As entrenched as Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner is in the intellectual property field, it no doubt has potential hires beating at its doors. Even so, the Washington-based firm has been picking up the tab for staffers to go to law school for nearly a decade in an effort to grow talent organically.

The unusually generous reimbursement program, which enables students to work part time while they attend law school, recently gained the attention of The Washington Post and the legal blogosphere. The media marveled at the idea of an essentially free J.D. bestowed amid a tight job market and skyrocketing tuition costs.

"The overall objective is to attract the best people and to enhance their training," managing partner Barbara McCurdy said. "We want to attract people who are technically adept and bring them in as students."

If the firm’s results during the past year are any indication, that strategy and others within the 370-­attorney intellectual property firm are working well. Most notably, partner Donald Dunner in August secured a victory on behalf of Internet content-delivery service Akamai Technologies Inc. In a divided en banc ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected its own rule requiring that, to prevail on a theory of "induced infringement" of a method patent, a plaintiff must show that a single actor (besides the defendant) directly infringed all the steps covered by the patent. Henceforth, inducement will apply even when the steps recited in the patented method were performed by multiple parties. The ruling made it easier for plaintiffs to win in cases involving infringing acts committed by more than one actor.

Finnegan represented HTC Corp. and its subsidiary S3 Graphics Co. in a series of cases before a federal trial court and the U.S. International Trade Commission involving Apple Inc. and one of its suppliers relating to patent technologies. The parties in November announced a 10-year licensing agreement that ended the litigation. "We continue to be a go-to firm on the short list of the most important IP cases for the industry," McCurdy said.

Finnegan attorneys have handled due diligence, licensing, patent re-examinations and more for pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. (a recent spinoff of Abbott Laboratories). They helped AOL Inc. reach an agreement with Microsoft Corp. to sell more than 800 patents and license an additional 300. The value of that deal was reported to be $1.06 billion. The effective price of about $1.2 million per patent is the highest on record.