Recently we received a press release announcing that six prominent patent and litigation attorneys had left the international law firm of Dorsey & Whitney LLP to join the growing Intellectual Property team at Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A. The addition of these six attorneys brings the total number of IP lawyers at Winthrop & Weinstine up to 30.
This got us thinking that maybe this move is part of what seems to be a continuing trend in the intellectual property industry. With so many large firms vanishing and small to medium size firms flourishing. So I sat down to talk with Scott Dongoske, president, and Deb Cochran, marketing director, of Winthrop & Weinstine for a conversation.
RENEE QUINN: I know that Dorsey & Whitney is one of the largest law firms in the United States. They have about 600 attorneys internationally. And I understand that currently your firm has 100 attorneys, 30 of which are under patent law. So by adding 6 more, you are basically quadrupling the size of your patent department. Why were you interested in growing that service area within your firm?
SCOTT DONGOSKE: First of all, and most importantly, the clients requested it. As you know by reporting in this area, not that long ago, a lot of patent work was done by patent boutique firms, and within the past decade, we have seen that in order to be a full-service business law firm, you need to be more in the patent and broader intellectual property realm. So that was one of our reasons to expand in this area.
RENEE QUINN: Now the six attorneys that joined the firm are focusing on litigation, is that correct?
SCOTT DONGOSKE: No, it is both. There are four litigation attorneys and two prosecution attorneys, although there is a little cross over in there.
RENEE QUINN: OK. It seems that over the last 10 years the patent community has seen many of the largest, oldest firms start to vanish. For example, Darby & Darby in 2010 and Morgan & Finnegan in 2009. So I think that many people think that as a result of the recession, the larger firms will continue to find it difficult to keep their attorneys and that the industry is shifting toward firms large enough to offer a complete range of services, but are mid-size or small compared with giant firms. Do you think this move is furthering the trend already developing?
SCOTT DONGOSKE: We agree with your trend. I think that is our market niche and it is working well for us. I think some of the very large firms, although they are very profitable and do fine overall, in our particular community we can be a better full-service firm for someone. We are focused here on the companies in town. On the other hand, there are still firms getting bigger, as well. But I think that for the mid-sized firms that are entrepreneurial firms like ours, we can be nimble, we can be quick, and we can provide the services that I think in some instances the larger firms cannot.
RENEE QUINN: I am not a patent attorney myself, but I have met a lot of patent attorneys and patent professionals that work at different firms. And I find that more and more do have a plethora of services that they offer. It seems that they are offering not only intellectual property services but also other things as well.
SCOTT DONGOSKE: Oh, maybe I misunderstood you, Renee. If you are talking about very large patent and intellectual property firms, I do think that is a trend. Mid-sized firms are trying to get intellectual property lawyers. So I think that it is a struggle to be solely a patent firm.
RENEE QUINN: Exactly.
SCOTT DONGOSKE: Yes, I think the mega boutique is a tough model right now.
RENEE QUINN: Typically what I have seen is that firms that did litigation were different than the firms that were doing solely IP. But is seems to me that the IP firms are starting to add litigation to the services their firms offer, as well. And what interested me most about your press release was that four of the six attorneys coming to your firm do practice litigation.
SCOTT DONGOSKE: Yes. I think, interestingly enough, it used to be that intellectual property as a whole, but patents in particular, were parceled out to specialized firms. And with technology the way it is today, everything involves technology and branding and licensing and intellectual property. It is hard to be a litigator and not also be involved with intellectual property. So a general service firm is going to provide intellectual property litigation. And I think that with a patent firm, if they were just doing patent litigation, most cases would include other types of claims.
RENEE QUINN: Right. From my end of things at IPWatchdog, I bring in a lot of the advertisers that are on our website, I have always been looking for a primarily patent litigation firm and it is very hard to find. Because it seems that all firms are adding additional services and doing more things to meet their client’s’ needs.
SCOTT DONGOSKE: Well, if you think about it, if you’ve got a patent case, there is probably a breach of contract claim in there, and there are various other claims in there that are not specifically patent related.
RENEE QUINN: Right, and I’m learning that as well. Gene is the attorney here, but I am learning a lot. Are you planning on bringing on more patent attorneys or patent litigators beside these six that you just brought on?
SCOTT DONGOSKE: Well, that is an interesting question. If this goes well, I suspect we will want to add additional patent attorneys. I do not have any particular goals and I don’t see it in the near future. It is not like we are trying to triple the size of this department. The reason we did this is because we thought we needed to have more patent and intellectual property litigation and patent prosecution attorneys. And I think that will continue.
RENEE QUINN: I wanted to also ask you if you are looking for any particular areas of innovation, such as electrical, mechanical, chemical, bio, tech or pharma? Is there a specific area that you are hoping to really branch out into?
SCOTT DONGOSKE: Well, that is why this was such a great fit. In addition to the fact that we really like the people, the group that we just brought in really helps us hit those areas. We had some patent prosecution lawyers and we had some patent litigators, but now we really cover all of those areas. So it gives us depth.
RENEE QUINN: Excellent! Well, that was all of the specific questions I had for you, so now it is open-ended and I would like to invite you to share any additional information you’d like us to share with our readers.
SCOTT DONGOSKE: First, I’d like to say thank you for taking this call. We are very excited about this opportunity and about the people who have joined us. We are very enthused and happy about it. Deb, do you have anything to share?
DEB COCHRAN: Yes. I think that one of the great things about bringing these attorneys over, Renee is that they are so smart and so talented and they really have so much experience and expertise in what they do. And I think it is going to be very inspiring for our clients and for their clients to be associated with us. So I think it just a great opportunity all around. Particularly just coming out of the recession.
RENEE QUINN: It is about time! Right?
SCOTT DONGOSKE: No doubt! I agree with you on that!
DEB COCHRAN: So I think it is just really exciting. I think that what Scott and the board have done here is very exciting. It is a great direction for the firm and it is giving us a lot of momentum for the future and we are now just over 100 attorneys. So that is also pretty exciting.
RENEE QUINN: Yes, definitely. Now I don’t know if you can share this with me, but what brought about this particular change? How did it happen that six folks came to you from another firm? Is that something you can share with me?
SCOTT DONGOSKE: Yes, I think I can. In the last couple of years we have been talking about getting stronger in this area. We have been looking for the right opportunities and you start looking for who in town might be right if you can get them to come. I had heard that one of the partners might be thinking about leaving so I started talking to him and it was quickly apparent that we both thought that there were a lot of things that would be beneficial if the group were to move. We ended up of course just talking to the two partners and brought them along and ultimately the entire group decided to join us. It took about a week to get everybody here. When we sat down with the two partners we realized it was a great fit. Our firm is very entrepreneurial, we are growing and we would like to add people who have strategic ideas and these folks did have them, so it was a great fit. How it came about was we were literally looking and keeping our eyes open and when we heard that somebody on our potential target list was looking, we moved fast.