One of the biggest fish in the IP pond, F&R can draw on a whole ocean of technical expertise.
DESCRIBING IP as “a very niche, specialized field, not corporate paper-pushing dull stuff,” one Fish junior reckoned: “It attracts people because it’s one of the sexier areas of law!” Interesting choice of words there, so rather than going deeper let's highlight F&R's accomplishments in these waters: Boston-originated Fish is one of only four firms ranked top for IP in Chambers USA and picks up local rankings in every state it has an office in.
"...one of the sexier areas of law!”
Interested? Here’s the catch – pretty much every junior at Fish has a STEM background, and an impressive one at that. “We pride ourselves on having the technical knowledge to be able to understand what clients are bringing to us,” one explained. “You don’t need 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.” They suggested Fish's attorneys “have the mindset that we’re engineers and scientists as much as we are lawyers.”
Most minnows end up in patent litigation, but we also came across juniors in patent prosecution, regulatory and trademark. Sources described work assignment as “very much a free market system. I cold-called partners to introduce myself and run them through my background.” Interviewees were quick to point out that it takes “a particular type of person” to flourish in such a system, “it’s not for the timid per se. Even for me it was a little nerve-racking!” Juniors were thankful that though there are no formal work coordinators, “you do have a partner mentor who can look for work when things are quiet or act as a shield if you have too much going on.”
Patent litigators told us about the breadth of work on offer: “We do both plaintiff and defendant-side patent infringement, breach of license agreements, antitrust and competitor cases.” The subject matter ranged from consumer electronics, computer tech and packaged goods to medical devices, automotive parts, life sciences and pharmaceuticals – “it’s like a buffet!” Juniors also got their hands on inter partes reviews (IPR), “very specialized mini-litigation at the USPTO before an administrative agency.” Common junior tasks included document review, taking depositions and drafting motions, responses and letters to opposing counsel. “I like the legal research and summarizing it into a concise memo – the practice is really rewarding.” Some also got to communicate with experts on their reports and respond to discovery requests: “I won't lie, it's sometimes very overwhelming. There's a lot of work and a lot of responsibility available.”
“It’s extremely technical work.”
Compared to colleagues elsewhere, DC associates got to do more with the nearby International Trade Commission – “those cases are so fun in many ways because there’s more at stake.” That's because ITC disputes are always between two strong competitors in the industry and litigation usually takes no longer than 18 months, so “you get to focus on the merits of patent issues rather than more general litigation questions. It’s extremely technical work.”Boston is more of a life sciences hub, while San Diego has a “pretty big pharmaceuticals group” alongside plenty of computer tech.
IP disputes clients: Bed Bath & Beyond, Microsoft, Allergan. Secured a reversal of the record-breaking $2.5 billion patent damages jury verdict brought against Gilead Sciences.
Litigation aside, juniors got stuck into either patent prosecution (filing patent applications) or defending patents at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. In the latter, a patent's validity is challenged and goes through short-form litigation; there are “some senior associates who are doing mostly PTAB work.” The “very technical” process involves “communicating with the US Patent and Trademark Office and with inventors at the companies.”
Associates got the most responsibility of all on their pro bono cases – “there are so many great opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise get on paid work.” Insiders told us that one lucky youngster “was able to argue a first motion in front of a judge after being at Fish for just two weeks!” Aside from the responsibility, juniors appreciated the change of pace that came with pro bono: “There are days where all you’ve done is doc review for ten hours, and you think 'I didn’t go to law school for this, I want to help people and make an impact!'” Sources had been involved with custody disputes, death row appeals, immigration work, defamation, tenancy cases... the range at Fish is “pretty meaty!”
“200 hours is very generous and a large share of the firm takes advantage.”
The firm allows juniors to count 200 hours of pro bono work toward their hours target but they can apply for more to count in special circumstances. “200 is very generous and a large share of the firm takes advantage of that,” many suggested – “we mean it when we say we’re dedicated!”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys across all US offices: 18,953
- Average per US attorney: 66
Hours & Compensation
Reaching the 1,900 billable hours target was easy enough for most – “I’ve not had any issues, there’s plenty of work to go around,” one San Diego source declared. 2,100 hours is the threshold for a market bonus, though there's “no pressure to bill that extra 200.” If associates net under this threshold, other activities like BD can carry little fish across the line. We chatted not long after the 2018 market jump in salaries. “Fish was later to match,” but associates were buoyed to learn that the firm chose to swim with the stream. “It’s not even about the money, necessarily – the financial difference isn’t significant but the prestige associated with matching market is.”
Calculating a daily average, associates said they were generally in the office between 9am and 7pm, give or take an hour each side – DC runs “the craziest schedule” according to insiders there. In Boston too “you're basically working non-stop when big deadlines are coming up,” and usually if the workload is high juniors will “do a couple of hours of work from home – but there’s not a ton of late nights.” Many associates took advantage of flexible working once a week or so “but there’s no limit. As long as you bill all your hours, you’re fine wherever you are.”
“A lot of people at Fish have changed career at least once,” we heard; “it's helpful to understand the basic principles of the technology our clients are working on.” Dive deep into Fish's recruitment process by clicking the 'Bonus Features' tab above.
Newcomers at F&R complete a 'Fish-FYI' training program covering the basics of junior associate life. Interviewees had mixed feelings about the firm's efforts, but we heard Fish had done “a phenomenal job” on its CLE seminars and overall felt “it's a robust program, though informally there's a culture of sink or swim.” The firm also regularly offers to fly attorneys (flying fish?) out to “various networking events with the American IP Law Association and NITA trainings. Every time I’ve asked to attend a program, they’ve happily sent me.” In another pretty nifty scheme, patent agents at F&R that want to turn to lawyering can get the firm to pay their law school fees, and are allowed to work part-time during their study.
“Every time I’ve asked to attend a program, they’ve happily sent me.”
We heard that “each office is different” when it comes to working culture and dress. In Southern California (San Diego and Silicon Valley) “it’s very laid-back – I go to work in flip-flops and jeans most days.” When the sun comes out in Atlanta, so do shorts, whereas in DC“the most casual we get is jeans,” which is still more relaxed than many a BigLaw firm. 'Drinking like a Fish' doesn't mean much here, though about once a month there's a ‘Scotch Thursday’ (or sometimes Tuesday – it's not super formal) in San Diego. “The managing partner gets a good whiskey and we have it on the patio with some food.” Over in DC there's a 'Fun Squad' “trying to do something different every week.”
Now you might think that people with multiple scientific degrees working side by side would make for a more 'geeky' environment than elsewhere – and you'd be right! “I don’t see nerdy as a negative thing – to us that means we’re passionate about science and technology, learning about new developments and how things work.” Nerd culture isn't limited to the firm's practice – “in one of my interviews I went into a partner’s office and they had Star Trek posters on the walls.”
Diversity & Inclusion
IP firms like Fish suffer from a diversity double trouble, as both scientific academia and the legal world perform poorly. “There are fewer women in engineering especially so it sways toward men here at the moment, particularly in the higher ranks. It’s getting better as each year goes by, though.” The EMPOWER women's initiative offers forums and mentoring circles in each Fish & Richardson office: “I’m used to being one of two female attorneys in the room,” a San Diego interviewee commented, “so it’s fun being in a room full of women!” The firm also has five active affinity groups for minority groups where “there are big heavy-hitting partners involved, it’s not just a sideline thing!” At entry level Fish runs a 1L Diversity Fellowship Program, offering each fellow a paid summer associate role plus mentoring opportunities and a scholarship of up to $30,000.
“There are big heavy-hitting partners involved, it’s not just a sideline thing!”
Strategy & Future
Swimming further from home than ever before, Fish & Richardson has journeyed across the Pacific into Shenzhen, China. The city, located just north of Hong Kong, handles the highest number of Patent Cooperation Treaty applications (covering international patents) in the country. “China is a fast-growing market and IP is no exception,” one associate commented. “It’s a very exciting time!”
"We're very excited about our China office," CEO Peter Devlin says. "Shenzhen is an exciting place to be for an IP firm like ours. Shenzhen is one of the most innovative cities in China, known as China’s Silicon Valley. So it’s a logical fit for us as an IP firm." For some context, he adds, "We have a number of great clients in the area, including Huawei." Click the 'Bonus Features' tab above to read the full interview.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 103
Interviewees outside OCI: 3
Fish participates in OCI and resume drops at national schools, as well as at highly regarded law schools that are local to the firm’s offices. “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. 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 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: 103
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 lead 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.
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 firmwide 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 that “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 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 president and CEO Peter Devlin
Chambers Associate: Tell us a little bit about the firm’s recent office opening in Shenzhen, China.
Peter Devlin:We’re very excited about our new China office. It opened in January 2019 and I attended a ceremonial opening with clients and local officials in March.
Shenzhen is an exciting place to be for an IP firm like ours. Shenzhen is one of the most innovative cities in China, known as China’s Silicon Valley. So it’s a logical fit for us as an IP firm.
We have a number of great clients in the area, including Huawei and others, so having boots on the ground really works to our advantage. Helping clients in real-time rather than being a world away.
We currently have two full-time attorneys there who relocated from the States and we have local staff to support us too. As we get established there, we plan to grow as our business grows.
CA: How has the firm’s practices developed over the last year?
PD:Our practice is becoming more and more global – clients are seeking IP advice internationally. We’ve had an office in Munich, Germany for over a decade and now Shenzhen further increases our global reach.
We had a tremendous year last year in our practices. Our lawyers tried 36 cases over the last two years in district courts and the ITC. We’re a leading firm in handling patent cases in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. We also do leading work at the ITC. We’re doing work in the tech space such as communications and computer software, but we’re also growing our life sciences practice in patent prosecution and patent litigation. And of course we’re growing our life sciences client base throughout Asia. On the patent side, we have a significant post-grant practice. This year marks our 1000th appearance before Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB).
CA: Are there any other focuses from the last 12 months you that you want to flag up?
PD:One in particular is that we continue to make diversity top priority in our firm. It’s important for us to have a diverse team and to answer our clients’ needs.
We were one of the first firms to adopt the Mansfield Rule and we’re a certified-plus firm. We were named one of 2018’s best law firms for women by Working Mother magazine. We do a significant amount of work with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, in which I am a member. We have a Diversity Fellowship program that focuses on bringing diverse law students to the firm for the summer, and we mentor them throughout their law school years.
Another focus is the development of many of our own technology tools to help us work smarter and more efficiently. We have a very strong IT development staff who are just brilliant. We’d be nowhere without them!
CA: Are there any broader trends (whether political, economic, technological, sector-specific) that are currently shaping the volume or type of work conducted in your firm's practices?
PD:Obviously with our involvement in China, we’re keeping a close eye on their industries and economy. Economically in the US we have a mixed bag of news. We always have our eye on that to try and, not predict, but keep an eye on where the volume of work is going. From managing to hiring, we’re making sure we are growing in the right tech areas and geographies.
CA: What issues are affecting the IP field right now?
PD: Enforcement of IP rights. As we become more and more of a service economy and a technology-based economy, IP rights have become the crown jewels of any organization. And organizations want to be intentional about how they protect their IP rights. When I started my legal careerback in the 1980s, we were just patent lawyers; we didn’t talk about intellectual property more broadly. Law firms would help clients get patents and that was it. As the technology changed, intellectual property became ever-more strategically important to clients. IP lawyers now play a critical strategic counseling role. The field has just boomed and the skill set required to be an IP lawyer has changed.
CA: What do you envision Fish & Richardson will look like in a few years’ time?
PD:We are focused in one field: IP. That’s what we do. We’re very strong in that practice. Even though you see in the industry a growing trend towards consolidation of firms, with mergers and the like - that’s not for us. Our brand is so strong in an area of the law that’s so valuable. Being an independent IP firm is an important part of who we are and our culture. I expect that to continue. We’ve been around the same size for many years. I’m sure we’ll grow somewhat, but for us bigger is not better. We are focused on delivering high quality work and superior service. That’s the kind of firm we’ve been for a very long time. I see us maintaining that course and we’ll be stronger economically and continue to attract great people and great work.
CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?
PD:Be ready for lots of change! We are already seeing the impact of technology and artificial intelligence on the legal practice. That’s only going to accelerate and change the way lawyers work. The things I did as a young lawyer, young lawyers aren’t going to be doing in the future. That’ll all be done by staff or technology. When the more routine tasks are done by machines, lawyers are free to focus on the more intellectually challenging strategic work, where they can add real value. They’ll be advising clients, getting into the issues and coming up with solid arguments or advice for the client. Someday, we’ll laugh at how backwards we were before AI.
Fish & Richardson PC
One Marina Park Drive,
225 Franklin Street ,
- Head Office: Boston, MA
- Number of domestic offices: 11
- Number of international offices: 1
- Worldwide revenue: $430,862,479 million
- Partners (US): 175
- Associates (US): 154
- Main recruitment contact: Kristine McKinney, Chief Legal Talent and Inclusion Officer
- Hiring partner: Betty Chen
- Diversity officer: Kia Scipio, Diversity & Inclusion Manager
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 18
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 29 1Ls: 11 (SEO: 5), 2Ls: 18 (SEO: 2)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Atlanta: 1, Boston: 3, Dallas: 2, Houston: 2, New York: 2, San Diego: 3, Silicon Valley: 6, Twin Cities: 2, Washington DC: 6, Wilmington: 2
- Summer salary 2019: 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 2019:
Harvard, University of Texas, Patent Law Interview Program (Chicago), Southeastern IP Job Fair 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, 2019
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution Recognised Practitioner
- 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)