- DC will be Irell's first office beyond L.A. region
- Firm shed practices last year to focus on IP and litigation
(Reuters) - Irell & Manella is capitalizing on its bench of former officials from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to launch an office in Washington, D.C., the firm's third location and its first outside Southern California.
It's also Irell's first new office in 30 years, and comes nearly 18 months after the firm announced it was planning to shed its transactional practices and double down on high-end commercial and intellectual property litigation.
"We got it down to the nucleus. Once we did that, it was time to expand," Jonathan Kagan, a member of Irell's executive committee, said on Wednesday.
The new office, which will open this fall, will be led by former USPTO director Andrei Iancu, who rejoined Irell's partnership in April.
Along with Iancu, the office will include Michael Fleming, an Irell of counsel who served as the chief administrative patent judge for USPTO's Patent Trial and Appeal Board, and former USPTO associate solicitor Philip Warrick, who is joining the firm as counsel on Monday.
"I don't think there’s another IP lawyer in D.C. right now that’s more respected than Andrei," Kagan said.
The Washington area is home to the USPTO, as well as the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has national jurisdiction over patent cases.
Even as Irell expands, Kagan said the firm is committed to staying "small, nimble and high-end." To that end, it has no plans to open more offices elsewhere, such as the Western District of Texas, which has transformed into a hot spot for patent infringement cases under U.S. District Judge Alan Albright.
It was in a case overseen by Albright that Irell secured a $2.2 billion jury verdict on behalf of VLSI Technology LLC against Intel Corp in March. A federal jury found that Intel infringed two VLSI chip patents.
The firm, with about 80 lawyers and offices in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, is also avoiding a head count target in Washington. Although Irell is looking to expand its presence in its new market, Kagan said new hires would need to be highly vetted.
"The limiting factor is going to be, what is the number of the attorneys that meet our standards who we can hire? We’re not going to be lowering our hiring standards at all," Kagan said. "When we have things like hard targets in mind, it tends to dilute that mantra."