When NTP Inc. inked its $612.5 million settlement with Research in Motion Ltd. on March 3, lawyers at Wiley Rein & Fielding let out a collective sigh of relief. The deal, after all, was a victory for Wiley partner James Wallace, whose efforts helped end months of uncertainty over whether RIM’s popular BlackBerry device would be shut down indefinitely.
Since 2001, Wallace and a crew of attorneys have shepherded NTP’s patent infringement suit through multiple appeals and negotiations until the final round at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s New York office earlier this month. Those efforts are about to bear some choice fruit.
Wiley is expected to reap more than one-third of the settlement in the case, which the firm took on contingency. The payout of more than $200 million plus expenses — the largest single payout in the firm’s 23-year history — is more than Wiley’s annual revenue.
“Everybody has taken great interest in this case,” Wallace says. Every employee of the firm is expected to share some part of the profits, although the percentage will be weighed heavily toward the equity partners.
Wiley isn’t the only firm with a significant stake in the case. Hunton & Williams handled the intellectual property work for NTP, although its hourly rate wasn’t quite as remunerative as Wiley’s share. RIM has cycled through a series of firms including Jones Day, then Howrey, and, in the past year, Howard Rice and McKenna, Long & Aldridge.
But the case will have the most significant impact at Wiley. Founded by former Federal Communications Commission chair Richard Wiley, the firm has built its name around telecommunications work. With the sudden infusion of cash, some of the firm’s graying partnership may opt for part-time schedules or retire altogether.
Such an exodus could mean big changes for a firm whose founding fathers are still regulars at the office and could allow for its highest-billing partners to finally ascend to the top.
But chairman Dick Wiley won’t entertain such talk. “I don’t anticipate any retirements, frankly,” he says. “But who knows? Certainly not Dick Wiley.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.