Here's some rare news: There are law firms that are actually hiring.
Intellectual property work hasn't fallen into the malaise that some areas of law have suffered in the wake of the economic downturn, say law firms that are hiring lawyers to meet demand in the area.
Merchant & Gould; Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon; and McAndrews, Held & Malloy are among firms that have hired lawyers in recent months, beyond the usual associate classes, in response to steady or rising demand from some clients for enforcement of patents and general counseling in the area. Merchant & Gould, a Minneapolis-based intellectual property law firm with 100 lawyers in seven U.S. offices, has hired nine attorneys, Chicago's Wildman hired three associates in the area and McAndrews, also of Chicago, hired two senior lawyers.
"So far, we've been insulated from what other law firms are experiencing out there," said Merchant & Gould Managing Director Randall King, referring to the economic turmoil that has caused some firms to lay off lawyers, implement hiring freezes or disband altogether. "Generally, I think IP firms are somewhat insulated."
Despite the economic pressures, companies want to protect their patents from rivals to ensure the revenue that flows from them, said lawyers at the firms. They're also still maintaining defenses against so-called "patent trolls" and seeking counseling on other aspects of intellectual property matters, they said.
Patent litigation work picked up along with general litigation in the past three to six months, even though intellectual property work generally stayed strong in the past two years while general litigation flagged, said Amy McCormack, who leads the Chicago recruiting firm McCormack Schreiber Legal Search.
"We have not deviated from our model whatsoever in light of the economic crunch," said John Letchinger, the chairman of Wildman's IP practice. "We're not finding our clients shying away from investing in intellectual property."
Some intellectual property boutiques may be benefitting from offering clients lower rates at a time when many clients are trimming costs and perhaps seeking one-stop shopping for patent prosecution and litigation work, McCormack said.
"We're probably significantly less expensive than our major competitors," said Tim Malloy, a litigator and founding partner at intellectual property boutique McAndrews, Held & Malloy. Lynne Marek
The National Law Journal