’t know where she was headed. Now we know her destination — and we can understand why some of her former colleagues might be bent out of shape over her leaving.

Where did this prominent partner land, and what might happen to the firm she left behind?

Colleen Tracy

The partner in question is Colleen Tracy, the high-profile intellectual-property litigatrix who previously served as managing partner of the Fitzpatrick Cella IP firm. She resigned abruptly last Friday; on Saturday morning, management committee member Nicholas Cannella sent out a subtly snide email that minimized the significance of her departure and noted how she left “without explanation or providing any information as to her future plans.”

Now we know of Tracy’s plans. She’s joining Mayer Brown, as touted in a Mayer Brown press release.

So perhaps her former colleagues at Fitzpatrick Cella see Colleen Tracy as a traitor, someone who went over to a full-service Biglaw firm that’s trying to steal business from IP-focused shops like Fitzpatrick Cella. Perhaps Cannella & Co. suspected that she was defecting to a rival — a larger and more prominent firm, in fact — and wanted to preemptively minimize the importance of her move.

Even if Colleen Tracy’s move isn’t significant in and of itself, it does highlight the challenge that IP-centered firms like Fitzpatrick face from Biglaw behemoths. Such IP firms often lose big-ticket, super-lucrative IP litigation work to Biglaw shops, and get stuck with less profitable work, like patent prosecution or soft IP matters.

These shifts in the market are causing significant upheaval for the IP-only firms — and some of them are getting the urge to merge. One source who alerted us to Colleen Tracy’s departure added:

[Word on the street is that Fitzpatrick Cella might] merge with Finnegan Henderson in the next six months. It’s mostly conjecture… but with Fitzpatrick’s revenue down significantly in 2013 (and from what I’ve heard in 2014 as well), it would make sense.

Finnegan doesn’t have a New York office, which is where 80 percent of Fitzpatrick attorneys are located. I’ve also heard rumors of a power struggle….

We’ve covered drama at Finnegan before. An ongoing power struggle at the firm would not shock us. And defections from Finnegan continue, as another tipster just told us:

I am very curious about what’s causing all the departures at Finnegan. There continues to be an exodus of attorneys from Finnegan. Another partner resigned, Naveen Modi [who just joined Paul Hastings], and it is rumored that there will be another partner resignation (from the Reston office) soon. These departures follow those of Michael O’Shaughnessy [to McDermott] and John Battaglia [to Fisch Sigler]. In addition, I believe one or two partners left to be patent law judges this year. And this list doesn’t include all the departures last year (the group to Winston & Strawn, the trademark group, etc.). Nor does it include associate departures.

While this may be normal attrition for other law firms, it’s odd for Finnegan. I remember when they used to claim that Finnegan partners never left the firm. Also, given the people who left (and where they ended up), I don’t think it could be stealth layoffs ether. So, what’s up?

We’ll continue to keep an eye on Fitzpatrick Cella and Finnegan Henderson. If you have info about either firm you’d like to share, please feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477). Thanks.

Earlier: Managing Partner Quits Suddenly, Firm Sends Out Snarky Email In Her Wake


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