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Can you trust anyone under 50? That was the question confronting the first generation of leaders at Washington, D.C.’s Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner about six years ago. Rather than overstay their welcome, they turned the firm over to a handful of up-and-coming partners and chose Thomas Jenkins, a quiet, 45-year-old patent attorney, to run the firm. “A lot of first-generation managements hang around too long,” recalls Larry O’Rourke, 64, the current head of the Palo Alto, Calif. office. “We wanted to tap into the new guard’s energy while we were still spry enough to help them along.” In 1965, Mark Finnegan and Douglas Henderson fled Washington, D.C.’s Irons, Birch, Swindler & McKee to set up an intellectual property firm. The firm grew quickly under the pair, and did well even after Finnegan’s death in 1979. So the 1996 wholesale power shift was risky — made even riskier by the young partners’ earliest moves. They opened offices in Palo Alto, Atlanta, Tokyo, and Brussels. And they supplemented their portfolio of Old Economy patent, trademark, and copyright work by branching into growth areas like high tech IP, patent interference, and international trade. In the old days, “the place was much less democratic, like a lot of smaller firms used to be,” says Robert Yoches, 48, a partner. Yoches credits the old guard for sensing the need for new blood. “It was expertly handled at the time,” he says, “and it’s paid off well for the firm.” How well? Since 1996, the firm has grown from 150 to 260 lawyers, eclipsing New York’s Fish & Neave and Kenyon & Kenyon as the largest IP specialty firm in the nation. According to The American Lawyer‘s recent listing of the 100 top-grossing law firms, the average Finnegan Henderson partners raked in close to $600,000 in 2000. And in IP Worldwide‘s accompanying survey, Fortune250 companies — including 3M Co., Eli Lilly and Co., Sun Microsystems, Inc., Nortel Networks Corp., American Home Products Corp., and L’Or�al Group — reported using Finnegan more than any other firm to handle their IP litigation and counseling work. AN APPELLATE STAR Jenkins gives a lot of credit to the firm’s appellate practice. Name partner Donald Dunner typically argues more cases a year at the Federal Circuit than any other lawyer in the country. Last year, he appeared eight times. “Dunner is the dean of the patent bar,” says Jon Grossman, a patent partner at Washington, D.C.’s Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin & Oshinsky. Due largely to Dunner, Finnegan Henderson has built a stellar reputation for appellate work. But the firm has had to overcome the perception that, in front of juries, its lawyers are as persuasive as, well, patent lawyers. In recent years, the firm has added Liam O’Grady, an assistant U.S. Attorney from the Eastern District of Virginia, sole practitioner John Lowe, and Gerald Ivey of New York-based Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker. Lowe’s tenure with the firm got off to a shaky start. He lost big trials on behalf of Xerox Corp. and Sony Corp. But both verdicts were later overturned. And he recently won two big patent infringement trials for Zeneca Inc. “They’ve worked hard at improving, and now their trial lawyers are as good as anyone’s,” says Richard Bauer, a patent lawyer in the Washington, D.C. office of Chicago’s Katten Muchin Zavis.Bauer’s comment notwithstanding, it’s become fashionable for large, general practice firms to disparage IP firms. These firms now leverage their strengths in other areas — like corporate and employment litigation — to lure top IP clients. And they’ve raided the IP firms for lawyers. Fish & Neave attorneys, including Palo Alto senior partner Edward Mullowney, have fled to New York’s Shearman & Sterling. Kenyon & Kenyon has lost lawyers, like senior partner Frank Pietriantonio, to San Francisco’s Cooley Godward. New York’s Pennie & Edmonds has been hit the hardest. The firm lost 38 attorneys in 2000 alone, several of them to big places like the Bay Area’s Cooley Godward and Chicago’s Winston & Strawn. The trend hasn’t yet caught up to Finnegan Henderson. “They’ve lost a couple of partners over the years,” says Dickstein’s Grossman, “but they haven’t had any wholesale departures.” But whether Finnegan Henderson can keep growing is an open question. “Firms that can truly offer one-stop shopping are catching up with the Finnegan Hendersons,” says Charles Garrison of Washington D.C.’s legal recruiting firm, Garrison & Sisson. If Jenkins feels threatened by the big firm menace, he doesn’t show it. Finnegan Henderson can throw as many bodies at huge cases as can a Kirkland & Ellis or Weil, Gotshal & Manges. “Our practice is deeper and broader than just about everyone else’s,” he says. The firm has no desire to sprout other departments. And that’s okay with some of the firm’s clients. “They’re great at what they do, and they have a remarkably deep bullpen,” says Egon Berg, an associate general counsel at American Home Products Corp. “Some general practice firms have good IP lawyers, but few have as many capable ones as Finnegan.” Two of those lawyers were slated to swap shoes on July 1. Christopher Foley, 47, a patent and trademark partner, will replace Jenkins as managing partner. His says his biggest jobs are to expand the firm’s regional offices and to “continue the path Tom set us on.” That is, until the next group of young partners have something else in mind. Statistics compiled by Jeni Gallagher.
Finnegan’s Force
American Home Products Corp.
Caterpillar Inc.
Eli Lilly and Co.
FedEx Corp.
Gateway Inc.
Georgia-Pacific Corp.
Hewlett-Packard Co.
Occidental Petroleum Corp.
PNC Financial Services Group Inc.
PPG Industries Inc.
Sun Microsystems Inc.
The Boeing Co.
The Coca-Cola Co.
Xerox Corp.

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