Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP - The Inside View

Cutting-edge IP work with a generalist approach allowing litigation and patent prosecution work, you say? Bazinga!

Science whizzes with a penchant for the law can certainly get their fill at Finnegan. “They really provide a buffet of opportunity and you get to ‘choose your own adventure,’” enthused one sated source. That buffet consists of the juiciest and most sizzling intellectual property issues around. On its home turf of DC, Finnegan gains a top-tier Chambers USA ranking for its IP litigation expertise and is also considered a premier player for its patent prosecution and copyright, trademark & trade secrets know-how. On a nationwide basis, Finnegan is recognized for its IP, international trade and life sciences capabilities, while the IP nods continue to accrue for its work in other domestic locations like AtlantaBoston and Reston

“You get to ‘choose your own adventure.’” 

We mentioned Finnegan’s rep for life sciences there – along with other areas like ITchemicals and energy, it’s a key industry focus for the firm. It’s therefore not surprising to discover that many associates made their way to the firm after gaining some solid academic credentials: many have scientific degrees and over 65 professionals at the firm have PhDs (though this academic focus and level of attainment is not necessarily a prerequisite, especially for trademark work). Rather than continue in academia, these brainboxes pivoted into law, perhaps with a similar motivation to this interviewee: “I don’t have the patience to dive so deep into a narrow field! Here I can talk to experts and learn deeply about a certain subject, but then I can move on to something else once it’s done.” 

>>TOP READ: Opportunities in IP law for women and other underrepresented groups, by Finnegan.

Working with blockbuster companies on cutting-edge inventions, products, medicines and machinery means that attorneys here get to explore “new technology as well as the law, which is personally and professionally very satisfying.” Finnegan’s fine minds described themselves as “both legal nerds and scientific, technical nerds,” with one source joking that “people can be themselves, no matter how weird they are! We’re humble but experienced, nerdy but confident.” 

Finnegan is a consistently strong performer in our annual research. In 2021 they hit the US nationwide top 10 for associate satisfaction.>

Strategy & Future  

As with most firms at the time of our calls, interviewees told us that “the big-picture focus at the moment is on COVID.” We heard that Finnegan’s management communicates “regularly and effectively” through town hall meetings and an associate committee, which made our sources feel in the loop. 

The Work   

The firm splits its juniors into the following practice groups: electrical; chemical; mechanical; biotechnology & pharmaceutical; and trademark & copyright. The Atlanta office takes on a lot of electrical and mechanical cases, Boston handles a lot of bio-pharma work and Palo Alto has a Californian penchant for electrical matters. However, practice group divisions tend to be just for “admin and workflow reasons – you can still work on any case. The approach lets you be the master of your destiny early on in your practice.” Similarly, juniors can work on both patent litigation and patent prosecution, “which is great because most firms hire you into a specific area, but I wasn’t ready to make that determination.” The two sides of work complement each other – “prosecution knowledge can help litigation and vice versa. It opens up career paths.” Though associates can technically be “generalists forever,” in practice, many find that “later on it can be difficult to maintain spreading yourself so thin.” 

TOP READ: Becoming an IP lawyer, with Finnegan>

Bio and chemical specialists often work together on matters for major pharma brands and biotech companies. These include Hatch-Waxman Act cases (which involve the approval processes around new drugs, whether they are branded or generic versions of already branded drugs), biosimilar key tab proceedings (which involve companies that make similar medications to one another) and niche ‘skinny label’ cases (where a company introduces a generic drug but excludes information on the label that is still protected by the reference drug’s patents). Chemical associates work with the US International Trade Commission on pharmaceutical and consumer products matters, but also devote their time to “some alternative energy, biofuel, and other cutting-edge environmental work, which is very fun.” The mechanical umbrella covers medical devices, as well as manufacturing and construction equipment. Electrical covers “anything with a computer chip in it,” joked one source, and as such is a “whole other ball game, with a lot of federal litigation.” At the moment, a lot of electrical cases have some component that goes to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). 

“The approach lets you be the master of your destiny early on in your practice.” 

Litigation work tends to cover patent infringement defense or prosecution, but attorneys also bill their time on pre-litigation and advisory work as well. Juniors undertake a lot of research and “do the groundwork, so to speak.” Interviewees had helped to formulate arguments and drafted sections of briefs. It’s common for juniors to attend trials, work with witnesses face-to-face and second-chair depositions: “I felt really lucky getting to do that. It didn’t feel scary because of the great partner support.” The only more laborious element of work we heard of was “reviewing technical or scientific documents from companies to figure out if they’re relevant to the case. It’s monotonous but it’s also helpful to learn the foundations of the case. And you are out of that by second year!” Interviewees liked that their work “directly relates to the real world and is always interesting.” 

Prosecution work involves registering patents for “all kinds of new tech, so coming to it with a deep understanding of the industry helps.” Juniors make use of all the technical language they know when drafting entire applications themselves, but also get to talk with clients and conduct examiner interviews. “You get to meet some really smart people!” On this side of IP life, interviewees liked learning about all kinds of niche areas, “getting really academic and doing a lot of wordsmithing.” 

Career Development  

“The attorneys here genuinely want me to succeed. The people are so friendly and helpful, it’s almost unimaginable!” said one very satisfied junior. Alongside reports of a supportive culture, sources also highlighted ample opportunities for formal training, both legal and technical. We heard of sessions covering brief writing, oral advocacy, PTAB specifics and patent prosecution. “And the training doesn’t stop as a junior,” another clued-up source pointed out. “It continues as you progress. At my stage I want to attend as many as possible as I’m still developing my process. I spend at least three hours a week attending optional trainings.” 

The result of this training? “It makes me confident in my future, whatever I choose to do,” concluded this interviewee. People who do exit the firm “leave on good terms. They go to industry clients and stay friends with the firm.” Finnegan also has attorneys in the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), with this junior highlighting that “a lot are in leadership positions there and become involved in policy making. Our attorneys contribute to amicus briefs and studies that are used to make policy decisions. They’re also frequently involved in advocating for policy changes and legislative change in the industry.”  


“We’re the fun scientists who decided not to do science anymore!” quipped one interviewee. Other sources, like this one, commented that Finnegan attorneys can be “quite nerdy. We have a strong interest in learning – I have so much knowledge inside my head! We’re forever students, always gaining knowledge.” But the hefty credentials and bulging brains of the lawyers doesn’t make for a culture of one-upmanship at Finnegan: “You don't hear people bragging. There’s a cross-class celebration of success and no backstabbing.” Interviewees universally agreed that “our colleagues want to see everyone succeed.” 

“We’re the fun scientists who decided not to do science anymore!” 

Around three quarters of associates on our list were based in the DC office, where “there’s a fast-paced, always-something-going-on vibe.” A handful had made their home in the Atlanta base, while only a few could be found in RestonBoston and Palo Alto. Atlanta, we heard, has “a slower, smaller Georgia lifestyle with an open and friendly environment.” Across the offices, interviewees did note that “everyone is cool and approachable,” with this source embodying the enthusiasm of others when they declared: “I truly enjoy where I work and feel fortunate to start my career at Finnegan.” 

Diversity & Inclusion  

Though there are “many events geared toward diversity and inclusion,” some found that “being a Finnegan associate means I’m too busy to participate!” It’s not all about events, however, as associates told us the firm puts “lots of thought into having a diverse pool of associates. It’s clear the firm’s not just about recruiting a number of diverse lawyers and then forgetting them. It’s about equipping diverse associates with the skills they need to succeed and supporting them in that.” Finnegan has been known to have a lower number of female associates (an effect of recruiting from academic areas with low female representation), but we heard from interviewees that Finnegan is a “great place for women to work, and it is clear that the firm values supporting women and promoting women to partnership.”  

We were also told about Finnegan’s inclusion of LGBT+ attorneys and the level of support that is available for attorneys with families. Though the representation of Asian American lawyers at Finnegan is above average for BigLaw, we heard that “there’s still room for improvement” for the representation of black attorneys at the firm. We also heard reports of a focus on wellbeing, with sources underlining that “the firm never stresses the billable hour target. Finnegan is in it for the long haul, and they’re interested in your long-term success. You can’t be successful if you burn out!” On that note... 

Hours & Compensation  

Billable hours: 2,000 target (can include 100 pro bono hours)

The “biggest emphasis” when it comes to juniors’ billing is that “you’re learning and getting the skills you need – even if your hours aren’t on a par yet.” Associates appreciated the flexibility as “the nature of our work means you might get lucky and end up on a long-term project straight away, but you might be doing a few smaller matters for a while before it picks up.” The annual billable target was found to be “sustainable and achievable” by juniors, who noted that “the manageable-ness of the workload has increased further since working from home.” People reported generally being ‘in the office’ for ten to 12 hours per day (which is still a long day!)  but “it’s rare to do anything outside that.” One source added: “Working from home over the past eight months has been great – I get to have dinner with my family every night.”  

There were no grumbles about salary (“it’s the top market salary”), but a few commented that the bonus wasn’t as high as they perhaps would’ve wanted it to be. The bonus is reportedly “based heavily on merit, as well as billable hours.” Those who weren’t as fussed about amounts agreed with this source: “I think it’s completely fair and I’m interested in working for experience rather than for brackets and bonuses.” On average, attorneys we surveyed took around 11 days’ vacation in the last year. 

Pro Bono  

Each junior can count up to 100 pro bono hours toward their billing target, with any hours beyond that reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Sources had contributed to asylum claims and generally did a lot of work with veterans. Attorneys at Finnegan can help vets get access to disability benefits and upgrade dishonorable discharges (for example, when someone is dismissed due to mental health reasons). We heard pro bono is “strongly encouraged” by partners and is a great way to “hone your skills on all aspects of a case.” 

Pro bono hours 

•For all US attorneys: 17,716

•Average per US attorney: undisclosed


Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed 2021: 65

As well as 23 law school campuses (including several close to the firm's offices), the Finnegan team also attends ten 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."

Summer program

Offers 2021: 18

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: poker with partners, baseball games, cocktail receptions, cooking classes, The Nation's Capital Segway Tour.

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."

And finally...

90% of summers rejoin the firm as junior associates – good odds!

Finnegan’s response to Covid-19 

As the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, “the firm was unwavering in its support. They communicated honestly and frequently and made it known that it was ok if you needed additional support.” As of November 2020, the offices were slowly opening again “for those who chose to use the space – not everyone felt comfortable going back,” said a source at the time. Those who do go in reported daily on any potential symptoms, had their temperatures checked and were provided with free parking to remove the need for public transport. The firm also offered 100 ‘caregiver’ hours to attorneys who needed to take care of kids or sick relatives. 


Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP

901 New York Avenue NW,
Washington, DC,

  • Head Office: Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 5
  • Number of international offices: 5
  • Worldwide revenue: $306,760,000
  • Partners (US): 112
  • Associates (US): 144
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: Laurie Taylor
  • Hiring partner: David Mroz 
  • Diversity officer: Cecilia Sanabria 
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 17
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 9, 2Ls: 11
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Washington, DC: 10 Atlanta, GA: 4 Palo Alto, CA: 3 Reston, VA: 1 Boston, MA: 2
  • Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $3,900 2Ls: $3,900
  • Split summers offered? No
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

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, trade secrets, European patents and trade marks, international trade, portfolio management, the Internet, e-commerce, government contracts, antitrust, and unfair competition.

Firm profile
Finnegan offers full-service IP legal and technical experience in virtually every industry and technology—from electrical and computer technology, industrial manufacturing, consumer products, medical devices, and biotechnology to pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and alternative energy.

Recruitment Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2021:
American; Berkeley; Boston College; Boston University; Emory; Florida; George Mason; George Washington; Georgetown; Georgia; Georgia State; Harvard; Maryland; New Hampshire; Pennsylvania; Santa Clara; Stanford; UCLA; USC; Vanderbilt; 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
• SFIPLA Bay Area Job Fair
• Southeastern Intellectual Property Job Fair
• Southeastern Minority Job Fair
• The Law Consortium
• Veterans Legal Career Fair

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.

Social media:
Recruitment website:
Linkedin: finnegan-henderson-farabow-garrett-&-dunner-llp
Twitter: @FinneganIPLaw
Facebook: finnegan

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)