STEM degrees and PhDs are very much part of the fabric of this specialist IP firm.
‘We are everything IP’ – Finnegan sets the record straight right away in its marketing material. And while we always advise readers take firms' outward rhetoric with a pinch of salt, it's safe to say that Finnegan isn't feeding you a line. The firm has been one of the country’s go-to outfits for patent, trademark, and copyright law since it first set up shop in Washington DC back in 1965. The firm now has a total of eleven offices in its network and today attracts a wide range of cutting-edge clients across the computer technology, biotech, pharmaceuticals, and energy sectors.
"Attorneys are not only sharp in the legal sense, but in a technical sense too.”
“Attorneys are expected to master the technology that they are working with in a way that wouldn’t be expected at other firms,” one insider explained, adding that “everyone – or almost everyone – has a science degree, so attorneys are not only sharp in the legal sense, but in a technical sense too.” While it’s not a prerequisite, more than 300 of Finnegan’s attorneys have STEM degrees, and more than 65 have PhDs.
Finnegan is also one of the few IP firms that can claim international status too, with offices in London, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo, working alongside the firm’s five US offices. The firm scoops prestigious nationwide Chambers USA rankings in IP, international trade, and life sciences, as well as further state rankings in IP in DC, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Northern Virginia.
Over half of Finnegan’s incoming associates join its HQ in DC, with the remaining juniors distributed more or less evenly between Atlanta, Palo Alto, and Reston. Finnegan divides its associates into five sector-specific practice groups: electrical, chemical, mechanical, biotech & pharma, and trademark & copyright. We were told that the Atlanta office takes on a lot of electrical, mechanical, and life sciences cases, Boston handles a lot of bio-pharma work, and Palo Alto has a penchant for electrical matters. However, sources emphasized that geography wasn't a barrier to access as matters are staffed across the entire network.
- The Federal Circuit with Finnegan
- Becoming a Trademark and Copyright lawyer - the view from Finnegan
- The Patent Trial and Appeal Board with Finnegan
“Where you end up is essentially decided by your background,” one associate told us. “So, if you have an electrical engineering degree, you’ll be positioned in the electrical practice group.” That’s not to say that your academic background will limit you however: “It’s really more of an administrative thing rather than a hard and fast ‘you only do these types of cases kind of deal.’” Work assignment is largely free market, but associates felt that this has brought a level of complication since the pandemic: “I can’t knock on someone’s door and ask if I can jump on a case. You can do it via email, but it’s less personal and doesn’t lead to conversations in the same way.”
Around 80% of the work at Finnegan is patent-related, providing associates with a mixed practice of patent litigation and patent prosecution, something that was a key draw for our interviewees. It’s also where attorneys’ technical knowledge comes most to the fore. This might include work on things like patent specifications – detailed documents that provide a technical overview of a new product – which form part of the complex process of protecting a client’s intellectual property.
“From computers, to automotive and even weapons design.”
Junior associates in the electrical practice group are split into two main sectors: hardware (which includes work on anything from newly developed computer chips to artificial intelligence) and software. “The hardware work covers a variety of industries, from computers, to automotive and even weapons design,” one associate explained. “In software, more of our time is spent serving the bigger software companies like YouTube and Google.” Of course, the role of junior associates varies from partner to partner, and office to office: “If it’s a big case, the partner overseeing the project has got people for everything, and it’s your job to fill the gaps.” For the junior associates we spoke to, this might involve anything from research, to working on a motion that needs drafting. That’s not to say there isn’t room for more responsibility on smaller projects, however. One source we spoke to mentioned that “with one client, I was the technical lead for the patent, so I drafted our initial set of non-validity and non-infringement instructions, and a lot of the day-to-day work fell on my shoulders.”
Electrical clients: Playtika, Feitian Technologies, SharkNinja. Represented Maglula in district court litigation including patent, trademark, and copyright claims over Amazon’s sale of counterfeit consumer products.
The chemical group at Finnegan oversees much of the firm’s alternative energy and environmental work, but the department also crosses over to pharmaceutical products matters, often working with the US International Trade Commission. As with many of the firm’s other practice groups sources told us that “we work with a lot of technical concepts.” Junior associates in the group shouldn’t worry about being pigeon-holed, however. As one insider explained: “I’m not the only attorney with a chem background working on electrical matters. It doesn’t harm you to work outside of your practice group.” They advised incomers to “notlet your subject area limit your practice.” For associates further along in their careers, there is room to carve out a niche for yourself. “As a first-year, you’re going to be doing more of the classic first-year stuff like document review and research tasks,” one source explained. “However, as you progress, your day-to-day becomes more about drafting and writing.” Another junior told us: “I have been able to draft motions and act as the primary writer for some of our motions to dismiss.”
Chemical clients: Eastman Chemical, Hercules, Toyota Aviation. Represented INEOS in Texas state court trade secret litigation relating to slurry phase polyethylene polymerization processes.
Our interviewees were clear that “there’s no obsession with prestige or rankings at Finnegan,” and were in agreement that “there’s a bit of a ‘nerd’ culture, where no one brags about their alma mater or achievements.” Another (maybe slightly friendlier) way to put this, is that Finnegan’s culture is very “science-focused.” This is evident not just in the background of its attorneys, but in the way that knowledge is shared between them: “When I started, I was worried that I lacked expertise in certain technologies,” one source admitted, “but attorneys will walk you through how particular pieces of tech work, and how to bring yourself up to speed with it.”
“There’s a bit of a ‘nerd’ culture, where no one brags about their alma mater or achievements.”
The associates we spoke to did however talk about the ‘culture shock’ of BigLaw. “There’s a big difference between knowing the hours you’re going to be working and actually working them,” one source reflected. Andwhile associates are free to turn down work, sources admitted feeling the pressure “to maintain a good relationship with partners.” As one junior confided: “I’ve sometimes worried that by turning down a work request from a partner, they won’t return to me again with future requests.”
Associates at Finnegan are immediately placed into the firm’s LEAP (Learn, Enrich, Achieve, Progress) program. The program includes things like litigation training, legal writing, advanced research, persuasive speaking, leadership, and law firm economics. “There seems to be a really clear path between first-year associate and partner,” one associate told us, adding that “the partners you build a relationship with give you advice on how to make the most out of these teaching experiences.” In addition, we were told that “all junior associates are invited to a practice meeting about how your responsibilities change when you become a mid-level associate.”
Hours, Compensation & Pro Bono
The firm adopted hybrid work system in spring 2022, requiring attorneys to be in the office at least two days a week. And with a view to boosting networking and socializing, it's also establishing all-in 'collaboration days' when the whole workforce will come into the office.
The firm has a billable requirement of 2,000 hours, so it should come as no surprise that the associates routinely cross over the 50 hours a week threshold: “It’s par for the course. A bad week might look like 70–75 hours, maybe 80 including weekends. But the bad weeks happen very rarely. I think 80% of my working weeks are in the 50–55 hour region,” one source estimated.Associates are compensated with a generous pay packet of $215,000 in their first year following this year’s pay hikes. We were told that bonuses are merit-based and that “if you hit your billable target, you’re eligible for a bonus for every hour beyond that.” Our survey results show that associates overwhelmingly agreed that the benefits package made the workload worthwhile, with scores significantly above the market average.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 13,570
- Average per (US) attorney: Undisclosed
“Because the firm is IP-focused, you don’t normally get the chance to work in other fields, but on pro bono matters, I’ve been able to work in asylum law, criminal appeals, and veteran disability appeals.”
100 hours of pro bono work can contribute toward associates’ 2,000-hour requirement. However, sources explained that “you don’t get credit for anything unless you’ve rounded off the rest of your billables.” For associates with an interest in pro bono, there is the opportunity to do some work outside of IP, which is something associates wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to do: “Because the firm is IP-focused, you don’t normally get the chance to work in other fields, but on pro bono matters, I’ve been able to work in asylum law, criminal appeals, and veteran disability appeals.” According to one associate in Palo Alto: “A lot of the pro bono work in our office revolved around the housing court – working to defend people from evictions etc.”
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Associates reiterated that “Finnegan doesn’t feel like a stuffy old boys’ club or anything like that. We walk the walk.” Indeed, Finnegan’s diversity stats make for encouraging reading, with the firm employing more ethnic minority associates that almost 75% of the firms we survey. It’s also solidly above the market average for its representation of female partners.
“There’s a strong presence of women and minorities,” sources confirmed, with one junior reflecting that “events focused on diversity have been really positive.” In September 2021, the firm achieved Mansfield Rule 4.0 Certification Plus status, a status awarded to firms that have at least 30% representation of underrepresented groups in areas like recruitment and in formal pitches to clients.
Strategy & Future
In the aftermath of the pandemic, Finnegan has made a concerted effort to communicate with associates about the economic realities of the firm: “When firms were dropping salaries, they started to be more careful to communicate how they were getting on and how it impacted us.” This change also led to a greater level of responsiveness from the firm when it came to expansion. In the last year, Finnegan’s Boston office almost doubled its associate headcount, as part of a broader lateral recruitment push that included further associate hires in DC and California. “The firm has always had quite a fiscally conservative culture, but since the pandemic they’ve really tried to listen to associates more. Internally, the firm is becoming a lot more responsive.” In late June 2022, Finnegan announced the appointment of its latest managing partner, Erika Arner, who started at the firm as a summer associate in 1999.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed 2022: 172
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."
Offers 2022: 25
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: casino night, baseball games, cocktail receptions, cooking classes, The Nation's Capital Segway Tour, The Watergate Cocktail Reception.
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."
90% of summers rejoin the firm as junior associates – good odds!
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP
901 New York Avenue NW,
- Head Office: Washington, DC
- Number of domestic offices: 5
- Number of international offices: 6
- Worldwide revenue: $349,204,590
- Partners (US): 108
- Associates (US): 132
- Main recruitment contact: Laurie Taylor
- Hiring partner: David Mroz
- Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer: Esther Lim
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 17
- Entry-level associate starting in 2022: 10
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022: 1Ls: 7, 2Ls: 17
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: Washington, DC: 17 Atlanta, GA: 2 Palo Alto, CA: 2 Reston, VA: 2 Boston, MA: 1
- Summer salary 2022: 1Ls: $4,135 2Ls: $4,135
- 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.
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 2022:
American; Berkeley; Boston College; Boston University; Emory; ; George Mason; George Washington; Georgetown; Georgia; Georgia State; Harvard; Howard; Maryland; New Hampshire; Pennsylvania; Santa Clara; Stanford; UC Davis; US Hastings; UCLA; USC; ; 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.
Recruitment website: www.finnegan.com/en/careers/
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 3)
- Life Sciences (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)