Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, which by the end of October will become Womble Bond Dickinson following a cross-border union with former alliance partner Bond Dickinson, has brought on a trio of intellectual property partners from McCarter & English for its new Boston office.
Danielle Herritt, Deborah Vernon and Cristin Cowles have joined Womble Carlyle’s IP practice. The trio specialize in assisting clients in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries to prosecute, license and maintain their patent portfolios.
Womble Carlyle, which is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, set up shop in Boston on Sept. 1. The office, the firm’s first in the Northeast and New England, was started to try and capitalize on the city’s strong legal market and serve clients in the booming biotechnology and life sciences industries.
“It basically comes down to clients [and] each of our offices has been opened in response to client needs,” said Sarah Keefe, who relocated from Raleigh to become managing partner of Womble’s Carlyle’s Boston office.
Boston had long been on the firm’s radar for expansion with many of Womble Carlyle’s clients having operations in and around the city, Keefe said. When the opportunity to bring on Herritt, Vernon and Cowles presented itself, the decision to open a Boston base became a no-brainer, she said.
“You have the whole spectrum of companies over in Cambridge and in the rest of Massachusetts, so every walk of life in the life science field is in the area,” said Cowles (pictured right), adding that her group’s clients were keen on expanding their presence across the state and elsewhere.
The three new hires, which utilized the services of legal recruitment giant Major, Lindsey & Africa in their move from McCarter & English, have spent the majority of their careers in the Boston area and decided to join Womble Carlyle in part due to that firm’s growing platform.
Herritt, who began her legal career in 1986 as an associate at Boston-based Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault, said the opportunity for her and her two other colleagues to grow a “base for our clients” was one they ultimately couldn’t turn down. It was at Testa Hurwitz where Herritt started working alongside Vernon, who joined the now-defunct firm in 2000 as a technology specialist.
Vernon then moved on to Fish & Richardson in 2003 before joining Proskauer Rose as an associate a year later. After seven years at Proskauer in Boston, Vernon joined McCarter & English in 2011. After six years at Testa Hurwitz, Herritt left the latter in 2002 for Lahive & Cockfield, where she started working with Cowles, who had joined the Boston-based IP boutique as a technical specialist and patent agent in 2001 before becoming an associate at the firm five years later.
Cowles and Vernon then joined McCarter & English as partners in the firm’s IP and information technology practice in 2009, a year before Lahive & Cockfield was absorbed by Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. Herritt said that she, Cowles and Vernon (pictured right) already share many of the same clients who were thrilled that they could now reap the benefits of Womble Carlyle’s expanding footprint following the completion of its combination with Bond Dickinson on Nov. 1.
Womble Carlyle announced its tie-up with Bond Dickinson in early June, branding itself as a “new breed of transatlantic law firm” that has the ability to corner the middle market internationally. Elizabeth “Betty” Temple, Womble Carlyle’s first female chair, is slate to become co-chair of Womble Bond Dickinson’s alongside Bond Dickinson managing partner Jonathan Blair.
The combined firm will have more than 1,000 lawyers across 24 offices around the world, with gross revenue estimated at $415 million. The deal also gives Womble Carlyle a larger footprint in the U.K. than any other Am Law 200 firm.
Keefe, who also heads Womble Carlyle’s trademarks, copyrights and transactions practice, said that the impending merger will be a positive force for the firm’s new Boston operation and will assist Bond Dickinson in serving its legacy clients post-combination.
“Boston has for a long time had a very close economic connection with Europe and the U.K. in particular,” Keefe said. “When we began talking with our future colleagues and partners at Bond Dickinson about the Boston opportunity they were as excited as our U.S. based partners with regard to the opportunities from the Boston market.”
But as Womble Carlyle prepares to make the transition at month’s end from national to international firm, another more pressing issue looms on the horizon. Winston the Bulldog, a leader of Womble Carlyle’s marketing endeavors, is also prepared to reacquaint himself with his British lineage at the combined firm.
There is no word, however, on whether Winston will be allowed to wear a New England Patriots jersey when visiting the Boston office.