Fish & Richardson

Boston-based firm Fish & Richardson has undergone a raft of changes in the past 20 years.

During its 125-year history, the firm has been most noted for providing IP advice to clients including Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright Brothers.

However, the firm has recently branched out both from Boston and IP. It now boasts litigation and corporate practices and has offices in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Delaware, New York, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Twin Cities and Washington DC.

President Peter Devlin explained: “We realised that, if we were to thrive, we had to grow. But rather than try to grow in one or two markets, we wanted to build a national firm with offices in every region we operated in.”

Devlin said the impetus behind Fish & Richardson’s push for expansion were changes to US patent legislation in the late 1980s, which turned IP from a niche practice into a “marquee” one.

The firm’s first office outside Boston was set up in DC, home of the US Patent and Trademark Office, the International Trade Commission (ITC) and the Federal Court of Appeal, the appeal court for patent disputes.

Devlin said Silicon Valley was another “logical step”, while an office in the US financial centre of New York was essential if the firm “was to be a major player”.

Boston remains the firm’s largest office and three of the firm’s six partners on its management board are based in the city (the others are from Minnesota, Dallas and San Diego). However, Devlin is at pains to stress that Boston is not the firm’s headquarters.

“We’re a firm without a headquarters. We make it very clear to our clients in each market that our office there is not just a regional outpost,” he says. Devlin also stresses that each office was staffed by tactical hires in the region, not by sending an emissary.

Devlin said Fish & Richardson’s domestic plans for 2006 are straightforward, namely “growing [its] IP and corporate practices through lateral hires”.

Devlin regards his main competitors as “large general practice firms with large IP practices” such as Kirkland & Ellis and Weil Gotshal & Manges, along with specialist IP firms such as Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner and Kenyon & Kenyon.

President: Peter Devlin
Turnover (2005): $246m (£141m)
Total number of lawyers: 350
Total number of partners: 100 (all equity)
Main practice areas: corporate, IP, litigation
Key clients: 3M, Bennetton, Gillette, Harvard University, Nokia, Velcro USA
Number of offices: 10
Locations: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Dallas, Delaware, New York, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Twin Cities, Washington DC