International Firm Profile: Townsend

San Francisco-based IP firm Townsend and Townsend and Crew was built on the back of the California gold rush, initially servicing goldmining clients. In the 100-odd years since, it has survived not only the end of the rush, but the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the bursting of the dotcom bubble.

Firm:

Townsend and Townsend and Crew
Managing partner: Jim Gilliland
Turnover: $110m (£58.23m)
Profit per equity partner: $1.35m (£710,000)
Total number of lawyers: 175
Total number of partners: 80 (58 equity)
Main practice areas: patents, litigation, trademarks
Key clients: Altera, Applied Materials, Fairchild Semiconductors, Hitachi, Hynix, Logitech, US National
Institute of Health, Oracle, Sony, University of California, Visa
Number of offices: Six
Locations: San Francisco (HQ), Palo Alto, Walnut Creek (California), Denver, Seattle, San Francisco

San Francisco-based IP firm Townsend and Townsend and Crew was built on the back of the California gold rush, initially servicing goldmining clients. In the 100-odd years since, it has survived not only the end of the rush, but the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the bursting of the dotcom bubble.

The firm’s work overall is split 50-40-10 between patents, litigation and trademarks, says chairman Jim Gilliland, and it has 175 lawyers working out of seven offices.

As reported by The Lawyer earlier this month (1 May), it will shortly be opening in Tokyo.

As well as advising Townsend’s US clients on Japanese law, Akiba will also advise Asian clients on US law, including Japanese Sony (electronics), Seiko Epson (watches and printers), South Korean Hynix (semiconductors) and Kumho (tyres).

Gilliland explains that, while the San Francisco HQ is the best location in California for the majority of the firm’s international clients, IT and technology clients benefit from the Palo Alto office, while nearby Walnut Creek is an ancillary office to escape punitive Bay Area property prices.

Seattle was opened in the belief that the area was shortly to see a biotechnology, electronics and software boom, which Gilliland is frank in admitting never materialised; and the six-lawyer team of outriders has been content without further additions since.

Denver was opened on a similar basis, this time focusing on biotechnology, but Gilliland says: “It turned out the best place for biotechnology was San Diego.”

Focusing on biotechnology, chemistry, high-tech, electronics and telecoms clients, Gilliland says San Diego is “the market for start-up companies – some related to the University of California, others to the Scripps Institute”.

“There’s a demand for additional legal services, and law firms from all over the United States are opening there,” he adds. “It may soon be that there are more lawyers than clients.”

The firm is also exploring the possibility of opening an East Coast office in the next year in New York, Washington DC or both, he says, principally for the benefit of the firm’s Asia clients.

“In California we’re as close to them as can be, but the US Patent [and Trademark] Office is there, as is the International Trade Commission and the court of appeal for patent disputes. If I have my way, we’ll be in New York.”
2005 PEP was a weighty $1.35m (£710,000), but Gilliland says this was largely due to a victory against Intel, and $600,000 (£317,600) to $650,000 (£344,100) is more typical.

Gilliland says Townsend will remain an IP specialist. “There’s been pressure to consolidate, but our partners are committed to the belief that there’s room for an excellent speciality firm. Our goal is to remain independent.”

And to grow. Gilliland plans to grow the firm to between 200 and 250 lawyers within five years.