If you’re in an IP pickle, who you Finne-ganna call? This DC-native with specialist attorneys is shaping up to be a good answer…
Budding associates with an appetite for all things IP are certain to quell their hunger at Finnegan, where they can stack their plates high with all flavors of patent work. “A lot of places make you pick between litigation and prosecution. Here, they’re honest about letting you learn both,” an associate noted. The DC native specializes in all things IP, positioning itself as many clients’ go-to destination for patent, trademark, and copyright issues. As such, you’ll find many attorneys at the firm who hold advanced degrees and/or have had previous careers in technical industries... “We do have quite a few PhDs between us,” one source agreed.
“Knowing I would get to work with people who are passionate about this space was important."
It’s this expertise which continues to draw further talent in year on year. “Knowing I would get to work with people who are passionate about this space was important,” a newbie reflected on their motivations to join. Further attestation of this passion is the firm’s swath of Chambers USA rankings in the IP space. In Northern Virginia, the firm picks up a top-tier ranking for its intellectual property expertise, while the folks over in DC are also highly commended for their intellectual property: litigation and intellectual property: trademark, copyright & trade secrets work. Finnegan picks up a further ranking for its patent prosecution work in DC, and two nationwide rankings for its international trade: intellectual property and life sciences know-how. And it doesn’t end there. The firm’s five US offices are joined by a further six international bases across London, Munich, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo. These provide Finnegan with a firm footing in the European patent sphere, and a number of manufacturing, electronics, and biotechnology companies throughout East Asia.
Strategy & Future
Looking ahead to what’s to come, managing partner Erika Arner tells us, “We’ve expanded our practice to include advertising, privacy, trade secret law, and to cover European patent and trademark law.” Europe is a key part of Finnegan’s growth plans, spearheaded by last year’s opening of its Munich office. Arner details, “In Europe, the Unified Patent Court is opening this year, and a lot of our practice development in Europe has been with an eye to serving clients in that new forum."
And key to this growth is the training provided to the firm’s juniors. Arner explains, “The US Patent and Trademark Office designed LEAP (Legal Experience and Advancement Program) to give juniors more experience and Finnegan is one of the top users of that program, frequently giving juniors the opportunity to argue on behalf of clients.”
Finnegan’s DC office takes on the majority of newbies, while a few join the Atlanta, Boston, Palo Alto, and Reston bases. Practices are sector-specific, including electrical, mechanical, biotech & pharma, and trademark & copyright, and associates are assigned to them based on prior experience – that may be some form of advanced degree or industry experience. Your assigned practice group serves as “a homebase, but you’re free to move around and pick up the work you please.” Our sources found that, typically, work was not assigned to them, rather they were expected to venture out and build their own connections with partners to find work.
The firm does a lot of work in the electrical space – anything from hardware and electrical components, like circuits and semiconductors, to software, such as STO (shutdown, turnaround, and outage) and broader systems (think e-commerce or electric-hybrid vehicle systems). “There are a ton of potential issues that could arise in relation to software because of Section 101 of the Patent Act,” a diligent source noted. Depending on the case and the staffing, you could be getting up to anything from drafting motions to compel to “more technology-based opportunities where you’re dealing with an expert in the field.” Other sources noted enjoying working on design patents: “We’ve started some work in the digital assets space – things like crypto and other cutting-edge technology.”
Electrical clients: Volkswagen, Google, FedEx. Represented Samsung Electronics involving a mobile phone touch-screen functionality patent.
“I have a bunch of different gadgets lying around my office that I’ve taken apart!”
Matters specific to the mechanical group involve a lot of medical device work, and the manufacturing of heavy machinery and aerospace equipment. There’s also a fair bit of overlap with the electrical group. “I was interested in dipping my foot in every area,” a mechanical associate told us – and that they did. From multiple litigations like patent and trademark (involving brief writing, legal research and deposition support) to trade secrets, patent drafting, patent prosecution, and client counseling, our interviewees had been involved in it all. “I particularly enjoy coming up with noninfringement and invalidity arguments,” one associate added. “You really get to dig into the minutiae of the patents and see what little nuggets we can use in our case.” And this doesn’t just mean trawling through endless documents, “you’re also taking products apart if necessary – I have a bunch of different gadgets lying around my office that I’ve taken apart!”
Mechanical clients: Toyota, BMW, Bridgestone. Represented iFlight Technology Company, a drone manufacturer, in a Federal Circuit and cross-appeal against the US International Trade Commission (ITC) in relation to unmanned aerial vehicles.
Over in the biotech & pharma realm, associates can work on anything from litigations to client counseling to prosecution. With these, you’ll be carrying out freedom to operate searches, looking into competitors’ patents, and advising clients on portfolio purchases. “There’s a trend of repeat pharmaceutical clients at the firm,” one associate noted. Big names on that front include AstraZeneca, Novartis, and AbbVie. “I’m often one of the younger associates on litigation teams, and I’m tasked with anything from legal research to drafting briefs, memorandums, and discovery requests – a little bit of everything!”
Biotech & pharma clients: AstraZeneca, Novartis, AbbVie.
“There are a lot of training opportunities available, but what’s mostly encouraged here is the idea that you’re a professional responsible for developing your own practice,” one associate explained. And it’s been tried and tested. “Most partners started off as summer associates,” another added. Our sources noted an emphasis on mentorship and taking the initiative to reach out with any questions you may have, in addition to the occasional check-in to “make sure we’re hitting the milestones we should be hitting.”
With that in mind, our sources felt partnership was “100% achievable” at the firm. “They’re not trying to gatekeep it from anyone,” we heard. Newbies are paired up with a partner mentor and an associate mentor, from which point it’s then up to the mentor and the mentee to organize meetings. “I try to take advantage of informal mentoring, though,” a source added. “I’ve developed a few informal mentors who are happy to set time aside and recommend stuff to read!”
With a 100-hour pro bono allowance on the table, Finnegan associates “almost always have a pro bono matter on the go.” Matters include veterans’ appeals, asylum cases and criminal work, all of which provide juniors with coveted opportunities to speak in court and work closely with clients and experts. “It’s nice to mix up from the IP focus,” a source added. Although if you’re still itching for more experience in that space, the firm does do some trademark pro bono too. There’s also “a whole slew of family law,” and landlord-tenant cases.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 17,518
- Average per (US) attorney: undisclosed
Key advice is always to stand out from the crowd, but you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. At Finnegan, “people who are not welcoming and friendly stand out because it’s so against the grain,” associates told us. “The people are great to work with. I don’t know how to convince you on that other than inviting you out to lunch with us!” We’re packing our bags as we speak.
"People play a ton of league sports here!”
With five offices stateside, it’s not unusual for the culture of each to vary ever so slightly. The Reston office, we heard, “attracts a family-oriented crowd; people understand we have families and work around schedules that accommodate that.” A short drive up to DC and you’ll find an array of sports teams to get involved in. “For some reason people play a ton of league sports here!” a DC-er explained. “We run a kickball league in the fall, and softball over the summer.” Those who may be less athletically inclined, fret not. We heard Finnegan associates were keen partakers of happy hours and group lunches and dinners. “Honestly, I think we host more social events than other firms!”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“With patent law in particular, there’s a pipeline problem,” associates agreed. In February 2022, the firm appointed its first chief diversity and inclusion officer, Esther Lim, to bolster the implementation of DEI initiatives. “Recognizing that having an additional person holding a full-time position at the chief level was important, it’s a real concrete step to getting more resources in that area,” Arner notes. And all seems to be going as planned: “I’ve noticed an increase in diversity events,” a source pointed out. “For AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) month we brought in a speaker.” In 2022, the firm hosted Senator Mazie K. Hirono, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate. Affinity groups are also kickstarting quarterly meetups.
What’s more, the firm has a program called Finnegan FORWARD (Focused on Raising Women’s Advancement, Representation, and Development). In spring this year, the firm hosted its annual Women’s Summit focusing on challenges women may face in the workplace. “The Summit brings together women from the firm as well as women clients,” Arner details. “We had an internal day on career paths and professional success at Finnegan” – including a judges panel, a corporate counsel panel, and a panel on emerging trends and specialty expertise on privacy and the UPC (Unified Patent Court) – “then clients joined in the evening for networking sessions geared toward health and wellness which included massages and mocktails!”
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
In addition to a 100-hour pro bono allowance, associates can dedicate 50 hours to ‘shadowing’. “Because of the back and forth nature of patent prosecution, you know you’ll get a good flow of work coming down the pipeline” to hit those billables. On the flip side, with the lulls of litigation “when a case settles or you’re waiting for discovery to start, it can be trickly to maintain a balance and make sure you’re hitting the billable target.” With that in mind, associates felt the free-market system set them up for success when it came to hitting billing targets. “If you’re on a litigation and you know it’s going to ramp up, you can tailor your workload to fit everything into your schedule.”
An average day will see associates rock up at around 8:30am and wrap up around 6:30pm. As is the nature of BigLaw, “if it gets really busy, I may have to work a little later and over the weekend.” Pressing deadlines sometimes see this lot clocking hours past midnight, but “unless it’s super time-sensitive, I’ll try to be out by 10pm.” The firm currently asks for associates to be in the office at least three days a week from Tuesday through Thursday. Tuesday free lunches and Thursday treats often entice people to come in!
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed for 2023: 167
As well as 19 law school campuses (including several close to the firm's offices), the Finnegan team also attends eight countrywide job fairs – many of which have a technical or science leaning. With the aim in mind to attract potential attorneys with the scientific know how necessary for its practice, the firm particularly prizes the Loyola Patent Law Interview Program and Southeastern Intellectual Property Job Fair.
Interviewers tend to take a conversational approach. An attorney and a member of the recruitment department team up to conduct each interview, and typically probe candidates for their interest in patent law and ability to fit in at Finnegan. You'll know who the interviewers are in advance so do some research about their particular practice and have a read of the firm's website for examples of recent matters.
Top tips for this stage:
"The biggest thing the firm looks for is genuine interest in our practice. It's very important to express a believable enthusiasm for copyright, trademark or patent law."
"What Finnegan does well is making sure there's a good personality fit: will we get along working at 2am the day before a trial?"
The trick to impressing at the callback is much the same as it is in the first instance: excellent academic credentials, commitment to the firm's way of doing things and a distinct interest in IP. In this round you'll speak to someone in the recruiting department plus pairs of attorneys from different practice areas: all the better to get to know Finnegan. Throughout a mix of meetings and lunches, applicants will meet ten or so people over the course of a day.
Top tips for this stage:
"Don't be overly concerned with trying to prove you know the most about patent law, rather than engaging in interesting conversation. I'd much rather work with an interesting person."
"Pay attention to the environment here and make sure it's a place that YOU will want to come to every day."
Offers 2023: 23
Research and writing; patent prosecution and trademark applications; client meetings; depositions; and getting to observe an oral argument at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) or Federal District court are common components of the Finnegan summer program. Every summer associate gets work via a central assignment coordinator; each summer is assigned to a practice group that matches their technical background.
Meshing into the team is crucial at this stage, as being a team player is the quality the firm most closely evaluates. Time management, taking initiative, coherent writing and strong legal analysis are also part of the criteria, and getting stuck into whatever work you've been connected to provides the means to prove yourself.
Notable summer events: Summer Firmwide Week in DC, casino night, baseball games, cocktail receptions, cooking classes, The Nation's Capital Segway Tour, The Watergate Cocktail Reception.
Top tips for this stage:
"Building your internal brand here is huge because of the free-market system. You really have to knock on doors, go to all the events and focus on meeting people."
"Pay attention to the energy in the office you're working in. Get a sense of how you're being treated by supervisors and be aware of how everybody interacts with one another."
90% of summers rejoin the firm as junior associates – good odds!
Interview with Erika Arner, Finnegan's managing partner
Chambers Associate: How would you define your firm’s current position and identity in the legal market?
Erika Arner: We are viewed as a premier full service IP firm, with a global presence to serve our clients. We opened our 11th office last year in Munich, and we’ve added several new practice areas to continue expanding and serving all IP needs for our clients.
CA: What are your core practice areas and sector priorities?
EA: We work in all areas of IP with a special focus on high value, high importance cases for our clients, whether it be obtaining IP protection in the first place, registering patents and trademarks, or defending and enforcing IP through litigation. We’ve expanded our practice to include advertising, privacy, trade secret law, and to cover European patent and trademark law. We serve a full spectrum of technology areas, from internet and e-commerce based, to heavy manufacturing, biotech, pharma, semiconductors, and more. Our expertise spans the full area of technology.
CA: Are there any domestic or international events/trends (legal, economic, political, social) affecting the work conducted by the firm or the way in which it is structured and run?
EA: In Europe, the Unified Patent Court is opening this year, and a lot of our practice development in Europe has been with an eye to serving clients in that new forum. With the UPC coming, our Munich office is fully up and running and staffed with experienced patent litigators in Europe. In the IP world, it’s a very big shift and opportunity, and Finnegan has invested in being ready to help clients with that practice.
The importance of privacy is another. Following on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted in Europe a few years ago, many US states are now implementing privacy laws that impact all companies. All companies that have customers and customer data, and also employees and employee data, have a need for privacy protection. This year we formalized our privacy practice and launched with a new head of practice who was formerly the chief privacy officer at the US Department of Homeland Security. She comes with a wealth of experience to lead our privacy practice.
CA: How has the role of the lawyer changed over the last two decades and what new skills are required for the next generation of lawyers to succeed?
EA: The IP legal world has evolved to be very complex and nuanced. It’s no longer just patents or trademarks or copyrights; it’s also all the other areas adjacent to the core IP functions. We need to make sure junior attorneys are well trained in those areas. We’re focused on training programs designed for junior attorneys, including litigation skills and patent prosecution. We also have boot camps. We’re introducing a new mid-level associate academy targeted at that important part of associates’ careers.
Beyond training, something we see that is so important is hands on experience – learning by doing. All our partners are focused on getting experience for junior attorneys as soon as they’re ready, whether it’s asking them to argue motions or run preliminary telephone conversations with the patent office. The US Patent and Trademark Office designed LEAP (Legal Experience and Advancement Program) to give juniors more experience and Finnegan is one of the top users of that program, frequently giving juniors the opportunity to argue on behalf of clients. We have many clients who partner with us to give those opportunities to junior team members.
CA: How have client needs changed? How is the firm evolving to meet client needs?
CA: What is the greatest challenge facing the firm in the next decade? How about the legal market more generally?
EA: The greatest legal market challenge in IP is the high demand for talented IP attorneys. It’s a challenge for all firms to retain and recruit talented attorneys, and the challenge becomes acute when thinking about diverse attorneys and the pipeline.
Another is coming out of the pandemic and figuring out the new way to work in a hybrid environment, and how that environment can allow for the flexibility that we all enjoyed during the pandemic while also acknowledging the importance of being in the office in person with clients and colleagues for relationship building, culture, and mentoring.
CA: What is the firm’s approach to bolstering diversity, equity, and inclusion? Are there any initiatives that are new or that have been working particularly well that you would like to flag?
EA: Many! For years we’ve had a partner in charge of DE&I; last year we expanded to add a chief DE&I officer, recognizing that having an additional person holding a full-time position at the chief level was important. It’s a real concrete step to getting more resources in that area. We’ve also reinvigorated the firm’s affinity groups.
Finnegan FORWARD is our women’s initiative, which just last week hosted our third Women’s Summit. The Summit brings together women from the firm as well as women clients.. We had an internal day on career paths and professional success at Finnegan, then clients joined in the evening for networking sessions geared towards health and wellness which included massages and mocktails! That was followed by a full day of programming including a judges panel, a corporate counsel panel, and a panel on emerging trends and specialty expertise on privacy and the UPC (Unified Patent Court).
In terms of our summer associate program, we have diversity partnerships with around six clients offering diversity focused internships. It’s effective in broadening the access to diverse talents and giving them the tools to succeed.
CA: What advice do you have for students and junior associates who are just about to embark/have just embarked on their legal career?
EA: For law students or those getting ready to move into the law, certainly excelling in academic studies is important, and it carries throughout your entire career. Doing excellent work for clients is not only a good thing to do, but it brings more success.
It’s also important to seek out variety in your early days: trying to work with lots of different people and studying lots of different areas of the law. Work in different environments, too – internships, research assistants, summer positions – so you can see the various things you can do with a law degree.
Once you’re at a firm, raise your hand for opportunities that interest you, especially in the beginning. It’s important to work with a variety of people; diversity of thought is a good thing! The law is not rigid – it’s a very personal practice and different people practice in different ways. Variety is key. Also, when you raise your hand, follow through; so many people will volunteer for something but then get sidetracked. If you are the person who completes the task and follows through, it makes you stand out for the next opportunity.
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP
901 New York Avenue NW,
Main areas of work
Our practice includes all aspects of patent, trademark, and copyright law, including counseling, prosecution, licensing, and litigation. We also represent clients on IP issues related to advertising, privacy, trade secret law, European patents and trade marks, international trade, portfolio management, the Internet, e-commerce, government contracts, antitrust, and unfair competition.
Finnegan offers full-service IP legal and technical experience in virtually every industry and technology—including life sciences; electronics and information technology; consumer goods and services; communications; transportation and logistics; energy; hospitality, gaming, and leisure; and chemicals, industrials, and materials.
Recruitment Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
American; Berkeley; Boston College; Boston University; Emory; George Mason; George Washington; Georgetown; Georgia; Georgia State; Harvard; Howard; Maryland; Santa Clara; Stanford; UCLA; USC; Virginia; Washington.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
• Bay Area Diversity Career Fair
• Chicago Patent Law Interview Program
• Lavender Law Career Fair
• Midwest-California Consortium Interview Program
• National Law School Consortium
• Southeastern Intellectual Property Job Fair
• Southeastern Minority Job Fair
• The Law Consortium
Summer associate profile:
For starters, the summer associates are smart, willing to work hard, and committed to excelling in intellectual property law. They are expected to demonstrate the ability to analyze complex legal issues, write clearly and persuasively, show initiative, manage time effectively, and assume responsibility for projects. Above all, they’re expected to be team players who work — and play — well with the rest of the team.
Summer program components:
During Finnegan’s Summer Associate Program, you’ll be exposed to the full range and diversity of an intellectual property law practice. You’ll receive real work assignments involving litigation, Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings, prosecution, licensing, trademark, copyright, and the drafting of opinions and briefs. You’ll receive specialized training that complements your legal studies in areas such as legal writing, patent application filing strategies, overview of licensing, and an overview of PTAB and litigation best practices. You’ll meet peers drawn from top law schools across the country and have ample opportunity to socialize with Finnegan partners and associates — all in structured circumstances that stress professionalism, training, and development.
Recruitment website: www.finnegan.com/en/careers/
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 5)
USA - Nationwide
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 3)
- Life Sciences (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)