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When Pfizer Inc. announced earlier this year that it was closing its Ann Arbor, Mich., research facility, attorney Steven Oberholtzer put in a fast call to the pharmaceutical company’s law department. The managing partner of Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione’s Ann Arbor office knew his firm had been seeking to hire more attorneys in its highly specialized biotech-pharmaceutical practice area for more than five years. Oberholtzer said he figured Pfizer’s cutbacks might offer the perfect opportunity. He was right. The Chicago-based intellectual property law firm, which has 160 lawyers, has hired four of the former Pfizer attorneys who opted not to relocate with the company. The lead lawyer in the group, William Boudreaux, 42, has already lined up a major pharmaceutical company � not Pfizer � as a new client. The lawyers, whose experience is largely in the patent law area, believe they can do the same work as outside counsel that they did in-house for Pfizer, Boudreaux said. “You can really put together virtual patent departments for clients,” he said. The patent work is key for pharmaceutical and biotech companies because they’re continually inventing new drugs and devices that require patents to protect the intellectual property from being used by other companies. Cuts turn to gains As some other companies in the industry � including Amgen Inc., Boston Scientific Corp. and Johnson & Johnson � try to slash costs, more highly specialized attorneys could flow into the legal marketplace. Many of the companies that are restructuring face the expiration of revenue-generating patents during the next several years, Boudreaux said. Spokespeople for Amgen and Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on which jobs are being cut. Calls to Boston Scientific weren’t returned. Raj M. Nichani, a legal recruiter and vice president at Atlanta-based Hughes & Sloan Inc., said he’s seen an estimated 10% to 15% increase this year in the number of in-house attorneys coming out of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. “A lot of these folks are ending up on their feet because they’re well-qualified individuals,” he said. Brinks Hofer is betting that the four attorneys, who collectively have worked at pharmaceutical companies for 30-some years, will be able to turn their industry contacts into clients. The first client that Boudreaux has lined up, a Midwest pharmaceutical company that he declined to identify, has moved its patent portfolio to the Hofer Brinks team in Ann Arbor, he said.

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