Patent litigator John Gallagher worked for 20 years at IP boutique Morgan & Finnegan. But this spring, as he left to join the general practice firm Dickstein Shapiro, Gallagher predicted that “few if any IP boutiques [will be] around” in the future.

Sound familiar? Similar predictions have been made for more than a decade. IP specialty firms faced extinction. They were dinosaurs destined to die out in a changing climate — struck by the meteor of general practice firms that were recognizing that IP was increasingly important to their corporate clients and a lucrative avenue for law firm growth. Indeed, highly respected IP boutiques such as Fish & Neave, Pennie & Edmonds, Lyon & Lyon and Cushman Darby & Cushman have vanished — they’ve been swallowed up in mergers with general practice firms or have simply perished. This spring Welsh & Katz, a Chicago-based IP boutique specializing in IP litigation, announced plans to merge with the general practice firm Husch Blackwell Sanders. New York-based Morgan & Finnegan has lost 10 partners in the past year, and its overall head count is down considerably.

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