When New York-based intellectual property specialty shop Darby & Darby announced in March that it was shutting its doors, many observers quickly lumped the firm in with other dead IP boutiques as another example of the notion that the boutique model no longer has legs. And why not? New York in particular has seen four large, century-old IP boutiques dissolve or disappear into a merger over the past decade as IP litigation got hot and general practice firms began snapping up talent.

On the surface, the death of the 115-year-old Darby seems to fit the trend. In 2008, Foley & Lardner added three Darby partners, including Andrew Baum, the firm’s former managing partner. In late 2009, McDermott Will & Emery added five Darby partners, including Joseph Robinson, one of the firm’s top revenue generators and a member of its executive committee.