Wiley Rein's Washington, D.C. offices on K Street, NW.
Wiley Rein’s Washington, D.C. offices on K Street, NW. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ)

Wiley Rein picked up three intellectual property lawyers this week after the merger of two other firms created a conflict among their drug industry clients.

Neal Seth, Lawrence Sung and Mary Sylvia left Baker & Hostetler in January after it combined with a boutique intellectual property firm in Philadelphia. The three attorneys, who join Wiley as partners, took their generic drug company clients with them. They declined to name the clients.

Late last year, the Philadelphia firm Woodcock Washburn had 68 lawyers and brand-name drug companies as clients. As Woodcock prepared to merge with the larger Baker & Hostetler, a client conflict arose.

The three lawyers’ clients, generic drug companies, didn’t mesh with Woodcock’s brand-name pharmaceutical client roster, according to James Wallace, chairman of Wiley’s IP group, which works with generic drug companies.

Generic drug companies and brand-name manufacturers sometime get into fights over patents. Law firms in these battles make ethical and business decisions rooted in client interests. In this situation, Baker & Hostetler chose to keep Woodcock’s brand-name pharmaceutical book of business, Seth said.

Representatives from Baker & Hostetler were not immediately reached for comment Thursday.

Sung, 48, emailed Wallace while he was traveling in Prague between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The following week, when he returned to the United States, the lawyers met for lunch, Wallace said.

“It was unanimous. This was the greatest find we’ve ever gotten,” Wallace said. “This was just a no-brainer from our standpoint.”

One reason Seth and his colleagues chose Wiley, he said, was the firm’s size.

Wiley is “very nimble,” Seth, 37, said. “It’s able to move quickly. In today’s age of megafirms spread out over cities, that’s hard to find.”

Wiley has about 275 lawyers while Baker & Hostetler boasts three times that number, with almost 900 after the merger.

Seth, Sung and Sylvia began work at Wiley on Monday. The three focus primarily on the biotechnology, biology and pharmaceutical fields. Sylvia, 53, specializes in biotech, and Sung holds a doctorate in microbiology. Seth defends claims of patent infringement in manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

Contact Katelyn Polantz at kpolantz@alm.com. On Twitter: @kpolantz.