May 8, 2001
THE SAN FRANCISCO DAILY JOURNAL
By Karen Coleman
SAN FRANCISCO – Now that corporate work is slowing and the public offerings work has all but dried up, lawyers who can handle intellectual property maintenance and litigation are in high demand.
Established Silicon Valley firms, out-of-towners and newcomers alike are all trying to reel in the area’s top intellectual property partners. And, so far the big ones are biting.
Today’s catch: William Sloan Coats.
Coats, who had been with the Menlo Park office of Washington, D.C.’s Howrey Simon Arnold & White since shortly after its Silicon Valley presence was established in 1996, is moving his practice to the Menlo Park office of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. He couldn’t pin down the precise date, but hopes his move will be complete in the next week or two.
Coats is a litigation partner, and a go-to for technology and media intellectual property questions. He recently defended San Mateo’s Connectix Corp. in an infringement suit brought by PlayStation video game maker Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., and for years represented movie companies Lucasfilm and Universal studios.
Coats, who has been lead counsel for several precedent-setting consumer electronics suits, said he was attracted by Orrick Herrington’s international reach, particularly its offices in Tokyo and Singapore.
“I think they’re extremely well-positioned to support my practice,” he said. “Where they have offices and what they do is just perfect for me,” he said. Based in San Francisco, Orrick Herrington has more than 570 lawyers 10 offices. Coats and others in the field agree that the competition is getting fierce. In just the past month, IP partners have moved in and out of San Francisco’s McCutchen Doyle Brown & Enersen, out of the local Baker & McKenzie outpost, and into Fenwick & West. And that’s just a sampling.
Lawrence Watanabe of Los Angeles’ Watanabe Nason & Seltzer represents the Chicago-based McDermott Will & Emery in its search for Silicon Valley talent. Back in January, he recruited away Orrick Herrington’s intellectual property group head, and has since brought a half dozen other partners into the fold. “As far as IP is concerned, the place to be bar none is on the West Coast. Demand for people like Coats is going to remain as high, if not higher, than it was two years ago,” said Watanabe, who also represents four other firms looking for Silicon Valley intellectual property talent.
Two New York firms, Shearman & Sterling and Silicon Valley newcomer Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy are also building intellectual property practices. Shearman & Sterling, for one, just brought two intellectual property partners from the local office of New York’s Fish & Neave aboard, one of whom was the firm’s Menlo Park managing partner.
Peter Lyons, Shearman & Sterling’s local managing partner, said his firm’s appeal comes from the global platform it provides for its lawyers.
“If you build it right, they will come,” he said.
Douglas Tanner, managing partner for the week-old Palo Alto office of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, agreed that the competition is getting intense.
He and his firm’s recruiters are also looking for new talent to add to the office’s four founding partners.
He touts Milbank Tweed’s national presence, particularly its New York home office, as well as its “critical mass” of existing clients as attractive to partners looking to make a hop.
“I also think that firms like Milbank have very, very good economies, and if you have a good practice and are working hard and bringing in lots of business, it’s nice to be in a place where you get rewarded for that,” he said.