US IP market hots up as law firms fight for talent

Growing demand for patent litigation expertise has led to a goldrush for lawyers in the US.

More than 10 high-profile IP partners have moved firms in the last six weeks, often moving from national firms to international full-service firms.

Howrey’s Chicago office has scooped all of Motorola’s US patent work with the hire of electronics specialist Jonathan Retsky from IP firm Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione.

Retsky said: “I think the competition is for two things: experienced and qualified lawyers with the right technical background and competition for business.

“Since larger firms have entered the IP market, competition for partners with business has intensified.”

Before joining Brinks four years ago, Retsky headed Motorola’s 50-strong patent team. “I think my situation is very unique,” he said. “I have a personal relationship with the client. Almost all the work I do is for Motorola.”

Other big moves include WilmerHale biotech specialist Matthew Langer, who joined the New York office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati at the beginning of August; McDermott Will & Emery took on Laurence Berman, founder of IP boutique Berman Mausner & Resser; Winston & Strawn hired Nixon Peabody partner Raymond Van Dyke; and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher scooped Jones Day partner Mark Reiter for the role of co-chair of the IP group.

Demand is outstripping supply for the highly technical areas of biotechnology and electrical engineering.

“In the States everyone wants someone with an established book of business, especially in electrical engineering,” said Retsky. “That’s the hottest area along with biotech, and there’s more demand than supply for lawyers in that area. Not everyone out of law school is an electrical engineer.”

Many of the partner hires have come through the opening of new offices.

National firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge has hired three IP partners in six weeks, with two coming from Kratz Quintos & Hanson to launch the firm’s Washington DC office. And West Coast firm Cooley Godward Kronish launched a Boston office with the hire of four IP partners.