This year, Finnegan celebrates 10 years in the London Office. Our COO & Editor-in-Chief Faye Waterford visited Darren Jiron, Managing Partner of the London Office, to discover more about the driving forces behind the company’s success and plans for the future. Discover what Darren had to say:
Celebrating 10 years
As the anniversaries of 30 years in Europe and 10 years in the UK coincided, we wanted to do something special to celebrate. We organized an event inviting clients from across Europe to come to London and engage in a seminar centered on round tables, providing clients with an alternative opportunity to what they’re likely used to. Usually at IP events guests are invited to attend presentations and lectures on updates and case law – we wanted to provide a more interactive opportunity where clients could ask questions of one another and we could spark new ideas in a more conversational environment. We discussed topics including valuations and approaches that do and don’t work. The event worked very well, and we had great feedback.
Then we had a reception and dinner in the Tower of London – it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! It certainly marked the significance of the anniversary and was a very exciting venue for our clients visiting from across Europe and for the team, including nine attorneys from the US.
Lessons and learnings from 10 years in London
I took over as Managing Partner in our London office about two years ago, having been at the firm for almost 25 years. I joined the firm not long after opening our first European Office in Brussels in 1993. In 2013 we moved the office from Brussels to London. For the first 25 years of our European presence, the goal – just like with our other offices around the world outside of the US – was to service entities and clients in those jurisdictions with IP legal issues in the US. All our US offices were staffed with US attorneys onsite who were able to visit clients in that area, and that outreach was certainly one of the main goals for our European presence, particularly to Scandinavia, mainland Europe, and the UK. We wanted to be better situated to help clients in those locations with their legal issues in the US. This worked extraordinarily well, and our firm has grown exponentially in the 60 years since its opening to include a substantial client base, not only in the US but around the world through that model. What’s really interesting is that, by about six or seven years ago, our original small team of European practitioners here in London had grown to a size where we were able to take on significant matters for clients we work with, especially in the electrical space.
What I have found more recently, especially in the last two years, is that there’s a huge opportunity within the US client base, that we’ve worked really hard to develop, to now benefit from our expanded service offerings in Europe. One of our main goals in the European offices is to become a full-service IP firm just as we are in the US. We have made extraordinary progress towards this in the last couple of years because we have a solid team of people in place. This was aided by the addition of the team in our Munich office, which is headed by a friend of mine who was an international guest at the firm 20 years ago so, while he hasn’t been with us for that whole length of time, our Munich team is led by someone who was in essence internal to our firm. It’s as though the team has come back to us in a way and that has instantly given us a strong presence in German litigation, in UPC litigation, and we’re developing a trademark capability in that office to complement our strong trademark team here in the UK.
It’s also given us the prospect to expand our opportunities here in the London office, in the past year we have started a UK litigation-specific practice which has been very successful and has grown much quicker than I would have imagined. Additionally, our opposition and prosecution practices are growing and include growing teams across all technology areas, including life sciences.
I think right now, as a snapshot, I’m looking at a 10-year period where it took time to establish a solid group of people from which we could build. Our London office was already on a steady growth trajectory, but the addition of our Munich team creates synergy for our European practice as a whole and now we have an open path of amazing opportunities to explore and expand into the European market. Both offices doubled in size last year. In 12 months, we added 15 new attorney types to the London office, and we went from 22 total people to 40 total people in London, that’s a lot of growth! And everybody is very busy. As I said, we have a large and incredible client base in the US, relationships that we spent decades building, and now it’s a natural extension for us to assist with their European issues because it gives them something they’ve never had before – and something that I really hope to continue offering –seamlessly integrated teams across our firm with experts who are not just experts in US law sitting in our US offices, but experts in US law, European Law, and in specific litigation such as UK litigation in the high court, and UPC litigation. If a client is facing a multi-jurisdictional litigation issue, we will be able to pick the people in the right jurisdictions to form a team which follows a philosophy that our firm has had from the beginning—forming legal teams with the right people and expertise tailored for each case. In this way, our clients can access European experts without the complications and extra expense that may be associated with having to engage additional firms. We hope this leads to even better client service as well. With experts in the US and Europe, if a client asks “what we might be able to do in the UK to gain leverage in a particular litigation matter?”, we can have an answer in 10 minutes without having to confront the types of hurdles that can hinder the flow of information. I think that the ability to quickly share this type of information is one example of how our integrated team approach can be more efficient and provide better service to our clients.
Values and offerings
We strive to set ourselves apart from our competitors and one factor in this, as I mentioned, is our ability to put together teams of the right people for different matters. This goes right back to the roots of our culture – we are a very collaborative firm, and one of our Founding Partner’s hallmarks from day one has been “all clients are firm clients”, which ultimately means any client has access to every resource in the firm without restriction. This is obviously advantageous, and we can easily coordinate among the different jurisdictions for both people, technologies, and legal expertise to assist clients – even those that find themselves in multi-jurisdictional disputes.
How to cultivate culture
I’ve grown within the Finnegan culture and have observed its positive benefits over the past 25 years. I see one of my primary responsibilities to the London office and the European practice as a whole as helping to cultivate in our European practice the type of culture that has benefitted the firm since its inception.
How do we do this? Firstly, I’m probably viewed by everyone here in Europe as a total firm cheerleader, but it’s important to help our people understand how regular practice of the cultural hallmarks on which our firm was founded can have a huge impact on the quality of life within the firm as well as the level of service we can provide our clients. Things like “try your best every day,” “be ladies and gentlemen of the bar,” (we will always take the high road and win cases on merit) “support one another,” and various other things are the foundation for top quality client service, team oriented collaboration among colleagues, and a collegial office environment where it’s both inspiring and comfortable to practice. I think it’s really important to make sure that we establish trust and an environment where we can really encourage team-based interactions because, ultimately, that’s how we can do our best for our clients and provide an environment where people can enjoy what they do! Secondly, we work at it. Every month, we have at least one culturally focused item on the agenda of our all attorney meetings. And each year we show a video of Doug Henderson, one of our founding partners, where he talks about the principles on which the firm was founded, the history of the firm, and the importance of maintaining our culture. Doug has had a huge impact on my career and how I practice, and it’s great to pass many of those positive lessons along to the next generation of talent.
Goals moving forward
I’m excited about the growth and opportunities in the London office and in Europe. Looking back on where we’ve come over the last couple of years, we’ve doubled in size and we are busy so things are going exactly the way that we hoped they would – maybe even better!
One of the big focuses for the UK in the next year to five years is continuing the development of our UK litigation capabilities. We have an established litigation group in the office, and we have had a steady stream of new litigation-related matters over the past year – to the point where we are quite stretched now. I believe this is a testament to our amazing clients and the many trusting, long-term client relationships that we have been fortunate to have opportunities to develop.
We’ve done a lot of European opposition work out of the London office, and we now have expanded capabilities and capacity for that work, especially in the life sciences space which is where I perceive a strong potential for growth in prosecution and counseling work as well. We’ve got an expanding trademark team, both in London and in Munich, and we’re doing some really interesting contentious work for major global brands. I’m really excited for the opportunities (and challenges) that lie ahead for our European team!
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