There may be plenty of fish in the IP sea, but “anyone who knows anything about patent law knows about Fish & Richardson.”
It might not be the biggest fish in the BigLaw pond, “but anyone who knows anything about patent law knows about Fish & Richardson.” From its involvement in Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone to modern day smartphones, and the Wright brothers’ plane to today’s aerospace industry, this firm has earned its status as a big fish in the IP world. “Fish’s reputation for patent litigation precedes itself,” another source added. “The firm regularly hits number one in the rankings...” Enter Chambers USA. The firm is awarded accolades for intellectual property in eight different states (plus the nationwide category), with the highest rankings going to its work in Delaware, DC, Massachusetts, Minnesota. The firm’s also recognized for its patent prosecution and litigation and international trade IP expertise. Over in Chambers Global, the Boston-born business earns top rankings in the US for its intellectual property: patent and international trade: intellectual property work.
“We represent branded pharmaceutical clients in high-stakes global litigation."
In addition to serving household-name clients,Fish’s president and CEO John Adkisson tells us: “The firm has one of the highest-profile life sciences patent litigation and Hatch-Waxman practices in the world.” For the uninitiated, the Hatch-Waxman Act is centered on the manufacturing, regulation and IP concerns of generic drugs. “Werepresent branded pharmaceutical clients in high-stakes global litigation. We recently won a trial over the patent rights for a novel supplement for premature infants.” A point to note: matters are often highly technical and require expertise in a certain area, whether it be life sciences, chemistry, or some form of engineering, hence you’ll find the firm is home to a number of PhD holders. 116 to be exact. A prior career in certain industries helps too – those with advanced degrees in the relevant areas have the opportunity to join the firm as a ‘technology specialist,’ with the possibility of pursuing a law degree later on.
This year, our interviewees were mostly based in DC, San Diego, and New York offices, but the firm tells us location isn't the deciding factor when it comes to finding the best talent. This means there are opportunities to join as a summer associate across the firm's network, covering Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Dallas, Delaware, Houston, Minneapolis, and SiliconValley. Fish has a further two international offices located in Munich and Shenzhen.
Associates are hired into the patent prosecution, IP litigation, or trademark groups: the litigation team tends to take on the majority of newbies, while a few join patent prosecution and trademark. The staffing for each practice follows a free market system, although newbies are assigned work coordinators to help them steer the ship for the first six months. “It really made a difference for me,” one source reminisced. “Even though I knew some of the partners, it was helpful to have someone helping me get onto cases and teams. Now I’m a year in, I’m definitely not hurting for work!” A third-year added: “There’s a lot of work going round, so it can be a bit like a whack-a-mole!” Another source pointed out that the system enables associates to find the balance that works for them: “If I wanted some oil and gas work, I could easily find it.”
The work carried out by Fish’s IP litigation group is loosely organized into life sciences; oil & gas; mechanical engineering; and electrical & computer science (we also heard there's a bit of cybersecurity work). Life sciences associates work with global medical tech companies, pharmaceutical organizations and smaller individual inventors, while those outside the life sciences realm could deal with “anything that comes through the door,” ranging from car batteries to consumer electronics. Juniors also get tons of exposure to expert witnesses when drafting and forming opinions on how a product works and why it does or doesn’t infringe a patent. “You get to go deep into the tech and work with the leading folks in those spaces – often renowned professors in their respective fields,” a second-year explained.
IP litigation clients: Represented three electronics companies in an International Trade Commission investigation concerning High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection.
“Understanding how the examining attorney is prosecuting is like a chess match.”
Over in the patent prosecution group, associates highlighted the opportunity to dabble in international work. Our sources were often filing applications with the World Intellectual Property Organization, working with local counsel in different jurisdictions: “That’s the core of what we do.” Day-to-day tasks include responding to actions from the US Patent and Trademark Office. Here, juniors are tasked with defending the client’s position. “Understanding how the examining attorney is prosecuting is like a chess match,” a source remarked. “Ultimately, you’re going toe to toe with them.” Our sources did caution that, due to the nature of prosecution work and the cycle times, hitting the firm’s 2,000 billable hour target is not always realistic.
Patent prosecution clients: Prosecuted and protected a retail and delivery company's trademark portfolio in over 30 countries.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target (with options to reduce)
The firm recently increased the billing target from 1,900 to 2,000 in order to match market compensation. Juniors can opt to remain at the 1,900 threshold with reduced compensation, or even further reduce to 1,700 or 1,800 with pro-rated compensation; however, if you end up hitting the 2,000 mark (or higher), the firm compensates you as if you had committed to 2,000. Essentially, “there’s no downside to taking the reduced minimum.” With that being said, our survey found that over 50% of respondents felt the allocation of bonuses could be fairer/more transparent.
So, what do these hours look like in practice? “When I’m not busy, I’m done by 6 or 7pm,” a litigation associate explained. “During busy periods, I’m basically working from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed.” The firm doesn’t have standard business hours – something that existed pre-pandemic – allowing associates to work at times that best suit them. As is the nature of the job, “on certain days things come in late at night, or things need to get filed in the evening,” a source told us. Another added, “I recently filed at around 10pm, and if there are deadlines I might stay up until 1am or 2am.” On that note, our interviewees gave an honorable mention to the office espresso machine – “it’s great!”
“Because we cross-staff everything, you work with a real mixture of people,” one associate told us. But is there a common denominator amongst colleagues? “People are geeky – in a good way! We’ve got former engineers, scientists…” On the social front, different offices have different gatherings: “There’s usually a monthly litigation or associate lunch with loads of other happy hours, dinners and events,” we heard. For Black History Month, “a group in New York went to the Lewis Latimer House Museum – I think he was associated with the firm in the 1800s!” a source enthused.
While the firm currently doesn’t expect associates to work in the office, certain offices host monthly meetings: “People tend to come in for that.” What stood out the most for our interviewees, however, was the culture of mentorship, despite the lack of facetime: “I can come at my associate mentor with whatever questions I have and they’ll answer on the spot.” Another added: “I’ve worked on a case with the big boss of our office and he’s the nicest guy! What could be a high-pressure environment ends up being much more relaxed.”
Mentorship kicks off at summer associate level, when summers are assigned an associate mentor. Upon joining the firm, newbies are paired up with a different associate as well as a group leader who becomes “your go-to person for advice – it’s usually a pretty senior partner.” The group leader remains the associate's mentor all the way through to partnership.
“Right off the bat you’re making those connections.”
Training also occurs in the form of retreats (which are never few and far between at Fish): “I went to a centralized retreat in Minneapolis for the entire class of new associates. Right off the bat you’re making those connections and getting your feet wet.” These retreats run yearly, and the location changes each time, so keep your eyes peeled! The firm also hosts retreats for different affinity groups.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“To be candid, I chose Fish because it felt like it had the most diverse representation in comparison to the rest of the industry, but in the patent litigation market especially, there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” one source explained. In response, the firm is taking strides to diversify its recruitment through various initiatives, including a 1L diversity fellowship program.
The firm recently introduced DEI billable credit, which Adkisson explains “provides creditable, billable time to legal staff when they are advancing the firm’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.” What’s more, Adkisson tells us, “contributions are expected from attorneys at all levels and are reviewed as part of their annual compensation process.” Associates receive a 50-hour billable allowance for DEI initiatives which is mixed in as part of their 200-hour pro bono allowance.
There are also numerous affinity groups organized by Fish including BlackFISH (Black & African American), Lawtinos (Hispanic & Latinx), RainbowFish (LGBTQ+), the Military & Veteran affinity group, the Allyship Group, and the EMPOWER Women's Initiative. 2022 saw the firm host its first People of Color Retreat; staff from across 12 offices “gathered in person to engage in roundtable discussions, attend business development workshops, and hear a keynote address from Michelle Silverthorn, the founder and CEO of Inclusion Nation,” Adkisson explains. Last year’s PoC retreat was held in Chicago, while the most recent EMPOWER Women’s Initiative retreat was over in Nashville. The next Women's Initiative retreat is set to be held in Huntington Beach. And on top of all of that, the firm is Mansfield 5.0 certified.
Given that your billable target is set at 2,000 hours, 200 of these hours can be dedicated towards pro bono efforts (the pro bono allowance is pro-rated with reduced targets). “My first appearance in court was on a pro bono case,” one source shared. “As well as doing good work on behalf of people who can’t get representation, it’s an opportunity for juniors to take ownership and get more responsibility.” Opportunities at the firm are never lacking; Fish does a lot of work in partnership with KIND (Kids In Need of Defense) regarding guardian/custody disputes of children, as well as immigration matters with PAIR Project (Political/Asylum Immigration Representation) in Boston. In fact, each office has a pro bono principal who is in charge of getting associates onto pro bono cases.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 17,952
- Average per (US) attorney: 49.9
Strategy & Future
“We have seen more global disputes regarding IP rights in recent years and I expect that will continue in 2023,” Adkisson tells us. And it’s clear that this fish isn’t afraid of scoping out new waters. “Our work for clients outside the US is one of the fastest-growing segments of our firm’s practice, and we plan to continue investing in that work. We have a longstanding office in Munich, Germany, and in 2019 we expanded into Asia with the opening of an office in Shenzhen, China,” Adkisson adds. Munich continues to hold its status as one of Europe’s biggest tech hubs, meanwhile, Shenzhen is often dubbed the capital of China’s Silicon Valley.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 201
Interviewees outside OCI: 5
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 our major recruiting events is interviewing at the Patent Law Interview Program in Chicago,” hiring partner Betty Chen tells us. 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. Chen adds: “We also place 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.” – hiring partner Betty Chen
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 during the OCI. Each interview slot focuses on a different skill or characteristic. Candidates will be asked about “their problem-solving ability, leadership, work ethic or other traits we find critical to our work,” Chen explains. By callbacks, candidates have already shown that they have the hard qualifications for the job, so “we’re trying to evaluate how well they’ll perform with clients, on our teams, and in the high-pressure situations we often face.” Interviewers also take the time to answer candidates’ questions that will help them to decide if the firm is a good fit.
Top tips for this stage:
“Be prepared to show us how your interests and experience have led you to Fish, and what will make you successful here. We want to hear what gets you excited, and how you’ll translate that to enthusiasm for the work we do.” – hiring partner Betty Chen
Anticipated acceptances for 2023: 34
Summer associates attend meetings and calls and conduct research for real client work assignments. “Our summer program puts summer associates in the real world of law firm life,” says Chen. 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 2023 it will be hosted in Nashville. Previous locations include Las Vegas, San Diego, and Boulder. All summers get to go for this three-day training and social event. Chen tells us: “It’s something I was passionate about introducing to our 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
“First and foremost, work hard. This job can be demanding, and the hiring team is looking for the top performers to join the firm, so put your best foot forward.” – hiring partner Betty Chen
Interview with John Adkisson, Fish's managing partner
Chambers Associate: How would you define your firm’s current position and identity in the legal market?
Fish is proud to have earned its reputation as the world’s premier global IP firm. We are the law firm that companies trust with their most important IP matters. We have earned these credentials because we have a very deep understanding of not only the legal issues our clients’ matters present, but also the underlying technologies and business considerations involved. Very few firms can match the technical prowess and hands-on industry experience our team brings to the table. We understand our clients’ business objectives and we always put the client’s needs first.
CA: What are your core practice areas and sector priorities?
Our experience across all aspects of intellectual property gives us an incredible reach. Our lawyers work with clients in more than 80 countries on their most challenging IP litigation, patent, trademark, copyright and regulatory matters. Our clients range from multinational enterprises and Fortune 500 organizations to nonprofits and startups developing industry-leading technologies in both established and emerging markets.
In terms of technology sectors, we are fortunate here at Fish to have attorneys and technology specialists with technical knowledge in almost every field. For example, the firm has one of the highest-profile life sciences patent litigation and Hatch-Waxman practices in the world, representing branded pharmaceutical clients in high-stakes global litigation.
CA: Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?
Our Life Sciences Group has achieved some extraordinary successes over the past year. We recently won a trial over the patent rights for a novel low-aluminum supplement for premature infants, and resolved via settlement a case involving treatments for HIV and hepatitis B. Fish teams also settled high-stakes litigation that will allow our client to market a biosimilar to Humira, one of the world’s top-selling pharmaceuticals. In February, we also won a $20 million jury trial verdict on behalf of a surgeon who invented a device used in knee replacement surgery.
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?
Even with turbulence in the global economy over the past year, the overall demand for legal services is at an all-time high. At a firm like Fish, we are fortunate to have high demand for our services across the board. What does that mean for law students? It means that there are opportunities out there for you and that you will have options as to which firm you want to call home. In this time of high demand, I would encourage all law students to pick a firm that fits them – not only in the type of work that the firm does but the overall culture of the firm.
CA: What is your firm's strategy and how do you expect the next year to unfold?
We have seen more global disputes regarding IP rights in recent years and I expect that will continue in 2023. Fish has deep experience handling complex, sprawling disputes that span multiple jurisdictions. There are very few firms with our experience coordinating sophisticated strategies across continents and jurisdictions, so this is a trend that benefits our firm long-term, and one we are focused on for the future.
Our work for clients outside the US is one of the fastest-growing segments of our firm's practice, and we plan to continue investing in that work. We have a longstanding office in Munich, Germany, and in 2019 we expanded into Asia with the opening of an office in Shenzhen, China. Fish is a perfect match for large multinational clients because of our lawyers' deep expertise handling high-stakes international cases that span multiple jurisdictions.
CA: How is the firm evolving to accommodate the needs/expectations of the next generation of lawyers?
The pandemic taught us a lot of lessons about collaboration and the value of flexibility. I couldn’t be prouder of the way this firm’s attorneys and staff adapted to the need for remote working arrangements while still preserving our unique and collegial culture and providing world-class service to our clients. These are lessons we’ve taken to heart moving forward, as we continue to explore new ways to provide flexible working arrangements and promote healthy work-life balance while still creating meaningful, effective opportunities for the next generation to enjoy our tradition of outstanding mentorship, training and hands-on involvement.
CA: What is the greatest challenge facing the firm in the next decade? How about the legal market more generally?
The greatest challenge for Fish is balancing the benefits of remote work with maintaining the firm culture that makes Fish one of the best firms in the world for attorneys to practice law. We recognize that flexibility is important – the pandemic taught us that even as busy lawyers, we can spend more time with our families and loved ones rather than wasting time on crowded freeways and subway cars. At the same time, I often talk about our “Fish family,” and there is no doubt that maintaining Fish’s family atmosphere can be challenging when our in-person interactions have lessened considerably. At Fish, we are making a conscious effort to get people together with a purpose – whether that be in-person training opportunities, case team meetings or victory celebrations. Over the past year, we have found that the in-person gatherings more than pay for themselves in terms of building morale and increasing collaboration among our lawyers.
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?
Diversity, equity and inclusion contributions are critical to the success of our firm, and Fish is committed to advancing these efforts across the profession. As such, contributions are expected from attorneys at all levels and are reviewed as part of their annual compensation process. To acknowledge this valuable work, this year we announced a new DEI billable credit for legal staff. As part of that initiative, Fish provides creditable, billable time to legal staff when they are advancing the firm’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
In 2022, we also organized our first People of Color Retreat. Attorneys, technology specialists, and directors from across 12 Fish offices gathered in person, many of them meeting for the first time, to engage in roundtable discussions, attend business development workshops, and hear a keynote address from Michelle Silverthorn, the founder and CEO of Inclusion Nation.
CA: What advice do you have for students and junior associates who are just about to embark/have just embarked on their legal career?
Become indispensable to your case teams. Know your cases or projects better than anyone else on your team. And work hard. If you do all of those things, doors will open and opportunities will present themselves. Here at Fish, we have had first-year associates taking depositions and arguing in court. That can happen very early in your career if you demonstrate that you know your subject matter inside and out.
Fish & Richardson PC
One Marina Park Drive,
225 Franklin Street ,
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.
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.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2023: Harvard Law School, The University of Texas School of Law, New York University School of Law, Fordham University 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 fast-paced, deadline 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, concerts, and sporting events and through friendly competition across offices. Each summer associate is assigned a mentor who advises them throughout the summer.
Recruitment website: www.fr.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
- Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
District of Columbia
- 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)
USA - Nationwide
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 1)