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

It’s a firm that needs no ID; from Palo Alto to DC, it’s all about IP.

One associate made clear: “If you want to practice IP, Finnegan’s a great place to be.” And if Chambers USA accolades are anything to go by, we’re inclined to agree. Our sister guide bestows the firm with top notch commendation for its intellectual property expertise in Northern Virginia; in its home territory of DC, Finnegan picks up further praise for its intellectual property: litigation and intellectual property: trademark, copyright & trade secrets, and intellectual property: patent prosecution work. But that’s not all… On the national stage, the firm also picks up two accolades for its international trade: intellectual property and intellectual property know-how. There’s certainly not a lot of head-scratching to be done to understand why Finnegan is the go-to for many a big-name client across the technology, biotech, pharmaceuticals, and energy sectors looking to tackle IP matters.

“…learning from the best in the industry.”

As you can likely discern from the firm’s numerous Chambers USA awards, “Finnegan’s not a firm withmultiple practice areas.” For our sources, this means “everyone is working on IP matters, so everyone has an idea of what each other is working on,” all of which feeds into a cohesive firm culture. And of course, IP is synonymous with a number of things: copyright, patent, trademark… and it’s certainly no (trade) secret that at Finnegan, you can do them all. “Some firms put you in a box as soon as your summer program is over. Finnegan lets you get exposure to everything – it’s a choose your own adventure kinda deal,” an insider confirmed. Similarly, “I heard that Finnegan doesn’t silo associates into prosecution or litigation,” one associate explained of their reasons for selecting the firm: “I didn’t want to make that career decision without experiencing both sides.” Wise words.

Speaking of wisdom… you can’t spell intellectual property without a few P(hD)s. The firm is home to a number of attorneys with PhDs and advanced degrees; 159 to be exact. It’s ever likely then that associates boasted about “learning from the best in the industry.” The firm’s also proof that being the ‘best’ doesn’t rest entirely on academic achievement (though they’ve clearly got this in spades); “I spoke to this one partner from Finnegan when I was networking and this man was the coolest, most interesting person I’ve spoken to. I was immediately like, I have to work at this firm!”

The firm has five US offices spread across Atlanta, Boston, DC, Palo Alto, and Reston; the majority of associates ply their trade in DC. These five offices are joined by a further six worldwide, across London, Munich, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo.

Strategy & Future

Finnegan’s six-strong partner class announced earlier this year is spread across Munich, DC, London, and Boston, and provides an indication of where the firm’s looking to bolster its practices. The firm’s also strengthening its hand through the hiring of seasoned players in the IP field; Finnegan recently re-welcomed two partners to the firm: Anna Chauvet to head the copyright practice, and Daniel Roland who had a stint at the DOJ (Department of Justice). And most recently, the firm’s got Mary Till, former legal adviser at the US Patent and Trademark Office, joining the ranks.

In further good news, among a sea of revenue loss across the industry, Finnegan’s reporting revenue growth, thanks to its earlier investments in services complementary to its IP practice, including German trademark law (the firm opened its Munich practice in 2022), and advertising, privacy, and European patent litigation.

The Work

Upon joining the firm newbies are assigned to sector-specific practices, which include biotech & pharma, chemical & metallurgic, electrical, mechanical, and trademark/copyright/advertising/privacy, though associates are free to pick up work across all areas. “Your primary group typically aligns with your subject matter expertise,” – based off your education or prior experience – one source explained, with another adding, “You have the ability to go out and ask any partner for work, and any partner can reach out to you.” Associates are largely in charge of overseeing their workloads, though there are practice group leaders who keep an eye on workload distribution. That being said, “The firm is piloting a new software which predicts your week ahead based on the hours you input into it. The aim is to get a more equitable distribution of work,” an associate anticipated.

Work in the biotech & pharma group typically sees juniors working on cases involving anything from litigation to client counseling. Our sources’ levels of involvement in cases varied depending on the size of the case and the size of the client. For example, “some of the larger pharma clients are quite particular about who they want on certain assignments, and juniors can find themselves stuck doing research and site checking,” one associate expressed. That being said, on other cases associates reported being “very pleased with the amount of responsibility” they’d been handed, with tasks ranging from a whole lot of drafting (answers to complaints, parts of disclosures, responses to the other side, opinions…) to leading client calls and providing input on strategy, and in some cases, going to trial. “You start to see the bigger picture and get to see the business side including analyses and comparisons,” one associate reflected.

Biotech & pharma clients: Eli Lilly, Novartis, AbbVie.

The chemical & metallurgic group has a lot of overlap with the biotech & pharma group. Sources explained a lot of associates here have backgrounds in chemistry or chemical engineering. “We do work involving materials, batteries, oil… There’s such a breadth that chemistry touches, even in cases where it might not be obvious!” an associate enthused. Case in point: the group serves a number of clients in the energy sector. Typically, associates here can be found doing a fair bit of research and discreet tasks for mid-levels and senior associates, including doc review, preparing memos, and site checking. In certain cases, lucky juniors are able to get trial experience, second chair depositions, and work with inventors and experts.

Chemical & metallurgic clients: Bay Materials, GlaxoSmithKline, Ajinomoto.

The firm’s mechanical group tackles cases involving medical device and manufacturing work. Associates explained the group also has a lot of overlap with the electrical group. In fact, “I’m predominantly working with the electrical group at the moment,” one mechanical associate told us. Juniors’ practices are typically split between prosecutions, litigations, and PTAB (patent trial and appeal board) proceedings; at the time of our interviews, litigations made up the majority of associates’ workloads. Day to day, associates spend a lot of time overseeing the running of cases. “I keep the team up to date on deadlines, take first passes at drafting, liaise with the client, oversee filing, and check the docket,” a third year explained.

Mechanical clients: Intuitive Surgical Operations, Zimmer Surgical, Propel Orthodontics.

Over in the electrical group, juniors are kept busy on cases for clients across the banking, aviation, and automotive industries (to name just a few). As a result of the patent infringement suit involving USAA and Truist, “a number of banks are trying to build up their patent portfolios,” one junior explained. On such cases, our sources were tasked with drafting motions and letters to opposing counsel, and answering expert reports. Of course, the responsibility handed to associates varied depending on the size of the team: “On the prosecution side, we work with a number of companies with big portfolios so you can sometimes be one of twenty associates,” we heard. “On the litigation side, it’s more lean and you’ll often be one of just two or three associates.”

Electrical clients: Samsung, Volkswagen, FedEx.

“You’re developing skills in a way that is going to have dividends for your confidence in front of judges.”

Pro Bono

With a billable allowance of up to 100 hours which associates can dedicate towards pro bono matters, it’s ever likely that multiple sources “love working on them.” The firm’s pretty big on veterans’ appeals as “they tend to go through the same dockets in court as IP cases, so the skills you pick up are transferrable to your client billable work. You’re developing skills in a way that is going to have dividends for your confidence in front of judges,” one source explained.Similarly, there’s an array of asylum and local landlord-tenant cases that associates can get involved in. “If you want to be in a courtroom before a judge, you can get that here – and very early on, too!” we heard.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 16,974
  • Average per US attorney: undisclosed

Career Development

Though the firm offers newbies assigned mentors upon joining (one partner and one associate), you’re encouraged to take initiative and seek out informal mentorship opportunities too. “Through working with people on different projects I’ve been able to develop more informal connections,” one junior explained. According to our sources, by virtue of the fact that “Finnegan employs people who are easy to talk to and develop relationships with,” associates are never left high and dry. “I’ve never been turned down when I’ve asked for a mentoring meeting. Ever. And if I want to meet in-person, people will happily meet me for coffee outside the office,” one source made clear.

Our associate sources were equally content on the training front. “A big benefit of being at a boutique firm is the training is substantive and relevant, as opposed to a generalist approach,” one source noted. Upon joining the firm, first-years embark on a full week of training. As associates progress, trainings happen at least once a week and they’re free to sign up for whichever they want. Looking ahead to further progression, our sources gave Finnegan a thumbs up for partnership achievability. “The firm does a good job of publishing the process,” one associate reckoned. “It’s something that’s discussed more as a mid-level to senior associate, but I have a pretty good idea now of things I need to be working towards,” a third-year source added. “I don’t feel like I’m at a firm that’s trying to weed us out.”

Hours & Compensation

Billable hours: 2,000 target

The firm’s 2,000 hour target includes a 50-hour allowance for ‘shadowing’ and DEI efforts, on top of the aforementioned 100 hour pro bono allowance. “It’s definitely an achievable target,” one source considered, “but you have to be conscious of it. If you have a slow couple of months you need to be cognizant about making it up.” That being said, “I’m never worried that I’m going to get fired or yelled at if I don’t hit 2,000,” another reasoned.

The pay package at Finnegan deviates a little from the traditional lockstep system. First and second year associates receive market level pay (plus a bonus, given you’re hitting your hours), and then changes for third years onwards: “There’s a feeling from associates that a portion of that is out of our control,” one source voiced. “It’s still a great salary, but it’s something to note.”

“…someone on one of the floors has a margarita machine.”


“It’s like a build your own experience!” one associate summed up Finnegan’s culture. “There are some people who like to go out more and gather outside the firm. If I wanted to go get a drink after work today I don’t question that I’d be able to find someone to go with.” Alongside monthly happy hours and the occasional firm dinner, “there are sometimes random parties on different floors; someone on one of the floors has a margarita machine.” Handy!Equally, “sometimes people are busy and prefer to do their own thing,”

But there was one thing all interviewees made clear: “There’s never the sense that there’s any animosity or competition between us. You’re never looking over your shoulder for someone trying to take credit or hoard work.” This sense of cohesion extends beyond the associate cohorts, too; the firm’s “easy-going hierarchy” means associates “don’t have to spend time and nervous energy composing a well worded email to partners – you can just shoot them an instant message and ask them to jump on the phone.” This tight-knit bunch are in the office three days a week, though “there’s no one micromanaging attendance,” associates made clear.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

“There’s the old adage of BigLaw being full of old white men,” one associate noted, “but I don’t think Finnegan fits that mold at all.” Now this may sound like another case of the classic ‘we’re not like other firms’ spiel, but our sources came with evidence to back up their claims: “We had a Battle of the Bands event competing with other law firms in DC. A lot of the other bands had four to five old white dudes, whereas ours was diverse and had representation from all walks of life.”

Of course, our sources acknowledged that there can be pipeline issues within IP as “you’re coming from the male dominated fields of science to the equally male dominated field of law, but Finnegan does a good job. I can’t think of a time where I’ve walked into a room and been the only woman.” In fact, “One of the pro bono cases I worked on was an entire team of women,” another source added.

The firm hosts a number of affinity groups including the African American Affinity Group, AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Affinity Group, the Moms Group, the Hispanic/Latino Affinity Group, the MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) Affinity Group, and the LGBTQ+ Affinity Group (and many more!). Finnegan’s women’s initiative (Finnegan FORWARD) in particular hosted a summit back in March 2023: “We had workshops where we discussed the issues women face that no one talks about,” one associate shared. “They invited back a few retired female partners too to talk about what it was like making partner as a woman when no women elsewhere were making partner.”

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed for 2023: 161

As well as 19 law school campuses (including several close to the firm's offices), the Finnegan team also attends eight 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 2023: 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: Summer Firmwide Week in DC, Chesapeake Bay Fishing Trip, cooking classes, baseball games, networking receptions, 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."

And finally...

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


Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP

901 New York Avenue NW,
Washington, DC,

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, privacy, trade secret law, European patents and trademarks, 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—including life sciences; electronics and information technology; consumer goods and services; communications; transportation and logistics; energy; hospitality, gaming, and leisure; and chemicals, industrials, and materials.

Recruitment Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:
American; Berkeley; Boston College; Boston University; Emory; George Mason; George Washington; Georgetown; Georgia; Georgia State; Harvard; Howard; Maryland; Santa Clara; Stanford; UCLA; USC; Virginia; Washington.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
• Bay Area Diversity Career Fair
• Chicago Patent Law Interview Program
• Lavender Law Career Fair
• Midwest-California - Georgia Consortium Interview Program
• National Law School Consortium 
• Southeastern Intellectual Property Job Fair
• Southeastern Minority Job Fair
• The Law Consortium 

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, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • 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 5)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)