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San Francisco-Chris Scott Graham still remembers the day he heard the news that James Elacqua, head of Dewey Ballantine’s intellectual property litigation group, was officially moving to Dechert’s Palo Alto, Calif., office. Graham, the managing partner of Dechert’s two-year-old Silicon Valley office, was coming back from court when he got the phone call from a New York partner, and it was like hearing that his law firm had just signed on the No. 1 pick in a baseball draft. “I was like a kid in a candy store,” Graham said. “I was already thinking of all the work I can give him and the influx of help I’ll be getting in my cases. Competition for talent is extremely stiff around here, and to have someone with Jim’s caliber, experience and expertise in our firm was exciting news.” Graham could be forgiven for his enthusiasm. Not only did Dechert land Elacqua, who has 24 years of patent litigation experience, but the firm also managed to snag seven other IP partners and one senior associate from New York-based Dewey. Hiring eight partners and a senior associate-all with extensive patent trial experience-is almost unheard of these days. “Believe me, we know how blessed we are,” Graham said. “But at the same time, we can’t rest on our laurels because we know how competitive the market is for both the talent and the clients.” Graham echoes the sentiments of many managing partners at firms looking to expand into, or remain on top of, the patent litigation market. The limited pool of attorneys with technical background and patent trial expertise has made the search for talent extremely frustrating. For every major hiring coup a firm like Dechert achieves, there are Deweys ending up with near-empty outposts. Or worse, closing entire offices, like New York’s Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy did after losing IP partner James Pooley to Morrison & Foerster. There are many ways to build a successful IP litigation practice, but only two things are really important in this market: getting the right talent and keeping it. And this is true for all law firms, said recruiter Gary Davis of Patterson Davis Consulting. The dearth of IP talent has prevented many firms, regardless of size or reputation, from breaking into or completely dominating the highly lucrative patent litigation market. The fact that firms as big as Dechert, with about 900 lawyers located mostly in the Northeast, and New York’s Davis Polk & Wardwell, which recently hired Silicon Valley IP litigator Matthew Lehr from Latham & Watkins, are just starting out is a testament to how difficult an undertaking it is to build a patent litigation practice, Davis said. “The growth in this area has been limited by the pool of qualified IP candidates, not by the interest or desire or workload of law firms,” Davis said. Commitment a key So how can law firms attract and keep their IP talent? A key factor is the firm’s commitment to the practice, Davis said. “There’s more to it than just bringing in a group,” Davis noted. “You have to invest in that group and you have to allow that group to become an integral part of the firm. A losing strategy is where you bring IP folks on board and then expect them to go out there and compete successfully without any firmwide effort to market the group and invest in whatever it needs.” Fred Herold, Dechert’s recruiting partner based in Palo Alto, is aware of the importance of integrating the new group with the rest of the law firm. He said that the first thing the firm’s management did when Elacqua’s group arrived was to fly them out to several of Dechert’s 18 offices and introduce them to partners and clients. “We talked to them about our IP management practice plan and the different client opportunities that we can offer them,” Herold said. “We’ve already involved the group in a number of client pitches and we’re not just cross-selling them to our clients but to other partners in other offices too.” The firm’s new IP group should not have any problem keeping busy. For the longest time, Dechert’s clients-mostly in finance, real estate, pharmaceuticals and technology-have been pushing the firm to represent them in complex patent litigation, Herold said. But the firm had difficulty finding good recruits, so it opened offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto in 2003. “Our strategy for growth is mostly driven by practice group,” Herold said. “We don’t go where the clients are; we build [wherever] we can find great lawyers. We believe that great law firms become great law firms because of great lawyers.”

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