Patent litigators are in demand, according to an article published in The American Lawyer. Author Brenda Sandburg explains that "constantly changing technology, consolidation of industries and the increasing cross-border nation of IP battles are expanding the size and scope of patent cases." Costs of litigating patent cases have also increased.
Because of the shortage of litigators, new hires can expect higher salaries and hiring bonuses. Law schools are not graduating enough students with the technical expertise necessary to handle the increasing complexity of patent law. Since firms still recruit from the same group of law schools, they may have a hard time finding the dual degreed attorney - law degree and science degree.
The awards for prestige law firms are high. Some of the 2006 verdicts were in excess of 300 million dollars. In addition, successful litigation can lead to future IP work, as the firms are now found to be well-versed and educated in their clients' technologies. Many elite Wall Street firms are expanding their IP departments. In the past, IP was almost exclusively handled by smaller boutique and GP firms.
However, firms need to be careful. Some larger firms have had problems "hiring and keeping patent litigation laterals." After Morgan, Lewis and Bockius' acquisition of a patent boutique firm, at least 30 members left after they were placed in the litigation practice area instead of IP.
Rainmakers need to understand that patent litigation is different from other types of litigation. Atmosphere is important and firms need to understand the need for technical expertise. Some firms hire advisors to assist on cases. Patent prosecutors can help with cases as well as outside staff.
The firm Latham and Watkins is now recruiting lawyers with tech degrees by holding IP seminars at top law schools. It also has hired an analyst. Of course, without the trial experience, the technical knowledge will not be sufficient. Experienced patent attorneys with successful trial experience are sought after.
Successful firms with patent practices continue to try to build up through the ranks and must keep their staff happy lest they spin off on their own.
Note: This is a summary of the article: IP Litigators: Worth Their Weight in Gold? It appeared in New York Lawyer March 15, 2007. The summary was written by Susan Rubinstein, Partner, Balkin Information Services (Thanks, Sue!)