Thursday, November 17, 2005

PI litigators moving into IP

Here's an interesting article concerning PI trial attorneys who are trying to break into the IP biz. Apparently, with all the ongoing 'tort reform,' the booming IP market is looking better and better to attorneys. Texas, particularly in East Texas towns like Marshall and Tyler and Longview, a lot of firms want to do what The Roth Law Firm has done: transition from personal injury work -- in steady decline since the Texas legislature got serious about tort reform -- to intellectual property work, where business is booming. And one place it is booming in particular is Marshall, home of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The Marshall court has a reputation for speedy litigation; a judge -- T. John Ward -- with a fondness for patent cases; and what a lot of lawyers on both sides of the aisle say are plaintiff-friendly juries. Not surprisingly, plaintiffs are flocking to Marshall...

"It's a very logical transition," says Frank Branson, who heads a nine-lawyer personal injury firm in Dallas. "IP and product liability and medical malpractice all involve complex theories that you have to break down into layman's language." While Branson has yet to land a patent suit, he has been positioning his firm to make it more patent-litigation friendly.
While the transition from PI to IP may seem natural, it's also risky, and perhaps not quite as lucrative as budding patent litigators -- no doubt with visions of multimillion-dollar contingency wins -- may think. IP contingency work can be hard to come by. The Roth Firm, for example, represents plaintiffs in just 20 percent to 30 percent of its IP docket, which currently stands at 32 cases; the firm mainly defends patent infringement suits at an hourly rate. At $500 an hour, it's safe and steady work, but it's not a gold mine. It certainly hasn't been lucrative enough for the firm to scrap its personal injury practice.
What the patent work has done, however, is keep The Roth Firm's revenue steady in the wake of tort reform. While it now has just one or two medical malpractice cases pending at any given time, its patent docket has tripled since 2001.

For a lot of plaintiffs lawyers, the transition to IP work can't come soon enough. Legislation passed in 2003 in Texas capped pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases at $250,000. "Many of the people who have done medical malpractice in the past are now unwilling to do it," says Eduardo Rodriguez, president of the State Bar of Texas. "It's not unusual for a med mal case to cost $300,000 and up. People are not willing to spend that if there is no potential to have a fairly big recovery." Smith says that med mal filings are down 90 percent in Texas since the legislation went into effect.


Blogger Kelly said...

Intellectual property sounds a whole lot more interesting and a lot less screwed up.

11/18/2005 9:06 AM  
Blogger CRC said...

I think the problem with IP are actually far more profound then occasional windfall verdicts and such with tort law.

11/23/2005 5:52 PM  

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