Intellectual Property

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.

On the surface, the state of the legal market looks grim; in the third quarter of 2013, lateral moves declined in almost every practice area in comparison to Q1 and Q2 of 2013 and the three previous Q3s. Although the legal sector added 2,700 jobs in August, there has been stagnation within the top 200 firms relative to the last few years. Compared to the last two years, lateral movement has dropped 29% since 2012, after having risen 5.5% from Q3 of 2011 to Q3 of 2012. When compared to the first two quarters of 2013, the drop is less dire. From the first quarter to the third, total lateral moves dropped 6.3% (not nearly as significant), and from quarter two to quarter three, lateral moves decreased by 13%.

Since Q3 is not yet over, we have assumed that the market trends will hold steady over the course of the next few weeks, and we used this inference to fill the gaps in our data. Analysis of past years’ data shows that this is not an unreasonable assumption. Our findings indicate that lateral movement during Q3 is especially weak when comparing these last two years. In 2012, 5,725 attorneys moved laterally (January 1 through September 18th), compared to 4,840 in 2013 — a 15.4% decrease. While the lateral market would be depressed even without Q3, the drop for the year to date would not be as significant. Of the top Am Law 200 firms, nearly 40% either hemorrhaged lateral attorneys or had no net gain. Despite this lateral recession, Lateral Link has increased its market share over the last year, placing even more candidates than the year before despite the otherwise static lateral market….

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Each year, Corporate Counsel compiles a list of the law firms that Fortune 100 companies use as outside counsel. This year, to change things up a bit, it seems like the list has been expanded to cover the entire Fortune 500. From Apple to Yahoo, and every billion-dollar company in between, these corporate clients expect nothing short of the best in terms of legal representation when dealing with high-stakes litigation and deals. If you’re looking to line your firm’s pockets, you better head to the RFP line when these companies seek lawyers.

Up until last year, only the most prominent Biglaw firms (like Cleary, Davis Polk, Cravath, and Simpson Thacher) topped the list of those that had the pleasure of doing business with the country’s biggest companies. Things changed rapidly, however, when Big Business tried to cash in on deals for legal services. The firms that were willing to cave to the pressure of providing alternative fee arrangements won in a big way, and the rest were left in the dust.

Have these prestigious firms changed their ways? Is Corporate America again willing to open its fat wallet for them? Let’s find out…

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About a month ago, I read an article about a new position available for experienced attorneys at a certain Biglaw firm. The firm? Kilpatrick Townsend. The position? Something called a “department attorney.”

Before we get into what that is, and some of the implications for Biglaw if this new kind of position takes hold, let’s take a look at the listing of open positions on Kilpatrick’s website. Currently, the firm is advertising for nine associate positions, six of which are in the patent area (including two for patent “prosection” (sic) associates, who hopefully will be better at including all the letters in a word than the firm’s recruiting staff).

Want to be a department attorney? Well, for you there are ten open positions. The breakdown? Eight in trademarks, two in patent prosecution. The common denominator of those disciplines? Shrinking margins for Biglaw, in the face of competition from IP boutiques specializing in volume work, and bulked-up in-house departments doing more on their own. In light of those shrinking margins, the firm’s desire to hire more department attorneys than full-bore associates is understandable. At least they are hiring….

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‘Dear Sir or Madam, you are infringing on my patent, now pay up!’

I think fundamentally the term ‘patent troll’ gets thrown at anybody who you don’t like who is a plaintiff in a patent case.

Nathan Myhrvold — former CTO of Microsoft, current CEO of Intellectual Ventures Management, and co-author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking (affiliate link), a six-volume, 2,438-page cookbook — speaking on Capitol Hill yesterday about patent reform. Myhrvold’s critics claim that Intellectual Ventures Management is one of the biggest patent trolls around.

* Congrats to @FenwickWest on landing the big Twitter IPO! #yaylegalfees [American Lawyer]

* The Deal Professor, Steven Davidoff, surveys the legal landscape around the Twitter filing, focusing on the #JOBSAct. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Jamie McCourt, a former family law attorney, strikes out in trying to set aside her divorce settlement with Frank McCourt, former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. She’s stuck with $131 million and several luxury homes. #richpeopleproblems [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* An inquest reveals that a Hogan Lovells partner who took his own life had warned a colleague that he was going to kill himself the day before his death. [Daily Mail via ABA Journal]

* Good news for the news business: the Senate Judiciary Committee approves a federal media-shield bill. [Washington Wire / Wall Street Journal]

* Nathan Myhrvold, the CEO of a patent holding company, warns that anti-patent-troll sentiment could have unforeseen consequences. [Corporate Counsel]

* Praise in the WSJ for Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), the new book by Professor Josh Blackman (who recently wrote a guest post for us on Supreme Court beauty contests). [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Congrats to George Mason Law on its two high-profile hires: D.C. Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg and Covington antitrust partner Damien Geradin. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* If you’re in New York this weekend, go see Arguendo. Or buy tickets for the 7 p.m. performance on September 22, when I’ll be doing a talkback with artistic director John Collins after the show. Enter the discount code “ABOVE” for $35 tickets (a special rate for ATL readers). [Public Theater]

Scalia/Ginsburg: coming soon to an opera house near you?

We recently shared with you a fascinating, legally themed musical project: Scalia/Ginsburg, an opera about two of the U.S. Supreme Court’s leading lights, by award-winning composer Derrick Wang.

Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg, longtime colleagues and good friends, don’t share much in terms of jurisprudence but do share a love of opera. It’s fitting, then, that their Con Law clashes will serve as the basis for a new operatic work.

Where did Wang come up with the idea for an opera about these two distinguished jurists? As it turns out, Wang is not only a composer but a law school graduate. Where did he go to law school, and why?

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Back in June, we got a chance to see an absolutely great response to a cease and desist letter. The author of that response letter, Stephen B. Kaplitt, is an Above the Law folk hero for kicking off his response to an unnecessarily threatening C&D with “obviously [this] was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more legal satire,” before systematically ripping the opposing attorneys a new one.

Now comes another great response to a C&D letter, and this one may even be better because of the firm on the receiving end.

Teaser: Biglaw smackdown! Snarky footnotes! Spice Girls references! Lollipops!

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As you hopefully are aware, today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s powerful, moving and memorable I have a dream… speech. In a just world, that speech would be in the public domain. And, legally, it might be. While King did apparently send a copy of the speech to the Copyright Office, he did so as an “unpublished work.” There has been a dispute, then, about the speech itself, since that would be a publication. His estate, however, has argued that the speech was not a “general publication,” but rather a “limited publication” and thus King retained a common law copyright — and an appeals court appeared to agree, but the lawsuit over this was settled without a final ruling, and no one has challenged it since. However, King’s estate has beenridiculously aggressive in trying to lock up his speeches and take down videos commemorating his talks, with a focus on this momentous speech.

Of course, they’re more than happy to license the speech to the highest bidder…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Let Freedom Ka-Ching! On The 50th Anniversary Of ‘I Have A Dream,’ AT&T Can Use The Speech To Sell Phones, But You Can’t Post It”

* Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan gets the death penalty. Looks like that gradual end of the death penalty won’t be fast enough for him. [CNN]

* Man gets 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-old who later killed herself. The judge explained that he’d already been punished with “the scarlet letter of the internet.” The new sentencing guidelines are really web-literate. [Jezebel]

* Infilaw is taking over Charleston School of Law eliminating all the pretense. [Post and Courier]

* On that note, Steven J. Harper discusses President Obama’s call to eliminate the third year of law school. Simpler Harper: Law schools and the ABA are too vested in ripping off students to listen to reason. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* The “most intimidating man in hip-hop” is a Columbia Law grad. Hip-hop has come a long way from allegedly dangling rappers off hotel balconies. [GQ]

* The Internet Strikes Back: A new crowdsourcing tool tracks IP trolls. [Technology Law Source]

* A call for former law clerks to fight for an end to sequestration. [Judicial Clerk Review]

* The state-legal yet federal-illegal status of medical marijuana leads to some very complex tax returns. You should smoke up to take the edge off. [TaxProf Blog]

* For those beginning law school, here’s some advice from the National Women Law Students’ Organization. [Ms. JD]

Representing patent trolls: harder than it looks?

Has the “mojo hand” lost its mojo?

In 2008, a paralegal at Weil Gotshal alleged in a lawsuit that Matthew Powers, co-chair of litigation at Weil at the time, ruled over his domain with the “pimp hand” and the “mojo hand.” The “pimp hand” was used to intimidate and coerce, while the “mojo hand” was used to stroke and cajole.

In 2011, Powers, one of the nation’s leading intellectual-property litigators, left Weil to start his own firm, Tensegrity Law Group. In leaving Biglaw, he also left behind a stable of blue-chip clients, focusing instead on representing plaintiffs on a contingency basis.

Two years into his new venture, some observers are wondering whether Matt Powers has lost his powers….

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