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BOSTON � A small intellectual property boutique has mixed high-octane client work with workplace flexibility to achieve a female partnership rate of 54% in a field that is largely dominated by men. Lahive & Cockfield was compelled to innovate when Boston’s largest firms began making a serious commitment to intellectual property in the late 1990s and early 2000s, competing for work and luring away Lahive lawyers. The 30-lawyer firm countered with more flexible work policies coupled with a compensation structure that rewarded a mix of skills, including billing, business generation, client maintenance and associate mentoring. “We didn’t want to encourage attorneys building their own practice in isolation,” said Giulio A. DeConti Jr., chairman of the executive committee. “We wanted to encourage being like a firm.” Lahive fully embraces the notion of full-time flexibility, or allowing attorneys to vary their hours and office time while juggling a full workload. Today, seven of Lahive & Cockfield’s 13 partners are women and a full pipeline of women are waiting to move up the ranks, including 67% of its patent agents and 58% of its technical specialists. Patent agents, who can represent patent applicants at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and technical specialists typically have advanced science or technical degrees and are usually attending law school part-time. The firm has 18 patent agents and technical specialists. Not a ‘sleepy firm’ DeConti said Lahive’s flexible policies haven’t detracted from its competitive edge and ability to attract A-list clients such as pharmaceutical companies Biogen Idec Inc., Novartis A.G. and Wyeth. The firm also advises Abbott Laboratories on patents related to its Humira antibody drug, which treats rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. “We’re not a sleepy firm with a mediocre practice,” DeConti said. “It probably rivals any other intellectual property practice in the city.” The firm’s total annual billings top $30 million and its hourly billing rates range from $250 to $350 for associates, $210 to $325 for patent agents and technical specialists and $425 to $600 for partners. About 80% of Lahive’s practice is filing patents and counseling clients on intellectual property issues, including due diligence and writing opinions. About 15% is litigation and the rest includes trade secrets and trademark work. Lahive’s client work initially attracts lawyers and technical specialists, but the flexible compensation system and work structure that enables a work/life balance motivates many to stay, said partner Amy Baker Mandragouras. “We look at who the person is and are they contributing to the firm and serving on a path of excellence,” Mandragouras said. Much of Lahive’s growth is organic, rather than through lateral hires, Mandragouras added. The firm is poised for more growth when the agents and specialists graduate from law school. Lahive’s female partnership numbers are striking, particularly considering that intellectual property tends to be a male-dominated practice area, said Holly English, president of the National Association of Women Lawyers and of counsel to Post, Polak, Goodsell, MacNeill & Strauchler in Roseland, N.J. About 16% of equity partners are female, according to the National Association of Women Lawyers 2007 Survey of the Status of Women in Law Firms released earlier this month. The survey responses are from 112 law firms among the AmLaw 200 ranking of the nation’s highest-revenue law firms compiled by The American Lawyer, an affiliate of The National Law Journal. “The basic picture is one that hasn’t changed sufficiently over the past 10 years,” English said. “The percentage of women partners has gone up very slowly.” Firms with a higher percentage of female partners have achieved that through flexible policies, not by accident, said Framingham, Mass.-based real estate and environmental lawyer Lauren Stiller Rikleen of Worcester, Mass.-based Bowditch & Dewey. “We’re expected to bring work home with us, so we’ve got to be able to integrate our family needs into our daytime lives,” said Rikleen, who is also executive director of the firm’s Bowditch Institute for Women’s Success consulting subsidiary. “Recognizing that people are willing to be responsive and responsible does solve a lot of the difficulties around the work/family juggle.”

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