IP boutique Harness, Dickey & Pierce has brought back a familiar face to take a brand new position. Bill Coughlin, who practiced at the firm for 17 years before starting an in-house career in 1995, rejoined the 100-lawyer, Troy, Michigan-based firm last week as its first chief executive officer. He’s been tasked with overseeing the firm’s short and long-term strategic business planning, client development and firmwide operations.

It’s not Coughlin’s first CEO gig. As assistant general counsel at Ford Motor Co. he served as CEO of its IP subsidiary, Ford Global Technologies LLC, leading a team of 40 employees in five countries. We caught up with Coughlin, 66, earlier this week to talk about the perspective he brings as a former partner, a client of the firm, an executive and—most recently—an organic farmer.

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