Fish & Richardson's managing principal Todd Garcia explains why IP law continues to flourish in Boston and reveals why there's no better place to be if you have a background in tech or life sciences.
Chambers Associate: What are the current key industry sectors for lawyers in Boston?
Todd Garcia: Boston is a hub of innovation and technology, which makes intellectual property (IP) law one of the most important industry sectors in this market. As the premier global IP law firm, with 14 offices worldwide, we are trusted by the world's most innovative and influential companies. We have seen IP law flourish from our founding in Boston in 1878 – representing visionaries such as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Wright Brothers – to our work today representing the world’s most innovative and influential industry leaders. Given Boston’s top-notch educational institutions and perennial commitment to technology, life sciences, biotech, and healthcare, we anticipate the city will be at the forefront of continued innovation for many years to come, solidifying IP law as a key industry sector.
CA: Which practice areas are currently thriving in the Boston legal market?
TG: Boston’s core industries – technology, life sciences, biotech, health care, and financial services –continue to prosper. This creates tremendous demand for IP lawyers who serve these industries across all practice areas. For example, our patent prosecution practice is booming because companies know that a strategic patent portfolio is essential for attracting funding, gaining a competitive advantage, and establishing market dominance. On the patent litigation side, we have seen an increase in larger cases that are more global in scope. Even when some practice areas are down industry-wide, firms like Fish that operate at the top of the market will continue to be in high demand.
"Given Boston’s top-notch educational institutions and perennial commitment to technology, life sciences, biotech, and healthcare, we anticipate the city will be at the forefront of continued innovation for many years to come, solidifying IP law as a key industry sector."
CA: How has the Boston legal market evolved over the past five years?
TG: Over the past five years, a number of large firms have opened offices in Boston in hopes of capturing a share of the technology and life sciences work that is the life blood of this city. These companies create an abundance of work not just for IP lawyers like us, but for corporate lawyers as well.
CA: How would you describe the competition between firms in the Boston legal market?
TG: Competition is fierce, and we are surrounded by some great firms. What sets Fish apart is our technical expertise, concentration, and dominance in IP. We handle more patent litigation than any other firm in the country, we are the most active firm at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, we lead the way in patent prosecution, we are trailblazers in trademark and copyright, and we have a highly respected regulatory/FDA practice.
"Over the past five years, a number of large firms have opened offices in Boston in hopes of capturing a share of the technology and life sciences work that is the life blood of this city."
With 102 PhDs and 66 former clerks, Fish attorneys speak the language of innovation and are ideally positioned to advocate for even the most technically complex intellectual property issues. Clients trust Fish with their most important IP matters because we are the best at what we do, we service them at a very high level, and we are true partners willing to share their risk through creative strategies like alternative fee arrangements, which represented 38% of our revenue in 2019.
Laterals are attracted to Fish because of the opportunity to work on the most interesting and sophisticated projects, and for the chance to learn from the leading practitioners in the field. We also invest heavily in our next generation of attorneys, so there is truly no better place to be an IP attorney than Fish.
CA: What do you think the Boston legal market will look like in five years’ time?
TG: The Boston legal market is very resilient, and we expect the positive trends to continue an upward trajectory. The region’s key industries – education, technology, finance, biotech, life sciences, and health care – will continue to grow and succeed. There will always be a place for world-class talent with the legal and technical expertise and business acumen to understand clients’ needs and deliver broad-based, value-added solutions.
CA: What effects do you think Covid-19 will have on the Boston legal marketplace in both the short and long term?
TG: Every law firm in Boston and beyond is dealing with the effects of Covid-19, whether it’s navigating remote work or learning new ways to support clients. Law firms have had to grapple with challenges ranging from drastically varied financial projections to quickly shifting technological needs. We are fortunate that our firm entered the crisis in a strong, financially stable position with a strategic plan for a potential future crisis. With 14 offices around the world, interconnectivity and remote work is already an integral part of Fish’s culture and operations. Our employees were fully equipped for this scenario and we have not experienced any disruption to the important work we do. Fish has been able to prioritize the health and safety of our employees while continuing to deliver the highest levels of service to all our clients.
We believe that the law firms that are currently fiscally secure and able to make smart decisions based on long-term projections and goals will be the ones that not only survive the COVID crisis, but will thrive well into the future.
"There are endless opportunities to work with thought leaders and do cutting-edge work every single day."
CA: What distinguishes the Boston market in comparison to other US legal markets?
TG: Boston is home to many top institutions of higher education, a highly skilled talent pool, and a vast array of innovative companies, including technology, life sciences, biotech, health care, and financial services. There are endless opportunities to work with thought leaders and do cutting-edge work every single day.
"Law firms from all over the world recognize the superior educational opportunities offered in Boston and recruit from the area’s many fine law schools."
CA: What do you think are the main pull factors to the Boston market for law students and lateral talent?
TG: Boston is a great place to go to law school and an even better place to live and practice law. Law firms from all over the world recognize the superior educational opportunities offered in Boston and recruit from the area’s many fine law schools. With a background in tech or life sciences, there is no better place to be than Boston. One of my favorite things about this city is the sheer number of very smart people you encounter on a daily basis, which makes it an exciting and energizing place to live and work. Boston is also a very livable, vibrant city that’s easy to navigate and boasts great restaurants, legendary sports teams, and many artistic and cultural offerings. It’s a combination that many lawyers, like myself, find irresistible.