When litigator Ruffin Cordell felt compelled to move from general practice firm Baker & Botts in 1996 because of client conflicts of interest, he didn’t consider going to an IP boutique. “I thought IP boutiques were a thing of the past,” he says. But after a call from a Fish & Richardson recruiter, Cordell decided to give the firm a try. Twelve years later, Cordell, one of IP Law & Business’ Top 50 IP People Under 45, says he often gets headhunter calls, but he can’t imagine working anywhere else. “I wouldn’t leave for all the tea in China,” he says.

IP firms certainly win the loyalty of some of their stars, but those firms do face a growing challenge in recruiting and retaining talent. General practice firms often build their IP practices by luring away experienced partners and associates who have been trained by boutiques. They can often promise more money. Among the Am Law 100 law firms, profits per partner in 2007 were noticeably higher at general practice firms than at IP boutiques. In fact, when ranked by profits per partner, the top IP firm — and there were few that made the cut — was Fish & Richardson, and it ranked 51st in the list with $1.2 million.