Lateral Look: Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox

Master’s degrees, PhDs, and connections overseas are in abundance at this IP “giant in DC.”

Sterne Kessler Lateral Profile 2023

Though relatively small (and young) by BigLaw standards, Sterne Kessler’s success is not capped by its size. With just over 150 attorneys, the firm sits “at the forefront of patent law” in DC. That’s right: according to Chambers USAit’s the only firm to pick up a top-tier patent prosecution ranking in the district.

Though it’s only been around for 45 years, the firm’s expertise is anything but green. “We have a lot of people with master’s degrees and PhDs,” a source pointed out. If we’re talking PhDs, the firm lists that number at just over 60. This is therefore a firm for the technically minded: “If you’re interested in engineering, science, and tech, this is the firm for you,” an insider emphasized.

View the firm's Chambers USA rankings 

Read the firm's Inside View feature on junior associate life

Why did you join your firm? Associates say…

"Great work/life balance; good benefits; good work."

"Firm culture and breadth of IP work."


 Strategic Recruitment Focuses 2023

Biotechnology & chemical (patent preparation & prosecution) careers

The view from the firm: Our Biotechnology & Chemistry practice group works on the cutting edge of innovation in the life sciences, industrial biotechnology, specialty chemicals, and materials science. Our team represents award-winning technologies such as Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo (the first immunotherapy approved for cancer treatment), AbbVie’s Humira, the University of California’s CRISPR gene-editing technology, and many other game-changing technologies. We also represent some of the largest generic drug companies in the world, helping them navigate a pathway to offering lower-cost, lifesaving drugs in the US market. We are an early leader in bringing biosimilar technologies to market in the US. Most importantly, we have the best team in biotechology and chemical IP – a team deep with scientific training (>40 Ph.D.s and many more advanced technical degrees) and legal acumen.

Electronics (patent preparation & prosecution) careers

The view from the firm: We are among the first to see the newest developments in a number of technology areas (wireless, semiconductors, nanotech, optics, lasers and LEDs, software and apps, etc.). Our work is overwhelmingly done directly with and for inventors – not U.S. applications originated by foreign law firms. Associates work directly with the most inventive minds in the US.

Our commitment to patent prep/pros ensures that our people and teams have a deep understanding of patents (the real cornerstone of IP). We have an integrated litigation practice that puts a high value on technical expertise and patent knowledge – you don’t have to be a litigator to play an integral role in IP litigation at Sterne Kessler.
We have a long established training program of one-on-one, group, and external training courses that help to build, maintain, and fine tune fundamental knowledge and writing skills needed to be a fully rounded attorney.

Mechanical & design (patent preparation & prosecution) careers

The view from the firm: Our Mechanical & Design practice represents some of the most well-known brand name companies in the world including Apple, Pepsi, adidas, TaylorMade Golf, Oakley, and many more. Sterne Kessler Associates work on innovations for companies that are household names. Our design patent team is regularly lauded as among the most productive and best in the the world. We secured the design patents that were at the center of Apple v. Samsung, creating a judgment and final settlement in excess of a half billion dollars.

Our Mechanical patent team works on diverse, cutting-edge technologies across a wide range of industries including medical devices, laboratory equipment, sports equipment, wearable electronics, automotive parts and systems, and many others.
The practice has a diverse body of client work including a robust patent prosecution practice (both design patents and utility patents in the mechanical arts), a leading PTAB litigation practice, and active engagement in district court and ITC litigation.
Our trademark and brand protection practice works hand-in-glove with our design patent team to strengthen and secure brands including one of the most innovative anti-counterfeiting practices in the US.

Trial & appellate careers

The view from the firm: Our Trial & Appellate practice provides an opportunity to work across diverse technologies and venues – ensuring that as an associate’s career advances, their knowledge, experience, and skills will grow as well. Our practice at the US International Trade Commission is in the top 5% of the most active practices at the ITC year after year. We represent both complainants and respondents at the ITC across technologies as diverse as LED lighting, biotechnology (anti-venom), road milling machinery, e-cigarettes, RFID sensors, and many others. Likewise, our district court litigation practice represents a diverse cross-section of technologies –pharmaceuticals, flat panel displays, state-of-the-art golf clubs, telecommunications systems, network security software, and many more. Our district court practice includes one of the finest ANDA litigation practices in the US, representing some of the largest and most sophisticated drug companies in the world.

We are able to leverage and gain synergy with one of the top PTAB litigation practices in the US. Our litigators are quite adept at working across venues – including across jurisdictions beyond the US. We integrate effectively with Sterne Kessler’s technology and patent practices. This enables us to tap deep into the technical expertise of our 50+ Ph.D.s and the patent knowledge of our industry leading prosecution practice, arming our courtroom litigators with a tremendous advantage. Our appellate practice is staffed by a team of former Supreme Court, Federal Circuit, and other appellate clerks. Our appellate practice is among the most active at the Federal Circuit. Some of our litigation clients include Volkswagen Group of America, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and Roku.

IP - patent trial and appeals board litigation careers

The view from the firm: Sterne Kessler has industry-leading experience in all proceedings before the USPTO's Patent Trial and Appeal Board, including interferences, inter partes review (IPR), post grant review (PGR), covered business methods reviews (CBM), derivation proceedings, reexamination and opposition. We were named the first "PTAB Firm of the Year", given that we literally wrote the book on PTO litigation! We have litigated over 1,000 PTAB proceedings—more than nearly any other firm. Having the leading PTAB practice has a number of benefits. Associates will become a better IP lawyer by seeing the strengths and weaknesses in our own and others’ patents as well as getting a diverse experience working on a healthy balance of both Patent Owner and Petitioner sides of cases.


Career Development & the Path to Partnership



0.8 : 1


partners made in 2022

associate : partner gearing

of associates intend to make partner




felt partnership was achievable for attorneys with children felt partnership was achievable at the firm agreed partners
are nurturing
future leaders


The view from the firm: We offer substantive training programs and an active professional development program to prepare our attorneys for the unique challenges associated with the practice of intellectual property law.  Our substantive and comprehensive training programs provide our attorneys with the preparation they need to develop and hone their core skills and legal judgment at each stage of their career.  In addition to our seniority-based substantive legal training, each associate is paired with a partner who is responsible for their integration into the work and culture of the firm.  This partner, or Professional Development Advisor, is uniquely positioned to help each associate achieve their individualized career goals.   To supplement an attorney’s Professional Development Advisor, associates who are 6th years and more senior are also eligible to be paired with a Senior Advisor.  This Senior Advisor and Professional Development Advisor comprise the associate’s Career Advisory Panel to provide insights and advice as associates consider further career development opportunities, including partnership at the firm. 


Hours & Compensation





billable hours

average number of vacation days associates took in one year

average number of hours associates worked in one week




agreed they had a good work-life balance

said the benefits package makes the workload worthwhile

found the bonus allocation fair and transparent



1st year: $185,000 - $215,000

2nd year: $195,000 - $225,000

3rd year: $215,000 - $250,000

*The firm did not disclose salaries beyond this point.


The view from the firm: Sterne Kessler is committed to ensuring that all our attorneys have the opportunity to balance their work and life commitments by participating in our Flexible Hours Program. All attorneys have the opportunity to select their billable hour goal, which can range from 1400 hours to 2000 hours.  Bonus amounts are determined based on objective factors (e.g. billable hours) and subjective factors (e.g. doing high quality and creative legal work, assisting with client management and client development, assisting with marketing and branding of the firm, training/mentoring other timekeepers, working on behalf of firm committees, participating in organizations that enhance the firm’s visibility and stature, as well as other contributions to the firm).  Sterne Kessler has an active pro bono practice, which aims to help empower disenfranchised and impoverished communities seeking to promote and protect their intellectual property assets by integrating legal concepts from the areas of IP law with economic, social, and cultural human rights. Hours worked for our pro bono clients are counted toward billable hours goals, exactly the same as hours worked for our commercial clients.  


 Is Sterne Kessler the right firm for you?




were happy in their current role

     agreed the work is interesting

The view from the firm: Sterne Kessler practitioners include patent and trademark prosecutors, litigators and appellate attorneys, as well as scientists and engineers working as patent agents and technical specialists in a diverse and vibrant culture unlike any other. We combine our technical minds and legal muscle with the goal of having the right individuals around the table — those that have the most relevant experience and background related to the technology and the legal issues in play. 

We asked survey respondents what stands out about the firm's culture?

"Lack of arrogance; everyone is very friendly and willing to help and just focus on doing an excellent job for their clients."

"People care to get to know you beyond just the work you produce."


 Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing





reported strong performance in inclusivity training

of partners are women

of associates identify as ethnically diverse



 Pro Bono




average pro bono
per US attorney    

    agreed the firm is committed to pro bono


Pro bono highlights: Wilson Center for Justice; Military-Veterans Advocacy; DC Bar Association Small Business IP Legal Clinic; Cardozo Patent Diversity Project



Learn more about opportunities at the firm

Recruitment contact: Cassandra Kowal, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition