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It’s been an active year for intellectual property hiring across the country, and Pennsylvania firms are no exception to the trend.

Most recently, Pepper Hamilton announced earlier this month that it had hired IP partner John Isacson from Perkins Coie in Washington, D.C. Pepper Hamilton also added two IP partners earlier this year from Andrews Kurth Kenyon, now called Hunton Andrews Kurth. Isacson said in a statement that Pepper Hamilton’s large health sciences department was a good fit for his IP practice, which is focused on pharmaceuticals and biologics.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius also made a mega-group IP hire in August when it recruited well over 50 lawyers and staff from McDermott Will & Emery‘s IP practice, including 16 partners spread out across its offices in Chicago, Orange County, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Mark Itri, one of the leading partners in that group, said IP was clearly a priority for Morgan Lewis, which is what attracted him to the global firm. IP practice leader Eric Kraeutler said the new group placed Morgan Lewis at the top in terms of IP practice size at a full-service firm.

But it’s not just large firms growing national practices. Two midsize firms added local IP lawyers this summer, looking to capitalize on their lower rate structures.

Midsize boutique Saxton & Stump added an IP practice for the first time earlier this year when it hired partner Bruce Wolstoncroft from McNees Wallace & Nurick and senior counsel Helen Odar Wolstoncroft.

In a previous interview, Bruce Wolstoncroft acknowledged that some firms have been doubling down on their IP practices, while others have been pulling away from certain IP areas, particularly patent prosecution. He said midsize firms are sometimes better able to offer a full-service IP practice because they aren’t priced out of lower-rate IP work by the high overhead costs that Big Law firms often have.

“There still has to be a market for obtaining the intellectual property,” Wolstoncroft said. “Without the patent or trademark, the litigation doesn’t go very far.”

Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads also added an IP practice in June when it hired partners Alfred Zaher and Shawn Li from Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. Zaher said the firm’s smaller size is an asset to him as he works with clients seeking greater efficiency.

“In today’s competitive legal market you have to be either very big, or smaller and nimble,” Zaher said. “You don’t have to have sky-high rates to afford the platform” at a midsize firm.

“IP itself has been in demand for a long time. I just don’t see it changing anytime soon,” said legal recruiter Frank D’Amore of Attorney Career Catalysts. D’Amore said when he talks with law firms about areas where they might make hires, IP is always at the top of the list.

And it’s not just Pennsylvania firms making such moves.

Fenwick & West, Goodwin Procter and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton have all hired groups of IP lawyers this year as well. And in August, Venable announced a merger with New York-based IP firm Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto. Stinson Leonard Street also acquired an IP-focused shop over the summer in St. Louis, while mid-market focused Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease acquired a 10-lawyer IP boutique in Pittsburgh in April.


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