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Law firm worries about associate turnover and billing efficiency pressures from clients are prompting more national firms to pull intellectual property associates away from their caseloads for specialized training. Bingham McCutchen, Boston’s Ropes & Gray and Morrison & Foerster are offering new internal training programs or revamping existing offerings for intellectual property associates. Cooley Godward Kronish of Palo Alto also stepped up its intellectual property training last year by adding a special track to its Cooley College program for junior associates. They join other firms with ongoing programs of varying intensity, including: Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher of Los Angeles; Heller Ehrman; Atlanta’s King & Spalding; K&L Gates; McDermott Will & Emery; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. KEEPING UP Intellectual property partners at each firm prompted the new or revived programs in an effort to keep clients and associates happy. They also worried that their respective firms’ standard litigation training wasn’t enough to address the fast changes sweeping the field thanks to numerous recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and proposed patent reform legislation. “We want to make sure we’re proficient as soon as these changes occur,” said William Abrams, co-chair of Bingham’s intellectual property practice group and Silicon Valley managing partner. At Ropes & Gray, the firm’s intellectual property litigation group is planning to send first and second-year associates to an in-house IP Litigation University starting this fall. The firm envisions six to 10 seminars a year focused on skills like drafting discovery requests and responses, subpoenas and the specialized briefs used in patent cases, said New York intellectual property partner Mark Bloomberg. Besides getting associates up to speed in a hurry, Ropes & Gray hopes the sessions will expand communication between partners and associates so that younger lawyers feel comfortable asking questions on an ongoing basis, Bloomberg said. Learning by watching other lawyers doesn’t work anymore because associates want more guidance and mentoring and clients want to keep billable hours in check, he said. “Legal costs have gone up so much in the last 20 years it’s important that things get done as efficiently as possible and by people as junior as possible to maintain costs and maintain the quality of the services,” Bloomberg said. Bingham has an intellectual property training program under development based on brainstorming during the firm’s annual intellectual property litigation partner retreat in May, Abrams said. Associate growth, satisfaction and training were major topics at the retreat, he said. “We want our associates to feel they are very important people and contributors to our teams,” said Abrams. Bingham’s program will offer a menu of monthly videoconference seminars on a core curriculum of practice-related skills and information, regular summaries of significant intellectual property cases and quarterly litigation training, Abrams said. Besides keeping the junior lawyers happy, Bingham wants to ensure its lawyers are more effective and more efficient, Abrams said. “Our clients have high expectations of all the lawyers on the team,” he said. A growing intellectual property caseload prompted Morrison & Foerster to reinvigorate its intellectual property trial boot camp about a year ago, said San Francisco partner Alison Tucher. The firm has offered sessions every month or two, including a half-day intensive program this summer, to supplement the firm’s general litigation training, Tucher said. “We were doing so much patent litigation around the country that we needed to share with our associates what the more senior attorneys had learned and [what we] needed associate help in doing well at,” Tucher said. Heller Ehrman’s longstanding program, which combines monthly and quarterly offerings with annual one-and-a-half day training, is run mostly by senior associates and junior partners with input and supervision from higher-level lawyers, said San Francisco shareholder Patricia Thayer, who co-chairs the firm’s intellectual property litigation group. The structure gives the lower-level lawyers practice in the key litigation skill of public speaking and has proven to be an efficient way for the group’s lawyers to share knowledge and experience, Thayer said. “Patent litigation is very expensive,” she said. “To the extent you can impart knowledge to others you can save time and save clients money.”

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