Irell & Manella’s intellectual property practice spans the globe, but its offices don’t. The firm operates from just two Southern California locales — Los Angeles and Newport Beach — but litigation chairman Morgan Chu insisted the firm’s limited physical presence has been a plus for its practice.
The operation was built from the ground up beginning in the late 1970s, Chu said — in contrast to firms that acquired boutiques or made significant lateral hires. Of Irell’s approximately 180 lawyers, 120 or so have experience with intellectual property or technology-related litigation.
Having lawyers who work near each other and enjoy a history of collaboration has been a major element in the firm’s successes, he said. "When you’re doing things on a group basis, as a team, knowing the attributes of the other members of the team makes the team much better. Knowing each other — that gives us an enormous advantage."
Thanks to new technology including electronic filing and video conferencing, Chu said, the firm has hardly been hamstrung by its lack of offices outside California. He pointed to Irell’s representation of TiVo Inc. as an example of how the firm has managed complex litigation playing out in distant jurisdictions.
In January 2012, the firm secured a $215 million settlement for TiVo, resolving a patent suit and countersuit involving AT&T Inc. several days before a trial was scheduled to begin in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
Then, TiVo announced in September that it had reached a $250 million settlement with Verizon Communications Inc. in another patent case also in the Eastern District of Texas.
The settlement meant Irell had recovered more than $1 billion for TiVo to date.
Chu, one of several senior partners leading the TiVo litigation, said the firm’s centralized operations gave it an advantage. TiVo’s opponents, he said, "had different groups of people together from different law firms and locations. It was much more difficult for them to coordinate what was going on, and expensive."
The firm is expecting continued growth in health and information technology-related intellectual property work, Chu said. He highlighted energy, food and agriculture, and water as other areas in which intellectual property work would likely pick up in the near future.
"Our ambition is to continue with that maniacal focus on quality," he said.