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Chicago — After an angry former client made his way by gunpoint into the office of a Chicago patent and trademark firm to kill two lawyers and a mail clerk, some law firms are reviewing the security in their buildings. Intellectual property firms also noted that the shooting underlines the need for caution in dealing with a particular type of client-one who has unrealistic expectations regarding his or her invention. The gunman, Joe Jackson, targeted and killed attorney Michael McKenna, who had researched a possible patent for Jackson on a toilet that could be fitted into the cab of a tractor-trailer, according to local reports. Jackson, who was killed by police, said in documents that he left behind with his pastor that he thought McKenna had stolen his invention idea. In addition to McKenna, Jackson also fatally wounded Allen Hoover, another patent attorney in the office suite who was a partner at Wood Phillips, and Paul Goodson, a mail clerk with the firm. McKenna was not a member of the firm, but had an office in the same suite as the 16-member Wood Phillips. While lawyers at large and small firms alike reacted with sadness, they noted that the shootings were a random, almost unpreventable act. The assailant had used his gun to force a security guard to take him to the offices on the 38th floor of the building, local news reports said. “This happens very infrequently and it’s not a huge concern for us because we don’t represent a lot of individual inventors,” said Roger Greer, a patent attorney at Chicago-based Green, Burns & Crain. Still, some attorneys at patent firms in the city said that the incident reminded them of the care needed in serving clients who often have unrealistic expectations about inventions that they believe will make them rich. They also said they may examine initial security screenings to make sure that guards have defenses against such assailants. The ‘flake factor’ Ray Blackstone, an attorney with the seven-member Chicago firm Trexler, Bushnell, Giangiorgi, Blackstone & Marr who knew both Hoover and McKenna, said his firm will most likely review security through discussions with its building management. Blackstone, who has been in the practice for 39 years, said some patent lawyers refuse to represent individuals because of their sometimes passionate attachment to ideas. Raymond Niro, a partner at Chicago-based Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro, which has 30 lawyers, said he has sent a letter to his building management about security in the wake of the shootings because he’s concerned that something similar could happen at his building if guards are unarmed. He said that the incident may be a wake-up call. “These are things that we have to consider because the threat is real,” Niro said. Some clients can become angry and annoyed when they can’t get a patent or use litigation to protect one, Niro said. People often don’t seem to realize that only about 2% of inventions actually have commercial success, he said. Niro said his firm will continue to emphasize a rule he refers to as the “flake factor,” which essentially calls on attorneys in the firm to avoid taking cases with inventors who show signs of being unrealistic.

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