And let’s not forget: the work can be very, very interesting. For example, imagine being the general counsel or another in-house lawyer at Apple — a company involved in two of the most high-profile litigation battles currently raging….
- Antitrust, Biglaw, Books, Federal Judges, General Counsel, In-House Counsel, Intellectual Property, Litigators, Media and Journalism, Patents, S.D.N.Y., Technology, Trials
In case you’re not an intellectual property practitioner, there exists a mythical creature known as a patent troll who resides in the underbelly of the world of legality. Patent trolls are evil beings whose sole purpose in life is to extort money from their victims for no legitimate purpose. These patent holders don’t use their patents to make anything themselves; instead, they assert patent infringement claims against entities that are productive, and often walk away with wads of cash in hand. They frustrate big and small companies alike, and their nefarious deeds can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees over the course of a patent’s lifetime.
Typically those in charge at companies facing a patent shakedown are quick to pass the claims off to their legal teams, but sometimes, enough is enough. Sometimes, a “less than cordial” response is required when one is faced with a patent troll’s irritating threats. Sometimes patent trolls need to be trolled.
Keep reading for an example of a great response to a patent troll….
- Basketball, Biglaw, Cars, Google / Search Engines, In-House Counsel, Law Firm Mergers, Law Firm Names, Money, Morning Docket, Patents, Patton Boggs, Racism, Real Estate, Technology
* Partners from Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders may vote on their merger sometime this week. Get ready to say hello to Squire Patton, House of Boggs, Hodorific of Its Name. [Reuters]
* “[E]xcuse me, sir, you may not be here in five years.” Biglaw firms are becoming more “egalitarian” about office space because attorneys have expiration dates. [National Law Journal]
* After a flat year in 2013, and much to Biglaw’s chagrin, “[i]t is going to be harder to sustain year-over-year profitability gains.” Oh joy, time to power up the layoff machine. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
* Tech giants Apple and Google have called a ceasefire in their dueling patent suits in a quest to reform patent law — and so Apple can concentrate all of its efforts on suing the sh*t out of Samsung. [Bloomberg]
* GM’s in-house legal department is being heavily scrutinized in the wake of the car maker’s ignition switch lawsuit extravaganza. You see, friends, people die when lawyers don’t even bother to lie. [New York Times]
* Donald Sterling found a lawyer willing to represent him, an antitrust maven who thinks the NBA should take its ball and go home because “no punishment was warranted” in his client’s case. [WSJ Law Blog]
- Biglaw, Deaths, Gender, Intellectual Property, Job Searches, Law Schools, Morning Docket, Patents, Technology, Women's Issues
* When it comes to billing rates, starting at the junior level, female law firm partners are still lagging behind their male counterparts by an average of 10 percent less. Boo. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* Just in time for the graduation of one of the largest law school classes in history, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the legal sector is shedding jobs. That sucks. Sorry Class of 2014. [Am Law Daily]
* Law school deans are dropping like flies. Since last week, at least three have announced their intention to leave their positions. We know of one more that we may discuss later. [National Law Journal]
* If you want to work as an attorney, your odds are better if you go to a Top 50 law school. Seventy-five percent of Top 50 grads are working as lawyers, compared to 50% of all others. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* The verdict is in on the latest Apple v. Samsung patent case, and Apple is probably pretty miffed it was awarded only $120M this time, since lawyers for the company requested billions in damages. [Reuters]
* Laura LaPlante, a 3L who was set to graduate from U. Chicago Law on June 16, RIP. [Chicago Tribune]
The experience of leaving a Biglaw partnership to start a boutique law firm did not allow me to stop thinking about Biglaw. If anything, I think about Biglaw now more than ever. Because the very nesting grounds that I flew away from, IP litigation departments at national and international law firms, are some of my upstart boutique’s biggest competition for new business. And considering our experience with the first five or so cases that our firm has brought, our adversaries as well. Of course, I continue to work with Biglaw firms as co-counsel on some cases as well.
So I think about Biglaw. How it works, and most often how it fights patent cases. For over a decade I was a Biglaw-branded pugilist, and now that I am on the other side of the ring, I am forced to respect but try and beat the Mike Tyson’s Punchout-worthy cast of characters that Biglaw rolls out on behalf of its clients. There are not many Glass Joe’s in the bunch. Which makes it fun.
I would not have left unless I thought that my partners and I would be competitive — both with Biglaw and with the many quality IP boutiques that have come before us and continue to thrive. But as I think back on how IP litigation practice has changed just in the short amount of time that I have been practicing, I take comfort in the fact that the playing field between Biglaw and boutiques has been leveled across a number of fronts. Two areas in particular deserve focus….
Please turn your phones off. We don’t want an angry judge.
– Courtroom deputy Martha Parker-Brown, cautioning those in the gallery of Judge Lucy Koh’s courtroom during the latest Apple v. Samsung patent trial. Judge Koh has previously threatened to take attorneys’ and tech executives’ phones away from them, and shamed others by making them stand up if their phones were turned on and started ringing.
* Justice Scalia was asked, “Why should society be bound by laws that were passed only by white male property owners?” If you guessed he’d eschew a substantive response in favor of a condescending sarcastic quip, you’re right! [Wall Street Journal]
* 2L who based his student government bid around a self-made rap video failed to secure election. He was probably screwed the moment Dr. Dre entered the race. [Daily Business Review]
* Nursing home sued for hiring male strippers for patients. Lawsuit aside, wasn’t it a bit much to make them dress up like Matlock for their act? [NY Post]
* A firm is handing out pairs of Google Glass to clients to record how their injuries impact their daily lives. Next up: a firm specializing in the injuries caused by wearing Google Glass to record how injuries impact daily lives. [Slate]
* Big corporations are filing junk patents. Will anyone put a stop to them? Of course not. [Politix]
* It’s time to put a stop to shady tax preparers ripping off low-income families. That way low-income families can go back to being ripped off by every other avenue of American society. [New York Times]
* Managing your Facebook account can give rise to spoliation. So you’d better be happy with all those pictures you’re tagged in before you get in a legal scrape. [IT-Lex]
One of the things that was always interesting about Biglaw was just how much the skills of senior partners were celebrated, even in the absence of any verification. Or rigorous comparison to their peers, for that matter. Such exaltation of abilities was not limited to individual lawyers, of course, but extended also to practice groups and even other firms. In fact, a fair amount of Biglaw’s “prestige” is pollinated by secondhand anecdotal evidence, many times passed along by people who have either never seen their subjects in action or who are not qualified to distinguish between a great performance and a mediocre one.
Of course, I do not doubt that many, if not the vast majority of, Biglaw reputations are well-earned. For example, even though my knowledge of real estate law is severely limited, I would feel comfortable hiring some of my old colleagues at Greenberg Traurig in New York for real estate help, should I ever be in a position to acquire or dispose of some commercial real estate. I admit that I have no frame of reference, other than reputation and some personal relationships, supporting such a prospective choice. But it is not like I could “shadow” a closing and figure out which set of lawyers is doing a better job anyway. “Wow, those guys really put out a nice refreshment spread in the room with the closing binders” would be the level of my analysis. Probably not a good idea to choose counsel solely on that basis.
Are there other options out there?
One of Biglaw’s calling cards is the ability to marshal resources quickly to handle nearly any kind of legal issue. Going to trial and need some immediate help with responding to a host of motions in limine filed by your adversary? Even in these days of reduced associate classes, at most firms it would be no problem roping in the necessary support. Need to put a team together on short notice to respond to a preliminary injunction motion? Not a problem. An email or two to the head of the group and a fellow partner or two, and you can have all the resources you need.
With some luck, you can even benefit from assistance in multiple time zones, always a plus when dealing with court deadlines in “foreign” jurisdictions, as is commonly the case in patent matters. Just ask any East Coast-based patent litigator whether they appreciate the extra hour for filing they get in their Eastern District of Texas matters. I know everyone is super-organized and never files at the last minute, but sometimes “unexpected delays” can result in a litigator making full use of the allotted response time for a filing or two.
While the Biglaw beast can be roused to quick action on occasion, it often prefers to move very deliberately towards a target. Patent cases are a good example. While there may be a flurry of activity surrounding an important hearing, or the close of discovery, or trial, there is also a lot of “preparing the case” time. Cases that take years just to get to trial are normal, and when you factor in appeals, it is not unusual for a Biglaw patent lawyer to go from associate, to counsel, to partner during the pendency of a single case. I speak from personal experience on that point….
- Biglaw, Boutique Law Firms, Intellectual Property, Litigators, Patents, SCOTUS, Small Law Firms, Supreme Court, Technology
The patent world can at times seem very small. The same firms, representing the same group of technology companies, pursuing the same strategies, both to maximize profits for their firms and to deliver results for their clients. Sure people move around, but the players in the larger sense are pretty static. Most patent cases are of limited importance to everyone but the parties involved as well. Sometimes a case has a broader scope, and becomes of interest to industry competitors or even investors. Every once in a while a patent case captures the public fancy, as Apple v. Samsung undoubtedly has, usually because of the nature of the parties involved or the ubiquity of the technology at issue. When that happens, the patent world can seem very big — global in scope, even.
Sometimes a little case can actually turn into a huge deal. When the Supreme Court gets involved, for example. Especially when the issue in the case has far-reaching economic implications for society at large, and not just for the litigants involved. I have seen a number of “big” patent cases during my career, but none has the disruptive potential of a case that is set for oral argument next week in the Supreme Court. From humble beginnings as a declaratory judgment action filed in an unusual forum for patent cases (District of D.C.,) the dispute between Alice Corp. and CLS Bank has grown into one of the most closely-watched and debated patent cases — ever. And deservedly so, because the viability of software patents is on the line. With major ramifications possible: for technology companies of all sizes, IP firms and lawyers, the courts, and the good old global economy as well….