Interview Exclusive: Judge Richard Linn Part II

By Gene Quinn
March 12, 2013

Judge Richard Linn of the Federal Circuit, in chambers on Feb. 8, 2013.

On Friday, February 8, 2013, I had the honor to interview Judge Richard Linn of the Federal Circuit. We met in his chambers with the recording going for approximately 60 minutes. In Part I of the interview we discussed Judge Linn’s early interest in patent law and how he found himself appointed to replace the recently deceased Judge Giles Sutherland Rich. We then discussed engaging as a lawyer with civility while still zealously representing clients. That brought us to a topic near and dear to the Judge’s heart — the Inns of Court and the many patent focused Inns across the country that together make up the Richard Linn Inn Alliance.

In Part II of the interview, which appears below, we pick up with the discussion of the Inns of Court and further discuss civility and “Rambo style lawyering,” which Judge Linn explains was really the genesis behind the forming of the Inns of Court.

QUINN: I’m a member of the Pauline Newman Inn that meets at the Patent Office, and we’re members of the Linn Inn Alliance.  I mean, first off how does that feel?   How did it come about, I guess, maybe, first off.  Second is how does that feel that the entire industries, the lawyers, are lining up in droves to join the Linn Inn Alliance?  I would think that that is great evidence of what the industry does think of you and that this is really promulgated out of one Inn.

LINN: Well, I’ve been actively involved in the Inns of Court since I came onto the Court.   The American Inns of Court is a unique organization.  It plays a unique and important role in promoting ethics, civility and professionalism, and that’s what appeals to me.  In 2000, I started attending meetings of the Giles Rich Inn, which meets here at the Federal Circuit every month.  I’m lucky enough to fill the seat once occupied by Judge Rich.  We’re sitting here in my chambers, which once were Judge Rich’s chambers.  And when I first came on to the Court I felt a special responsibility to conduct myself in a way that would have made him proud, because he was always an icon in my eyes.


QUINN: Yes.

LINN: And I heard about the Giles Rich Inn, and I said, well, let me just go and attend one of these meetings.  It’s right here in the Federal Circuit, easy enough, and let me see what it’s all about and see if this organization meets up with his reputation.  So I went to the first meeting.   I walked into the courtroom and I saw Don Dunner and Bob Armitage and Todd Dickenson and Hal Wegner and so many other leaders of the community that I had known for years.  And then I saw all of the younger lawyers, and I saw how excited they were about being part of this.  It was a great meeting.  We had cocktails and then there was a program put on by members of the Inn and then we had dinner together.  It only lasted a couple of hours, but it was just a terrific experience.  And I thought the next month I’ll go again, and that was it, I was hooked.  I started going every month and continue to this day.  A lot of members of the Inn mentor law students or young lawyers.   One of my mentees was a young woman named Oliva Luk.  She was a student at American University when I first met her, and I spent a lot of time with her.   After she graduated, she continued an Associate member of the Inn.  Then she and her husband moved to Chicago, and she looked around for another Inner Court that she could join.  She found that there was no Inn of Court focused on IP in Chicago.  There were other Inns but they were general Inns, so she called me and said I would like to start a new Inn Court in Chicago focused on IP, what do you think?  I knew a lot of people there and I helped her put together an organizing committee and then much to my delight and surprise they decided to name the Inn after me.  I was honored and humbled.

I will never forget the inaugural meeting of that Inn. It was held in the ceremonial courtroom of the Northern District of Illinois Courthouse and when I walked into the courthouse there were signs all over that said Richard Linn American Inn of Court.  That was pretty amazing.  And when I walked into the courtroom, I saw it was packed with people.  There were four or five district court judges there.  Many leaders of the Bar were there, many of whom I had known for years.  And, again, lots of young lawyers eager to be a part of this new Inn.  I was absolutely thrilled. — Chicago was always a hot bed of IP activity but the same was true about many other cities:  New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Houston to name a few.  Up to that point in time there were only four other Inns of Court focused on IP:  the Giles Rich Inn, and there was an Inn in New Jersey, the John Lifland Inn; there was an Inn in Philadelphia called the Ben Franklin Inn; and one in San Francisco called the San Francisco Bay Area IP Inn of Court.  But that was it.

I thought if there’s that much support in Chicago, there will be the same support in all of these other cities.  So together with friends, we set out to form Inns in all of those places.  Over the course of the last several years we’ve managed to form Inns of Court in most  major cities; New York, Seattle, Boston, Denver, Dallas, Los Angeles and on and on.  So we have twenty in the United States and there is another one in Tokyo that will have its inaugural meeting in April of this year.  I’m planning to attend.  That Inn will be populated by not only Japanese lawyers that have either U.S. Bar membership or aspirations to obtain U.S. Bar membership but also American lawyers who are stationed in Tokyo with U.S. Law firms.

The Alliance you mentioned was another idea we had once we started forming all of these Inns around the country.  It just seemed a natural thing to form an alliance so that attorneys that are traveling from city to city – as patent attorneys are prone to do – would have the opportunity to attend meetings of sister Inns if they happen to be there on the day of the meeting.  Through the alliance, the Inns also share their creative programs.  It has worked out tremendously well.

I guess the last thing I would say is that I do think it’s making a difference.  I’m hearing stories now of lawyers who discover that their adverse counsel is a member of an Inn of Court that’s part of the Alliance.   Once they realize that, the litigation takes on a different tone.

QUINN: Really?  I mean —

LINN: It takes on a different tone. I’m not suggesting for a minute that the lawyers are not pressing their respective client’s interests, but they’re doing it with civility, with ethics, and with professionalism and that’s what it’s all about.

QUINN: Early on in my career when I was up in New Hampshire I was a member of the Daniel Webster Inn of Court.  I was a member there two to maybe three years, and it struck me that that was the whole point of the Inns of Court when it formed was to do that, and I always wondered whether they really were successful so it’s interesting to hear you say that.

LINN: Yes.  I think it really is working, and I am starting to hear those stories.  I heard a story from an attorney in Chicago just the other day that said he found out that his adversary was a member of another Inn of Court.  And, you know, it’s very difficult to slip into a Rambo mode against someone when you regularly sit down and have drinks and break bread with him or her at a meeting like an American Inn of Court meeting.

QUINN: Right.  It’s interesting, too, because I’ve heard — I have some friends that are old time examiners, you know, retired examiners, and one of them likes telling a story about how he always felt like this attorney was calling him stupid in the paper filings, you know, not saying it but, like talking down to him and then he would roll up his sleeves.

LINN: Yes.

QUINN: And then they met in person on an interview one time and he realized that, well, this guy was just an average guy. We’re all engineers and scientists, you know, so we’re challenged to some extent to communicate in writing to begin with.

LINN: Yes.

QUINN: And we’re hyper technical and we’re lawyers so we’ve got the double whammy against us, maybe.  And he said that just totally changed the dynamic between the two of them was that one face-to-face meeting.  And then everything from then forward he could read the papers and realize that, well, it’s not personal.  And then his was not personal going back.

While we are on the topic, let’s go down that path for a minute longer. Do you think there is really a reason to be optimistic in the Bar in general because it seems like sometimes civility almost doesn’t exist in litigation. I hear District Court Judges talk.  They say maybe it doesn’t exist more often than not in patent litigation.

LINN: Well, I think it would be naïve for me to even suggest that attorneys conduct themselves with civility as a regular matter in these cases.  I think that unfortunately there is still a great deal of incivility that’s going on and this whole Rambo style of lawyering that was the genesis for the idea of forming the American Inns of Court is still out there and may very well be the rule rather than the exception.  I’m not happy about that. I think that lawyers should conduct themselves privately the same way they would conduct themselves if they were having a discussion in front of a judge and that’s what their obligation is.  It’s like when you were a kid, in  thinking about what you do and how you act, you would ask yourself, “What would my parents say if they were sitting in the room?”  Well, it should be the same for a lawyer dealing with an adverse party in litigation.  What would the judge say if he was sitting in the room or reading the E-mails and letters being sent back and forth between counsel.  As a practical matter, I think we still have a lot of work to do to turn things around because that’s not what happens in a lot of cases.  I do think the American Inns of Court is playing a role in trying to overcome some of this bad behavior because when you get to know somebody and you break bread with them you conduct yourself a little differently.  Will we ever get to the point where everybody is always civil and professional? That may be difficult to expect, but it’s worth trying.

QUINN: Yeah. I think I would say it’s definitely worth trying out.  Maybe one more question down that path. Do you sense that there’s any greater representative value to the client by being — let’s just use the word non-civil? It strikes that the people who are the ones that are civil are actually the ones that tend to provide the higher caliber of representation.  It’s hard to generalize but that’s my observation.

LINN: Well, — yes, I think that you’re providing a better service if you’re acting ethically and professionally because first and foremost, that’s your duty.  And in the end, that’s the right thing to do.  It keeps the focus on the merits of whatever you’re doing and that’s where it properly should be.  And I think most clients recognize that.   So it’s really to your advantage to establish a reputation of being effective and not just a hardnosed fighter throwing punches all of the time.  Now, you know, there are some clients who love to play hardnosed and punch just like the people in private practice that they hire.  In that case, there’s nothing but trouble ahead.  That’s just not the right way to do it.  And in the end acting professionally and with civility is really the only way to succeed.  This gets back to what we started talking about in the beginning, and it gets back to this whole idea of what kind of a character you’re going to develop for yourself, what kind of reputation are you going to build over a twenty, thirty, forty year career as a lawyer.  Trust me, your reputation will develop and will become widely known.  And I think most people at the end of the day when they’re retired and sitting on the front porch thinking about what they’ve done in their lives would have serious regrets if all they’ve done is pushed people around and acted unprofessionally.

QUINN:  Right.

LINN: You can’t change that.  Once it’s done it’s done.

Click to Continue Reading Part III

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of IPWatchdog.com. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

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