Fish & Richardson is a magnet for STEM graduates who want to “fire up both sides at once: the legal and the technical.”
Names such as iRobot, Intuitive Surgical, and ZOLL Medical Corporation sound like they’ve been pulled right out of a science fiction novel, but these are in fact very real companies working in tech and life sciences. They also happen to be clients of IP firm Fish & Richardson, which should give you an idea of the type of work the associates here get to be involved in. ‘Unparalleled,’ ‘impeccable,’ and ‘unrivaled’ were among the adjectives of choice among our survey participants to describe their firm’s reputation in the IP space. To be fair, their confidence is well placed. Fish is ranked as one of the best IP firms in the nation by Chambers USA and Chambers Global. The firm also has IP rankings in eight regions, with gold stars particularly in DC, Delaware, Minnesota, and Massachusetts (the firm's largest office can be found in Boston).
“The work demands creativity and every case is different.”
This made it a magnet for applicants with technical backgrounds, with 91% of associates holding a STEM degree to their name (more than one in five have a PhD), in everything from chemical engineering to astrophysics. Our interviewees concluded that “Fish is an interesting place to work because it allows you to fire up both sides at once: the legal and the technical.” It was a winning combination that left few regrets: over 90% strongly agreed that they had picked the right firm to begin their career. We should also add that an important pipeline of talent on the patent prosecution side for Fish is those with advanced STEM degrees (i.e. a PhD), who can join the firm as ‘technology specialists.’ These individuals can either remain as non-attorneys or decide to pursue a law degree further down the line.
There are junior associates in all of the firm's offices. This year's crop of first-years joined DC, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Boston, New York, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Twin Cities and Delaware. We were told that Boston is the firm’s main patent prosecution hub and alongside the Twin Cities and San Diego offices “has more of a focus on life sciences, compared to DC which has an engineering focus.” Thecapital also houses the firm’s regulatory department.
TOP READ: Spotlight on Boston: Fish & Richardson's managing principal Todd Garcia explains why IP law continues to flourish in Boston and reveals why there's no better place to be if you have a background in tech or life sciences.
Around a quarter of newbies join the patent prosecution team, while the vast majority go into the broader IP-focused litigation pool. Like many firms, Fish & Richardson adopts a free-market approach to work allocation, allowing junior associates to reach out to partners they want to work with. A few felt there was room for improvement in “balancing workload among associates,” but a helping hand from senior mentors was helpful: “We have a conversation once a week where we talk about workloads.”
“We are essentially scientists who have gone to law school – we just like looking at the science and technology.”
The litigation group handles both plaintiff- and defendant-side patent infringement, breach of license agreements, antitrust and competitor cases. There’s copyright, trademark and trade secrets work too, which one source estimated made up “around 20%” of their workload. “It’s an excellent practice area,” one IP enthusiast beamed. “The work demands creativity and every case is different.” Juniors had plenty of drafting opportunities in the form of summary judgment motions. “On bigger cases with multiple motions, I typically have ownership over a single one,” a source in a Texas office told us. Juniors can also involve themselves on case strategy, “analyzing the law and thinking about what arguments we can bring to the table.”
IP disputes clients: Gilead Sciences, Microsoft, Samsung, LG Electronics. The firm achieved an exclusive order on behalf of Bose to stop $30 million worth of copycat products being imported into the US for sale.
“The biggest difference between patent prosecutors and litigators is that we write patents and litigators don’t,” one junior in the Twin Cities office summarized. “We are essentially scientists who have gone to law school – we just like looking at the science and technology. The idea of being in a courtroom and deposing people is absolutely horrifying to me!” Fortunately, there’s none of that here. Juniors’ role in this group entailed “a lot of back and forth with the patent office,” as well as “instructing foreign associates, analyzing data, and figuring out what is novel about an invention.” While the role of the firm’s litigators and patent prosecutors is largely separate, one source explained that “IPR [Inter Partes Review] cases typically have mixed teams as it resembles a court procedure.”
Patent prosecution clients: medical device company Stimwave, Hawkeye 360, Johns Hopkins University. Obtained patents for Elgnot, a startup that develops technologies for multi-tenant dwellings.
Juniors can bill up to 200 hours of pro bono work toward their annual hours total. That was plenty for most, but we also spoke to juniors who had maxed that out and “wished the firm lifted the limit.” We heard from one associate who had billed in excess of 300 hours and said they weren’t an anomaly: “Many first-years have billed a similar number.” The firm has a number of partnerships across its offices with regional legal aid programs and national advocacy organizations. Some of its key national partners include the American Civil Liberties Union, Immigration Equality, Kids in Need of Defense, and the National Homelessness Law Center.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,900 requirement
There’s a “modest” bonus for those who bill 1,900 hours, while market-rate bonuses go to those who bill 2,100 hours (as well as attorneys who are top 'merit-based' performers). Associates should, therefore, expect to work some long hours at Fish. The median weekly hours our survey participants had clocked in the last week was 55, with a high of 70 and a low of 35. We also spoke to one junior who told us that “inmy first six months I was billing between 250 and 275 hours consistently a month.” Hardly easygoing. However, a large majority of our survey respondents indicated that they were content with their work/life balance. Moreover, sources pointed out that “you can request a reduction in hours which allows you to go down to 1,700 hours with a corresponding reduction in salary.”
For one interviewee, the option to work reduced hours made Fish & Richardson extra appealing as a place to work. “It’s been fantastic for me and my family,” they explained, before reassuring us that “it doesn’t impact you moving up the career ladder either.” On the topic of career progression, the firm labels its first-year associates A1, its second-years A2, and so on all the way up to A7, after which the idea is “you decide if you want to be a partner, but there are other options, like you can become staff attorney.”
Fish’s connection with the courts goes beyond litigation: a high number of associates here are former clerks, and we heard many juniors also choose to clerk after getting a few years’ experience with the firm under their belt. There are plenty of training opportunities for juniors to take advantage of, including one program run by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, which provides litigation training on topics like depositions.
Diversity & Inclusion
Gender diversity can be a problem for firms recruiting from a pool of STEM candidates, which tends to be male-dominated. Encouragingly, Fish earned its Mansfield 3.0 certification, which means that 30% of the candidates the firm considers for recruitment, governance roles, equity partner promotions, and inclusion in formal client pitch opportunities are women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities. The firm has a higher number of ethnic minority associates than the average BigLaw firm, which (if retention efforts pay off) should reflect in the partnership numbers in the coming years.
“They’ve been actively reaching out to people of color and getting real feedback about their experiences at the firm.”
Our survey participants scored the firm highly in all our diversity metrics. However, a few outlier results suggest it could be doing more to boost its inclusivity training and mentoring from diverse role models. One junior pointed out that “since the killing of George Floyd, the firm has realized even more needed to be done. They’ve been actively reaching out to people of color and getting real feedback about their experiences at the firm to make the necessary changes to be more inclusive.” Another source told us: “They’ve recently opened up the affinity groups to all staff members – not just lawyers. Some of the secretaries have been here decades and are amazing, so it’s great to see them being included.”
Strategy & Future
Firm president and CEO John Adkisson tells us that “on the patent litigation side, we have seen an increase in litigation since COVID hit, which we expect to continue through 2021.” He similarly expects the firm’s patent counseling and prosecution work to expand. “For example, we are on track to file a record-breaking number of patent applications this year – more than last year, which was also a record year for us.” Looking ahead, “we are planning for a deluge of jury trials for the second half” of the year, “as courts try to dig out from the current trial backlog,” as well as “an increase in different types of IP litigation.”
Having a high STEM degree population shaped the atmosphere at Fish in a couple of ways. Firstly, our interviewees described an “academic culture,” housing attorneys with “a range of different interests.” Given that many members of this brainy bunch have been in education for longer than the typical attorney, associates at Fish are a tad older than other BigLaw firms (just a tad, mind you). “Nearly everyone in the office is over 30 years old,” one associate in DC told us. “And most people have a partner or family of their own.” While there may “be a few associates who grab a drink at a happy hour on a Thursday night,” incoming associates shouldn’t expect a thriving office social life: “Most people want to go home and spend time with their families.”
More generally, one of our interviewees reflected that “I was pleasantly surprised to find that people at Fish didn’t meet the stereotypes of what I thought lawyers in BigLaw would be like. People here are genuine human beings – they’re not the kind of people who are here to make a lot of money and have fallen asleep at the wheel for 20 years.” Reading between the lines, we took that to mean associates felt more senior attorneys were invested in them. Fish’s culture had sealed the loyalty deal in some of its associates: “I plan to stay at Fish forever because I think it's the greatest place to work,” said one. “I would only leave if there were a catastrophic change in the firm culture.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 121
Interviewees outside OCI: 2
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
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. 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 acceptances for 2021: 26
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. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the summer retreat couldn't take place in 2020, but the firm tells us it is eager to resume the tradition as soon as it is safe to do so. 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
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: $451,000,000 million
- Partners (US): 188
- Associates (US): 132
- Main recruitment contact: Kristine McKinney, Chief Legal Talent and Inclusion Officer
- Hiring partner: Betty Chen
- Diversity officer: Whitney Smallwood, Diversity & Inclusion Manager
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 10
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 27 1Ls: 17 (SEO: 9), 2Ls: 10 (SEO: 1)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Atlanta: 1, Boston: 2, Dallas: 2, Houston: 1, New York: 5, San Diego: 2, Silicon Valley: 3, Twin Cities: 3, Washington DC: 5, Wilmington: 3
- Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $3,942 per week 2Ls: $3,942 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 2021: 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 patent litigation and patent prosecution positions, a scientific or technical background is required.
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, 2021
- Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
District of Columbia
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- 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)