Fish & Richardson PC - The Inside View

Equipped with “some of the top IP lawyers in the game,” this firm’s a big Fish when it comes to all things patents.

You may already be familiar with some of the big names when it comes to intellectual property law, but according to our sources, this firm was a different kettle of fish entirely. “All I wanted to do was IP and litigation, and of the names that come up, Fish & Richardson is at the top,” one interviewee recalled. “Even when I was a student at law school studying IP litigation, Fish’s name always came up as they have some of the top IP lawyers in the game who deal with some of the biggest matters!” It’s these very matters which score the firm its Chambers USA accolades; Fish’s intellectual property work picks up awards in eight different states (as well as the nationwide category).

“…Fish’s name always came up…”

With a solid reputation and household name clients in abundance, senior partner Christopher Dillon notes: “We’re an extremely focused firm. Fish has an intentional focus on all things IP. Other firms may only have a few flavors of IP without finding the same level of breadth we have.” The firm’s mission for expertise in a particularly specialist area means they’re also on the hunt for a certain type of candidate. “Almost everyone has some sort of engineering or science background,” an associate noted, “and that attracts a certain type of person.” Indeed, “intellectual property law benefits from having people with deep technical knowledge," Dillon underlines, adding: “We need people who are effective advocates in court and people who can write well, too.”

The majority of the Fish’s junior associates are based in the firm’s Boston, New York, DC, and Twin Cities offices, with the rest spread across Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Delaware, Houston, San Diego, and Silicon Valley. A further two offices in Munich and Shenzhen make up the firm’s international presence.

Strategy & Future



“We’re seeing a high demand for intellectual property work, and strong growth in our international practices,” Dillon notes of the firm’s recent successes. “We’re also taking a stronger focus on expanding our life sciences practices,” he adds. Indeed, earlier this year, Fish launched its new life sciences industry group headed by trial attorney Martina Hufnal and patent prosecutor Todd Garcia in Delaware and Boston, respectively. While the firm has been serving clients in the space for a while, this is a step towards formalizing the practice.

And while the firm has no immediate plans to expand its practices geographically, growth in existing locations is certainly on the table. One sign of such growth can be seen in the firm’s most recent partnership class; this year, the firm elevated 20 attorneys to partnership, a whopping 25% increase in size from last year. In keeping with the firm’s affinity for technical knowledge, nearly 50% of this year’s partnership cohort hold advanced STEM-related degrees, while five attorneys also hold PhDs!

Read more from Christopher Dillon under the ‘Get Hired’ tab

The Work



Juniors are directly hired into the firm’s patent prosecution, IP litigation, or trademark practices, with litigation taking on the most associates. Work allocation for each practice follows a free-market system, though newbies can rest assured as work coordinators are assigned to help the fledgling Fish find their feet. “We’re completely free to find our own work, but we do have group leaders too who make sure we have work,” a first-year explained. Insiders were also keen to note, however, that work coordinators aren’t “the primary path to getting work. It’s a good way to build those initial relationships, though, as it can be hard to find work as a first year.” From then onwards, interviewees noted, “work’s never an issue as there’s enough to go around!”

The work conducted by Fish’s IP litigation team covers the likes of life sciences; oil and gas; mechanical engineering; electrical and computer science; aerospace; and telecommunications, serving a client base made up of Fortune 500 tech companies, big pharma, and individual investors. Our associate interviewees explained that they had “a varied practice,” but juniors’ work generally related to “patent litigation, FDA regulatory advice and counsel, trade secrets, telecommunications, semiconductors, software, and farming equipment (!)” On such matters, juniors’ daily tasks consist of anything including doc review, client interviews, attending depositions, drafting motions, developing strategies for patent infringement, preparing pre-trial disclosures, and like any other litigator - “lots of research!”

IP litigation clients: Confidential

“You’re not pigeon-holed into one type of practice.”

Over in the patent prosecution practice, one associate put quite simply: “We help people get patents.” Expanding on this, another added: “We do have a small separate trademark group where we do litigation, enforcement, and maintenance,” which associates can also dabble in, proving that the beauty of Fish is that “you’re not pigeon-holed into one type of practice.” As such, the clients in this realm range from the retail, pharmaceutical, and video game industries, to social media influencers and application developers. A “good chunk of legal research, drafting memos, and discussing strategies,” forms the typical associate tasks here, in addition to “running preliminary searches on deals, making recommendations, auditing trademarks, handling renewals, and maintenance filing for portfolios.”

Patent prosecution clients: Confidential

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 2,000 target (with options to reduce)

Fish allows its associates to reduce their billable hour targets with pro-rated compensation. That said, “If you agree reduced hours initially, but you end up hitting 2,000 anyway, the firm will still pay you the difference!” one associate relayed – a win-win really. In order to guarantee a full bonus, however, associates must bill 2,100 hours. It’s clear the firm’s certainly got enough work to go round for associates to be hitting their targets anyhow; according to our survey, respondents indicated working around 48.6 hours a week, pretty much in line with our overall market average.

Flexibility seems to be the key word when it comes to working arrangements at Fish. The firm has no in-office requirements for attorneys – a policy which many of our sources with families and children greatly appreciated. One associate put quite neatly: “One of my mentors said ‘We don’t care if you’re working at midnight in Fiji – as long as you do your hours!’

Pro Bono



200 hours of associates’ 2,000 hour billable targets are set aside for work on pro bono matters (with a caveat that the allowance is pro-rated with reduced targets). “Strongly encouraged by pretty much everyone” at the firm, pro bono opportunities certainly aren’t lacking. “Matters are always available and we have great pro bono coordinators who circulate work,” an interviewee praised. “It’s valuable since you get a ton of experience early on – the kind which you might not get from a client at a similar stage,” another associate explained. Examples of matters juniors have worked on include work to do with the Texas abortion law, immigration relief in Afghanistan, housing defense, guardian/custody disputes with KIND (Kinds In Need of Defense), and – never straying too far from the firm’s core – additional IP-related matters.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 18,834
  • Average per US attorney: 40.8

Culture



“You see all these intelligent engineers and amazing lawyers, and they’re all super down to earth.”

Undoubtedly, choosing a workplace can be daunting. “When I first started, I was thinking ‘Oh my god, I’m going to spend a significant part of my life here,’ one newbie divulged. Relief was quickly found though: “I haven’t seen any jerks at Fish!” This certainly rings true across the firm’s vast pool of offices. “We work on cross-staffed cases, and I’m yet to work with anyone I wouldn’t want to work with again!” an associate noted. “You go around the place and you see all these intelligent engineers and amazing lawyers, and they’re all super down to earth,” we heard. But while the work is serious and high-level, “we also joke around and have a bit of fun,” and perhaps most importantly, “the big egos are missing!”

Career Development



Do you get the sense that the firm is invested in developing its associates? we asked. “I would give that an unequivocal yes!” one associate made clear. Fish provides its newbies with formal training programs, which consists of (among many other things!) an annual retreat for whole class years. “I had a retreat where we spent two days in Chicago,” one associate enthused. “We had a few breakout sessions, different types of life science work, market updates, forecasts, and business development training.”

Additionally, the firm has a mentorship program for juniors when they first hop on board. “You’re assigned a mentor when you arrive at the firm, but” – thanks to the free market system – “you’ll also be working with people more informally. They really care and will take you under their wing,” an interviewee gushed. Ad-hoc feedback is also bountiful: “There’s no curtain between the most junior and the most senior people” at the firm, an insider noted. Those more senior “are always open to questions. It’s never a case of ‘Why is this person bothering me? Can’t they figure it out for themselves?’

“The firm is pretty candid about what it takes to get to that level.”

All this lends itself to a “clear path to partnership” at the firm. “The firm is pretty candid about what it takes to get to that level,” said an insider. “Fish hires people expecting that they will become at least a non-equity partner.” Case in point: a whopping 85% of survey respondents indicated aspirations for partnership at Fish, and agreed that it was an achievable aspiration.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



“One of the things that drew me to Fish was the commitment to diversity, which was very important to me as a woman in the legal field,” an interviewee noted candidly. “I found out that there are a lot of women in leadership positions which speaks to the firm’s commitment on this.” In fact, of the recently promoted partnership class, 40% were women.

As a result, the firm is Mansfield 6.0 Plus certified for maintaining at least 30% diverse lawyer representation in current leadership roles. What’s more, the firm recently introduced the ‘School of Fish: STEM Careers in IP’ recruitment initiative which is "a free educational series that introduces undergraduate and graduate students to career opportunities in the field of IP law," Dillion explains. He also that the firm's also got "a number of affinity groups; these are organic, and this gives us a strong base with DE&I. For instance, we have BlackFISH, Lawtinos, an Asian affinity group, RainbowFish, a South Asian & Middle Eastern group, and EMPOWER, a women’s initiative. There are also two new groups: one for veterans and one for people with disabilities.” Associates are also able to attribute 50 of their pro bono hours to work on DE&I initiatives.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus  

OCI applicants interviewed: 177 

Interviewees outside OCI: 22

Most positions at Fish require a technical or scientific background, and Fish focuses on hiring 1L summer associates in order to find those students with a technical background earlier in the recruiting process. For this reason, the firm participates in a limited number of OCI programs and is focused on resume drops at national schools. They are most active in hiring 2Ls from events tailored to patent law. One of Fish's major recruiting events is interviewing at the Patent Law Interview Program in Chicago. The firm is looking for students who have done their research and are excited to join our premier intellectual property and litigation firm.Interviewers are usually the principals (partners) and associates who are heavily involved with recruiting. Fish also places great importance on hiring judicial clerks, especially from the Federal Circuit. Every spring Fish hosts events specifically for judicial clerks to learn more about the firm. 

Top tips for this stage:  

“We pride ourselves on having the technical knowledge to be able to understand what our clients are bringing to us. You don’t have to have a technical background to try a patent case in court, but it certainly helps. If you understand the tech, you’ll be able to communicate it better to a jury and be more persuasive.” – a first-year junior associate  

Know what you want to do and be able to communicate how your education and experiences have prepared you to be an asset to the firm. 

Callbacks 

Callbacks are conducted by a mix of associates and principals, and they typically involve four or five attorneys meeting with a candidate over a two to three-hour period. Those who are interviewed can expect behavioral questions. Each interview slot focuses on a different skill or characteristic. Candidates are asked about their problem-solving ability, leadership, work ethic or other traits critical to the work. During callbacks, Fish evaluates how well candidates will perform with clients, on teams, and the high-pressure situations.Interviewers also take the time to answer candidates’ questions that will help them to decide if the firm is a good fit. Fish hires summer associates with the goal of developing them to become principals at the firm, and they look for candidates who demonstrate the team-oriented approach needed to succeed over the long term. 

Top tips for this stage:  

Be prepared to show how your interests and experience have led you to Fish, and what will make you successful here. Fish wants to hear what gets candidates excited, and how they will translate that enthusiasm for the work Fish does. 

Summer program 

Offers: 62

Anticipated acceptances for 2024:  41 

Summer associates attend meetings and calls and conduct research for real client work assignments. The Fish summer program is designed to put summer associates in the real world of law firm life. The supervised client work is assigned by a work coordinator who ensures that summer associates receive a variety of projects and work with different attorneys over the summer and help balance workloads. The firm’s goal is to expose summer associates to valuable training and resources so when they return as associates, they can jump right in.

There is a firm-wide summer retreat during the program – in 2024 it will be hosted in Chicago. Previous locations include Nashville, San Diego, and Boulder. All summers get to go for this three-day training and social event. Fish sees the retreat as an integral part of the summer program because making the connections with the other summer associates and attorneys across the firm really sets the summer associates up for success; they develop a network at Fish that they will call on throughout their career.

Most summers rejoin the firm as junior associates, though some take a detour through clerkships first.  

Top tips for this stage:  

“Be aware that our batch of associates is a couple of years older than average. It’s because we tend to like people who have prior work experience in a technical field or something similar.” – a second-year junior associate   

 

Interview with Christopher Dillon, Principal



Commercial strategy, market position and trends

Chambers Associate: How would you define your firm’s current position and identity in the legal market? What differentiates your firm from your peer firms in the market?

Christopher Dillon: I think it’s very clear Fish has an intentional focus on all things IP. Our practice groups work with clients on their most challenging IP litigation, patent, trademark, copyrights, and regulatory matters. Because we’re focused on one area of law, we are the go-to choice for clients when it comes to building their IP strategies and protecting their IP assets. Other firms may only have a few flavors of IP without finding the same level of breadth we have.

CA: Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you’d like law students to know about?

Dillon: Our leadership is focused on evolving for today’s professionals. Our “NextGen” program ensures early and ongoing opportunities with clients and in the courtroom. We look at our summer associates as future leaders at Fish. In fact, last year nine of our associates elevated to partner were former summer associates. I should also note, our new litigation head is a former summer associate.

CA: Are there any domestic or international events/trends that are affecting any of the firm’s practices at the moment? Are there any trends that you think are affecting the business of law firms more generally, and how is that playing out with your firm?

Dillon: We’re seeing a high demand for intellectual property work. and strong growth in our international practices. We’re also taking a stronger focus on expanding our life sciences practice.

Something else that’s not directly related to the legal industry, but is nonetheless important, is the issue of hybrid work. We encourage attorneys and teams to get together in the office, and attend different practice group events, professional development programs, etc., but unlike many firms, we do not have a weekly requirement for office attendance

We also have a flexible approach to billable hours – 2,000 hours is the aim but we allow associates to set their own hours goal. You can set your goal lower if you like, and there’s no downside to that. There have been different times in life where I’ve had more things going on and it’s helpful to maintain work-life balance. We would lose too many good people if we didn’t have this flexibility. Our expectation is that when someone joins the firm, we expect them to become a principal, and so we want to train them as if they’re a principal. That’s a big cultural difference between us and some other firms; some firms tend to be more rigid.

CA: Does the firm tend to hire people with Masters, PhDs, and prior careers other than law? For instance, we heard from some associates that there are plenty of people at the firm with engineering backgrounds.

Dillon: Absolutely. Intellectual property law benefits from having people with deep technical knowledge. We want technical degrees and advanced industry knowledge. However, we also value people without technical degrees – for instance, I’m a classics major- who can bring outstanding legal skills to our team. We need people who are effective advocates in court and people who can write well, too.

CA: The firm was recently awarded with the Mansfield Certification Plus for successfully maintaining at least 30% diverse lawyer representation in current leadership roles – so congratulations for that! I therefore just wanted to ask how that came about in terms of what the firm does to promote diversity?

Dillon: We have a number of affinity groups; these are organic, and this gives us a strong base with DE&I. For instance, we have BlackFISH, Lawtinos, an Asian affinity group, RainbowFish, a South Asian & Middle Eastern group, and EMPOWER, a women’s initiative. There are also two new groups: one for veterans and one for people with disabilities.

A newer program we have is School of Fish, a free educational series that introduces undergraduate and graduate students to career opportunities in the field of IP law. School of Fish was created to try to encourage more people with STEM backgrounds, particularly those from underrepresented communities, to think about a career in IP law. We also have a diversity fellowship program, which helps to encourage more diverse candidates to join our summer programs. From a leadership standpoint, our litigation head is a woman, and our deputy from IP is also a woman, while we also have women and people of color in our management positions. The efforts we’ve put in in the last year are really bearing fruit.

Inside the Firm

CA: How is the firm evolving to accommodate the needs/expectations of the next generation of lawyers?

Dillon: I think the hours is one – we have remote work and hybrid work, while we also put a lot of work into training. We have a principal whose job is to promote NextGen work. I went to trial in May in a case where we had four associates take witnesses at trial. The court is very receptive to these new attorneys. We train first years to do depositions within their first six months, because we expect that that can occur and want them to be prepared. It’s not uncommon that they’ve been at trial. In terms of hiring, we’ve expanded the number of law schools we go to as talent can come from lots of places.

Part of this effort – and it relates to flexibility – is the opportunity to shadow. We’re encouraging our associates to come to hearings and give them opportunities to attend events, and we want them to have strategy discussions. There’s also a lack of formality or social structures that makes it very easy for associates to work with senior partners. It’s relaxed between associates and partners; we’re not a very stuffy place, and people are very much rowing in the same boat.

The Fun Bit

CA: Is there any advice you’d give to your younger self starting out your career?

Dillon: One piece of advice specific to our industry: coming out of law school, it can be hard, to find the right fit. I advise law students to consider  the longer term and to look beyond the first year. Understand what’s important to you and invest your focus there. I would also tell my younger self to take  every writing course you can. Legal writing is a learned skill

CA: How do you navigate the demands of Big Law?

Dillon: A couple things: I’m at a point in life where I’ve got other things going on. I can’t tell you how important it is to set my hours. It’s a distinction between the job and the firm. If I’m on vacation and I need to be there for the clients, then I need to be there. But the firm doesn’t put any additional burdens on me for that. I’m not required to be there at 7pm every day. The firm doesn’t make the job any more difficult than it already is. But it’s important to know that the job is demanding. A practical tip – I do not leave things till the last minute. I do things a week or two out in case of emergency; that’s been a big way of helping and maintaining sanity. It’s also important to have a good cohort of colleagues who support you; I’ve leaned on them to help me at times and that makes a huge difference. I know that if I need them, they’ll be there for me.

Fish & Richardson PC

One Marina Park Drive,
225 Franklin Street ,
Boston,
MA 02210
Website www.fr.com

Main areas of work
Fish & Richardson offers top-rated litigation, patent, regulatory, trademark, and copyright services to help clients maximize the value of their intellectual property.

Firm profile
Fish & Richardson is a global patent prosecution, intellectual property litigation, and commercial litigation law firm with more than 400 attorneys and technology specialists in the US and Europe. Fish is the #1 US patent litigation firm, handling nearly three times as many cases than its nearest competitor; a powerhouse patent prosecution firm; a top-tier trademark and copyright firm; and the #1 firm at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, with more cases than any other firm. Since 1878, Fish attorneys have been winning cases worth billions in controversy — often by making new law — for the world’s most innovative and influential technology leaders.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
Harvard Law School, The University of Texas School of Law, New York University School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Patent Law Interview Program (Chicago), Southeastern IP Job Fair

Recruitment outside OCIs: We also hire from judicial clerkships, job fairs, resume drops, write-in applications, and our attorney referral program.

Summer associate profile: Fish seeks students with excellent academic credentials and superior writing ability, and for patent litigation and patent prosecution positions, a scientific or technical background is required. Law students are a great fit for our summer program if they: convey a sincere career interest in intellectual property, always want to know how things work; thrive in a collabroative, team-oriented environment; and are motivated to take on challenges.

Summer associate components: Fish & Richardson’s summer program is the cornerstone of our recruiting. We bring in the top students from across the country, and through significant investments of time and resources, we begin developing them into the Fish attorneys who go on to become leaders in the industry. To achieve this, our summer program is known for having real work that provides hands-on training and ongoing feedback. Summer associates tackle the tough legal issues that clients come to us to solve, and projects include preparing patent applications; conducting research for litigation; and attending client meetings, depositions, and even trials. Equally important to our summer program are the social events that integrate summer associates into the firm culture, including a firmwide summer associate retreat. Summer associates and attorneys get to know each other at dinners, team building activities, sporting events and through networking opportunities across offices. Each summer associate is assigned a mentor who advises them throughout the summer.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.fr.com/careers
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/fish-&-richardson-p-c-
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fishrichardson/

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 1)

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