Three-year-old central Pennsylvania firm Saxton & Stump has launched an intellectual property practice, bringing on a partner from another local firm to form its third new practice area in less than a year.
Saxton & Stump has brought on shareholder Bruce Wolstoncroft from McNees Wallace & Nurick to lead the IP practice. Also joining the practice is senior counsel Helen Odar Wolstoncroft. The two lawyers are married.
Bruce Wolstoncroft spent nearly a decade at McNees Wallace. Before that, he practiced in-house at Armstrong World Industries, where he managed the intellectual property department. He was previously a partner at Barley Snyder, another central Pennsylvania firm.
Odar Wolstoncroft also has in-house legal experience, having worked most recently at Lititz-based Tait Towers, which designs and constructs equipment used for concerts and other live events. She also worked at Barley Snyder in the past, but joined that firm after her husband had gone in-house.
The two lawyers have different and complementary technology backgrounds, Bruce Wolstoncroft said—he knows more about mechanical technology, and she is better versed in chemicals. “It just made perfect sense” to practice together, he said.
Wolstoncroft said he was interested in joining Saxton & Stump after hearing more about the firm from contacts who had joined in recent months. He hadn’t been actively seeking a lateral move, he said, but it seemed like the right place for his practice because of its strength in litigation and openness using newer law firm technology to manage projects and client costs.
“Saxton & Stump has a lot of buzz in the marketplace. You hear about them,” he said. “They have a proven record of helping develop practices.”
Wolstoncroft declined to describe the size of his book of business. He said much of his clientele, which ranges from entrepreneurs to large companies and corporations, is joining him in the move to Saxton & Stump.
In a statement about the new practice, firm CEO James Saxton said Bruce and Helen Wolstoncroft complement a growing business and corporate practice, noting the addition of shareholder Kathy Granbois in that group earlier this year. He said the firm will continue to add lawyers this year.
“Bruce and Helen’s capabilities also bolster our commercial litigation practice as we already have several commercial litigators, many with engineering backgrounds,” Saxton said. “Expanding our corporate and business practice, as well as litigation in these areas has been an important part of our strategic plan.”
While firms all over the country have been expanding their intellectual property practices, some firms have been pulling away from patent prosecution work, such as Pennsylvania’s Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, and large Boston-based firm Ropes & Gray, which spun off its patent prosecution group. Bruce Wolstoncroft acknowledged both of those trends.
“There still has to be a market for obtaining the intellectual property,” he said. “Without the patent or trademark, the litigation doesn’t go very far.”
Large firms may not be able to afford the overhead associated with a full-service IP practice, he said, but smaller and midsize firms may be better situated to do so. While Saxton & Stump has a similar rate structure to McNees Wallace, Bruce Wolstoncroft said, the overhead costs are different.
“Being with a firm like Saxton & Stump … allows us to continue doing those things in a manner that benefits our clients, and in a cost-effective manner,” he said.
Saxton & Stump was founded in 2015, when a group of 16 lawyers left midsize law firm Stevens & Lee to start their own shop with a focus on the health care industry. The firm has since grown to more than 80 professionals, including medical, health policy and human resources consultants. The firm recently opened an office in Malvern, adding to its Lancaster and Harrisburg locations.
Saxton & Stump made a number of lateral hires earlier in the year, and added several new services. It launched a human resources consulting subsidiary in February, acquiring HR firm Elsner Bell. It also added a trusts and estates practice in January and a construction law practice in September, hiring partners from two other central Pennsylvania law firms.
McNees Wallace declined to comment on Bruce Wolstoncroft’s departure.