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Creative Partners

More new partners practice intellectual property law

Real estate and business law are often top practice areas for new partners in Missouri, but another specialized area is making a place for itself at the top of the list — intellectual property law.

Of the 154 new partners Missouri firms reported to Missouri Lawyers Weekly this year, 12 listed intellectual property as a primary practice area. That’s compared to only seven that listed the area as their specialty last year.

David Deal, co-director of Washington University School of Law’s Intellectual Property Clinic, said he has “absolutely” seen growth in intellectual property law in recent years. That includes lawyers practicing primarily intellectual property law, as well as those who incorporate it into other practices.

“What’s happened is the nature of modern technology, the ease of communication and the ability to do business and take advantage of what’s available on the internet, has created new issues,” he said.

Increased demand

Husch Blackwell had the most new partners in intellectual property law on the list, with four of its new Missouri partners practicing in the area. Firm-wide, 10 lawyers that made partner at Husch in 2015 practice intellectual property law.

J. Aron Carnahan, the leader of the Intellectual Property Practice Specialty Center at Husch, said there is a “deliberate purpose” behind growing the intellectual property practice and it is driven by the increased demand from clients.

“For the past 10 years, there’s definitely recognition among clients that intellectual property is assuming a much larger role in their business than they had perceived in the past,” Carnahan said.

Husch Blackwell attorneys Dan Cohn and Arkadia Olson are part of a trend in the legal profession of increasing Intellectual Property practice. They spend some of theirtime at the new Cortex complex satellite office of Husch Blackwell to mingle with all the tech firms located there. Photo by Karen Elshout

Husch Blackwell attorneys Dan Cohn and Arkadia Olson are part of a trend in the legal profession of increasing Intellectual Property practice. They spend some of their
time at the new Cortex complex satellite office of Husch Blackwell to mingle with all the tech firms located there. Photo by Karen Elshout

He attributed the need largely to technology but also to “a growing appreciation for intellectual property services.”

Generally speaking, he said, the law favors copying products, because it brings prices down for everybody. For many years, large corporations knew that well and did a lot of protecting of intellectual property.

“Those lessons have become much more in the minds of smaller and midsized clients,” Carnahan said, noting that the number of patent lawsuits has doubled in courts.

At Husch, the increase in the firm’s pool of intellectual property partners in 2015 came from both lateral hires — a handful of partners in the Chicago office came from a boutique intellectual property firm — and from organic growth that included Arkadia Olson and Daniel Cohn in the St. Louis office.

The two come from very different backgrounds — Olson got an undergraduate degree in English and previously worked for Penguin Publishing, while Cohn was a double major in math and engineering — but both share a passion for intellectual property.

“I love that by definition, everything that comes through our door is new, or they think it’s new. Half the people that walk through the door think they created something that will change the world,” said Cohn, who explained his background allows him to be a go-between for the tech world and the legal world.

“We get to deal with people that are happy. A lot of attorneys don’t,” he said.

Olson, who represents clients in issues dealing with brand protection and building brands, said that’s also true on the advertising side.

Cohn said technology is the chief reason for an uptick in IP attorneys such as himself. It’s also increased the need for intellectual property attorneys in advertising, Olson said, because companies now have many more platforms to use for marketing.

Constantly on the lookout

While clients are seeing more and more need for legal advice in intellectual property, Cohn said it’s still “a lot easier” for companies to turn to law firms to fill those needs than to hire someone in-house, which is why firms are seeing growth in the area.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon also upped its intellectual property practice in 2015, with three of its 11 new Missouri partners specializing in the area.

Shook chairman John Murphy said the firm also added three new associates and hired eight laterals in its intellectual property practice in 2015. Lateral movement in intellectual property has been a recent nationwide trend, Murphy said.

Like Carnahan, Murphy attributed his firm’s intentional growth of its IP practice to client demand, which he anticipates will continue.

“We’re constantly on the lookout in our offices to add intellectual property strength,” he said.

Firms could have an increasing pool of candidates to choose from in upcoming years as they add to IP practices. Deal said he has seen more students at Wash U taking an interest in the area and even ask about it in interviews after they’ve been admitted.

“The ones I work with, many will indicate that it was definitely one of the factors in their decision to attend,” he said.

Wash U has worked to grow its intellectual property offerings in recent years, including bringing Deal on board 10 years ago to create the clinic, he said.

Once students graduate with a focus on intellectual property, Deal said they are usually met with a plethora of career opportunities. Deal said he thinks intellectual property will always be an “adventurous” area of the law students will choose.

“It’s closely tied to increased economic opportunity to seek and exploit new opportunities that technology expands,” he said.