Fishing for a top IP firm with an academic culture? This might be the plaice for you.
AT Fish & Richardson, there’s one PhD degree to every four lawyers – or three and a half, to be precise. In other words, there is a heck of a lot of brainy people here. STEM backgrounds are the norm, and tracking down associates who started out in subjects like biology, chemistry or engineering is like shooting fish in a barrel, if you’ll pardon the pun. “A lot of the experts we talk to are surprised by how much we know,” associates told us. “We understand industry and chemical terms – it’s incredibly useful for witness prep!”
Fish is one of just four firms whose IP work is ranked top nationwide by both Chambers Global and Chambers USA. The latter also pits it at the top of the IP pile in four regions and ranks it in four more across the US – that’s every single region that it has an office in, by the way. Fish has offices in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Dallas, Delaware, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Silicon Valley, San Diego, Twin Cities and Washington DC. Junior associates were dotted across all of them, bar LA.
Strategy & Future
Junior associates thought that the future for Fish would be “a case of slow and steady growth” as it seeks to “maintain its spot as the premier IP firm.” They also noticed that the firm’s Chinese practice was a big area of focus: “Thesense I get is that they’re trying to acquire more Chinese clients.” The firm opened an office in Shenzen in 2019 (there’s also a second international base in Munich). Go to the Bonus Features tab to read what firm president John Adkisson has to say about Fish's future.
Most new starters join the litigation group, with just under a quarter joining the patent prosecution group (the regulatory and trademark groups also sometimes take in a junior or two). We should add that an important pipeline of talent for Fish in patent prosecution is those with advanced STEM degrees who can join the firm as technology specialists; these individuals can remain as non-attorneys or decide to pursue a law degree to retrain. The firm adopts a free-market approach to work allocation within practice groups, which was “an adjustment” for interviewees returning from the summer program where summers are given formal assignments. A Boston source shared some of their strategies for finding work: “When I started, I did a lot of laps around the building and walking round the offices to find out who had work.” According to associates, “almost all cases are staffed cross-office,” so some of our interviewees had also emailed partners in other locations to get work. For others, finding work was never a problem. Delaware sources said the firm “had work in the queue” when they joined, while a San Diego source was juggling “more offers than I can handle!”
“If you have a background of biology or chemistry, you’ll probably do life sciences work.”
The litigation group handles both plaintiff- and defendant-side patent infringement, breach of license agreements, antitrust and competitor cases. Juniors also got experience in copyright law, and “regulatory work in import and export.” One litigator explained the work “isn’t confined to one discipline – it’s a bit of a smattering from different fields.” A Boston source elaborated that “partners staff their cases by looking for people with certain backgrounds. So if you have a background of biology or chemistry, you’ll probably do life sciences work.” Between them, our sources got experience of cases in the pharma, telecom, life sciences, software, oil and gas, medical device and technology spaces. DC juniors may get more experience with the nearby International Trade Commission.
Junior litigators remembered “a lot of doc review in my first year,” but overall felt they’d enjoyed “a healthy mix of junior tasks and higher-level things.” As one source pointed out, “in smaller teams you get more responsibility, but with bigger teams you’re more likely to get typical junior tasks.” In the latter scenario, juniors are likely to do “a lot of ancillary support” for cases, which might mean “brief writing, discovery responses and requests, research and deposition prep.” A Houston associate spent much of their time on “discovery-related items, such as gathering documents, doing custodial interviews and preparing productions.” Juniors also got to do “the initial analysis of patent infringement, claim construction and claim analysis.” Some juniors also did patent analysis work: “You analyze someone’s patent from every view and summarize your findings,” a San Diego source explained. “It’s basically a tech analysis of the product.”
IP disputes clients: Gilead Sciences, Microsoft, Samsung, Target, Honda. Obtained an order for Bose to stop $30 million of copycat products from being imported and sold in the US.
The firm’s patent prosecution group files thousands of US and foreign patents every year. The practice also houses a subgroup that handles cases at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. At the time of our calls, juniors in this group were in the Austin, Boston, DC, Dallas and SiliconValley offices. There are also potential spots available in the Twin Cities, New York, Atlanta and San Diego.
Patent prosecution clients: Dolby Laboratories, auto parts company Aptiv, medical device company Stimwave. Obtained patents for Elgnot, a startup that develops technologies for multi-tenant dwellings.
There are nearly 60 former clerks among Fish’s ranks, and we heard there were a couple of juniors in different offices who would soon be leaving to clerk (and sources speculated there’d be “an invitation to come back”). In Boston, interviewees reported some junior attrition to other firms, but they weren’t perturbed by it. Junior associates are assigned a mentor upon joining the firm, and Fish provides “a lot of trainings to help you acquire the skills you need.” Among those, juniors had attended programs run by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, which provides litigation training on topics like depositions.
Diversity & Inclusion
One of the women we spoke to shared that the firm’s childcare benefits helped “women who have families to keep working at the firm.” Having said that, other associates still felt that the gender and diversity gap at partner level “could be improved.” As one pointed out, many Fish attorneys come from the sciences, “which are also badly gendered.” The firm is Mansfield 2.0 certified and has signed up to Mansfield Rule 3.0, which will include lawyers with disabilities alongside women, lawyers of color and LGBT+ lawyers to make up 30% of candidates for leadership positions.
“The firm tries to staff its cases and client pitches with a diverse group.”
“There’s not a lot of training on implicit bias,” a Houston associate said, “but the firm tries to staff its cases and client pitches with a diverse group.” However, there is mandatory training on harassment, and we also heard that the firm has brought in an external vendor for implicit bias training. Fish also runs a Diversity Fellowship Program which aims to bring in people from any under-represented diverse background. It provides year-long academic mentoring for 1Ls alongside a “sizable” scholarship: “There’s a good core of people who come from that program.”
Given the number of PhD holders roaming the corridors at Fish, it’s unsurprising that associates described an academic culture: “When I first started it felt like a computer programmer company!” A more forthright associate put it like this: “We’re a bunch of dorks who decided to be attorneys after getting other degrees.” A San Diego junior said: “Some people are shy, some are outgoing, but we’re equally passionate about technology.” And because most attorneys come from technical and scientific backgrounds, associates reckoned: “No one thinks they’re better or special because they’re a lawyer.” Unlike the ivory tower mythology that surrounds academics, this was more like a school of Fish. In Houston, for example, “we have lunch together three or four times a week.” It’s “very close-knit” over in Delaware too, “with a lot of informal happy hours.” Bostonians described a “laid back” office, but admitted “there’s not a ton of comradery – we don’t hang out outside the office.”
“It doesn’t matter what you wear, just write good briefs!”
In much the same way that universities tend to let academics get on with things, juniors across offices emphasized again and again how “flexible” the firm is. In what way exactly? “It’s Wednesday and I’m wearing jeans,” a Houston-based source told us, “and if I did so for the whole week, no one would bat an eyelid.” The Delaware office “encourages face time, but there’s no requirement,” sources explained. “Nor are there any administrative procedures, like having to tell people you’re working from home.” As for the dress code here, “it’s business-casual nominally, but we’re definitely on the casual side of things,” juniors said. “We got given this book on professional development, and it said: ‘It doesn’t matter what you wear, just write good briefs!’” And the vibe in San Diego? “Very Southern California,” which we think means extremely relaxed. “Some people dress beach-casual so they can go to the beach during lunch.” Definitely relaxed.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,900 required (2,100 for market-rate bonus)
Good academics (however they’re dressed) are notoriously self-driven: “People want to work, and there’s high incentive to bill more.” There’s a “modest” bonus for those who bill 1,900 hours, while the threshold for market-rate bonuses is 2,100 hours. “If you go 200 hours over that, your bonus might increase – but I hear it’s not worth the extra 200 hours.”
Juniors said there’s “a big emphasis on not working outside normal hours, unless it’s urgent.” In Delaware “the firm goes radio silent on emails after 6pm on a Friday,” although during very busy times juniors usually end up working through the evening at home – the latest finish we heard of was 1am. Boston juniors also told us about “partners who’re adamant that it should be a 9am to 6pm job” – good luck finding that in the legal profession. “Sometimes you have to jump,” they confirmed. “About 50% of my weekends I do a couple of hours’ work.”
Our interviewees were clear that pro bono is not ornamental at the Fish pond. Associates can bill up to 200 hours of pro bono (and possibly more if they are working on big cases), and in Boston, “a lot of us do over 100 hours a year.” Those who do so across the firm are rewarded: “If you make 100 hours you get a tag on the door” and/or additional recognition in the form of other gifts. Immigration work was common in San Diego. “We represented a refugee from Honduras, and one of the very senior partners acted as a translator – they drove all the way out to the border,” one awed junior told us. Associates enjoyed the responsibility they got in pro bono work. There’s “a tendency [for juniors] to take the lead,” one enthused, “and you’re working closely with partners.” As an added perk, associates reaped the rewards if they impressed partners on pro bono matters: “I can think of three different pro bono cases that led to billable work with the partners.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 22,851
- Average per (US) attorney: 62.9
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 24
Interviewees outside OCI: 6 (2Ls)
Fish participates in a limited number of OCI programs and is focused on resume drops at national schools. They are most active in hiring 2Ls from events tailored to patent law. “One of our major recruiting events is interviewing at the Patent Law Interview Program in Chicago,” hiring partner Betty Chen tells us. “We also place great importance on hiring judicial clerks, especially from the Federal Circuit.” Interviewers are usually the principals (partners) and associates who are heavily involved with recruiting.
Most positions at the firm require a technical or scientific background, and Fish is increasingly hiring 1L summer associates in order to find those students with a technical background earlier in the recruiting process. Those who are interviewed can expect behavioral questions during the OCI. The firm is “looking for students who have done their research and are excited to join our premier intellectual property and litigation firm.”
Top tips for this stage:
“We pride ourselves on having the technical knowledge to be able to understand what our clients are bringing to us. You don’t have to have a technical background to try a patent case in court, but it certainly helps. If you understand the tech, you’ll be able to communicate it better to a jury and be more persuasive.” – a first-year junior associate
“Know what you want to do and be able to communicate how your education and experiences have prepared you to be an asset to the firm.” –hiring partner Betty Chen
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 10 (2Ls)
Callbacks are conducted by a mix of associates and principals, and they typically involve four or five attorneys meeting with a candidate over a two to three-hour period. Chen tells us: “Depending on timing, we may include a lunch interview to encourage more relaxed conversation and allow students to see another side of our attorneys when they’re socializing.”
Each interview slot focuses on a different skill or characteristic. Candidates will be asked about “their problem-solving ability, leadership, work ethic or other traits we find critical to our work,” Chen explains. By callbacks, candidates have already shown that they have the hard qualifications for the job, so “we’re trying to evaluate how well they’ll perform with clients, on our teams, and in the high-pressure situations we often face.” Interviewers also take the time to answer candidates’ questions that will help them to decide if the firm is a good fit.
Top tips for this stage:
“Be prepared to show us how your interests and experience have led you to Fish, and what will make you successful here. We want to hear what gets you excited, and how you’ll translate that to enthusiasm for the work we do.” – hiring partner Betty Chen
Anticipated for 2020: 24
Summer associates attend meetings and calls and conduct research for real client work assignments. “Our summer program puts summer associates in the real world of law firm life,” says Chen. The supervised client work is assigned by a work coordinator who “ensures that summer associates receive a variety of projects and work with different attorneys over the summer, and help balance workloads.” The firm’s goal is “to expose summer associates to valuable training and resources so when they return as associates, they can jump right in.”
There is a firm-wide summer retreat during the program – it was held in Las Vegas in 2018 and in Nashville in 2019. All summers get to go for this three-day training and social event. Chen tells us: “It’s something I was passionate about introducing to our summer program because making the connections with the other summer associates and attorneys across the firm really sets the summer associates up for success; they develop a network at Fish that they will call on throughout their career.”
Most summers rejoin the firm as junior associates, though some take a detour through clerkships first.
Top tips for this stage:
“Be aware that our batch of associates is a couple years older than average. It’s because we tend to like people who have prior work experience in a technical field or something similar.” – a second-year junior associate
“First and foremost, work hard. This job can be demanding, and the hiring team is looking for the top performers to join the firm, so put your best foot forward.” – hiring partner Betty Chen
Interview with CEO and president-elect John Adkisson
Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm's current market position to our student readers?
John Adkisson: We’re top of the class in IP, and that goes for three major groups: litigation, patent prosecution, and post-grant PTAB [Patent Trial and Appeal Board] proceedings. For all of those we have technical depth and a strong track record of success in all arenas. We’re the top filer in the US in all three of those. On the litigation side we’ve appeared in more patent litigations than any other firm for a decade running. We had the most filings at the PTAB for the past four consecutive years. In patent prosecution we filed 9,000 patent applications in 2019 and had 4,400 patents attained. Our leading trademark and copyright practice filed 692 U.S. trademark applications and registered 499 U.S. trademarks in 2019.
CA: How do you think Covid-19 crisis will impact on your business and the industry as a whole?
JA: This is an unprecedented event for everyone, and the legal industry is no exception. It’s something we’ve been dealing with for the last few weeks since we’ve gone into lockdown. Our business is roughly half patent prosecution and half patent litigation, and we’ve seen, thankfully, on the prosecution side very little drop off in productivity. The patent office is still open and we can file remotely.
Part of the reason we diversified our practice some years ago was for that reason: to provide insulation. Our March 2020 numbers, half of which was post lockdown, were the second-best we’ve ever had on the prosecution side. We have a strong life sciences practice and so many of the clients we work with are involved in a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On the litigation side, courthouses are closed, but our experienced trial attorneys have adapted quickly to this new world of remote advocacy. We developed best practices for remote hearings and advocacy that we shared with the industry, and our attorneys are successfully navigating this different way of doing depositions and going to court. One of our senior associates recently argued the first ever telephone argument at the Federal Circuit for one of our biopharmaceutical clients. It was also her first time arguing at the Federal Circuit, and she got a quick Rule 36 ruling in favor of our client a few days later so that was very exciting for all of us.
CA: You have strong international trade commission, life sciences and pharma practices. Do you think that will stand you in good stead post-Covid?
JA: Yes, our life sciences and pharmaceutical practices have always been very resilient. We saw in 2008 with the financial collapse that the one piece of our business that was immune was the pharmaceutical work on both the litigation and prosecution sides. We never saw a downturn in either space. We expect that will be true in this instance too.
The ITC [International Trade Commission] is accepting filings but the courtroom is closed. There is going to be a lot of pent up demand when the ITC reopens. We are leaders at the ITC so that part of our practice will be busier than ever once things get back to normal.
CA: What do you hope the firm will look like in five years' time?
JA: It’s important for our firm to remain independent. We’ve got about 350 lawyers and I don’t see that number going up or down. It gives us a good platform and at the same time allows us to control our own destiny. I don’t see much change going forward. I’d like to remain top of the class and continue to be the go-to IP firm for litigation, prosecution and at the PTAB, and in five years, if we’re still number one in all those areas, that would be a good place to be.
CA: What type of person thrives at the firm?
JA: Somebody with a great technical background is something we prize. Clients expect us to be knowledgeable. If you have a strong technical background in addition to your law degree, and like working in a very collaborative environment with very smart people, then you’re the type of person who will succeed at Fish.
CA: Do you think enough is being done to tackle implicit bias in the legal industry?
JA: I think there’s more work to do. We are very focused on being flexible with talent. For example, we’ve had a number of talented attorneys, many of whom are female, who needed to move to areas where we don’t have offices, and we made provisions for them to work remotely. We are implementing a pilot program to ensure consideration of diverse attorneys for inclusion in every proposal for new work and to include diverse attorneys in business development meetings with clients. We recently elected another woman to our executive committee, which is now three women to six men. Progress is being made, but we must diligently continue these efforts.
Fish & Richardson PC
One Marina Park Drive,
225 Franklin Street ,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 11
- Number of international offices: 2
- Worldwide revenue: $472,231,934million
- Partners (US): 174
- Associates (US): 152
- Main recruitment contact: Kristine McKinney, Chief Legal Talent and Inclusion Officer
- Hiring partner: Betty Chen
- Diversity officer: Whittney Smallwood, Diversity & Inclusion Manager
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 15
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 24 1Ls: 10 (SEO: 4), 2Ls: 14 (SEO: 2)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: Atlanta: 1, Boston: 3, Dallas: 2, Houston: 1, New York: 2, San Diego: 3, Silicon Valley: 4, Twin Cities: 2, Washington DC: 5, Wilmington: 1
- Summer salary 2020: 1Ls: $3,654 per week
- 2Ls: $3,654 per week
- Split summers offered? Yes
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? No
Main areas of work
Fish & Richardson offers top-rated litigation, patent, regulatory, trademark, and copyright services to help clients maximize the value of their intellectual property.
Fish & Richardson is a global patent prosecution, intellectual property litigation, and commercial litigation law firm with more than 400 attorneys and technology specialists in the US and Europe. Fish is the #1 US patent litigation firm, handling nearly three times as many cases than its nearest competitor; a powerhouse patent prosecution firm; a top-tier trademark and copyright firm; and the #1 firm at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, with more cases than any other firm. Since 1878, Fish attorneys have been winning cases worth billions in controversy — often by making new law — for the world’s most innovative and influential technology leaders.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020: Harvard, University of Texas, Patent Law Interview Program (Chicago)
Recruitment outside OCIs: We also hire from judicial clerkships, job fairs, resume drops, write-in applications, and our attorney referral program.
Summer associate profile: Fish seeks students with excellent academic credentials and superior writing ability, and for many positions, a scientific or technical background is preferred (required for patent prosecution candidates). Law students are a great fit for our summer program if they: convey a sincere career interest in intellectual property, always want to know how things work; thrive in a fast-paced, deadline oriented environment; and are motivated to take on challenges.
Summer associate components: Summer associates at Fish participate in challenging work assignments, training with industry leaders, and activities that foster relationships with their future colleagues. Summer projects may include preparing patent and trademark applications and conducting research for litigation cases, as well as opportunities to attend client meetings, depositions, and even trials. The highlight of our summer training and integration is a firmwide retreat that features an award winning writing workshop, business development training, and an associate led discussion of life in Big Law. Summer associates bond with other students and attorneys across the firm, and establish relationships they will carry through their careers. Throughout the summer, each office plans activities to welcome summer associates into the firm and city in which the office is located. Each summer associate is provided a mentor to answer questions and provide guidance. And all of our attorneys are invited to provide in-depth feedback which summer associates receive in their mid-summer and end of summer reviews.
Recruitment website: www.fr.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 1)