This week came the news that
Houston-based Andrews Kurth will add the 55 remaining
lawyers at Kenyon & Kenyon.
This in effect signals a sad end
for a firm whose proud history stretches back to 1879. The
shell of the company will be wound down.
As the Wall Street Journal noted in
an interesting article following the announcement, Kenyon
is the latest in a string of IP boutiques to close in recent
"In 2005, for instance, Ropes & Gray LLP acquired
then-prominent intellectual-property firm Fish & Neave,"
said the Journal. "By then, two other stalwarts in the field,
New York’s Pennie & Edmonds and Los
Angeles-based Lyon & Lyon LLP, had both gone bust, with
lawyers decamping to other firms. Several smaller
intellectual-property firms have been acquired or dissolved
more recently, including Morgan & Finnegan LLP, whose
lawyers joined Locke Lord LLP in 2009."
With this latest deal, another storied firm is about to
disappear – although the Kenyon name will live on
through the new Andrews Kurth Kenyon name for the IP and
technology practice – but this does not mean the end
for the IP boutiques.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, some IP firms have managed
to stay independent. This includes 370-lawyer Fish &
Richardson, 350-lawyer Finnegan Henderson Farabow & Dunner,
and 280-lawyer Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear.
The demise of Kenyon does suggest,
however, that size is critical. Steven Nataupsky, managing
partner at Knobbe, told the Journal: "I think those midsize
(intellectual property) firms, if not balanced, have really
The news came the same week that Managing IP published
our latest cover story, on a number of boutique firms set
up in the 1960s that would transform the market. Many of these
still exist today, showing that the IP boutique model is still
These firms include the firms now known as Knobbe Martens
Olson & Bear, Bereskin & Parr, Finnegan, Oblon
McClelland Maier & Neustadt, and Fross Zelnick Lehrman
The piece includes a look back at the circumstances that
allowed these firms to crop up. They struggled at first,
however, before reaching the critical mass that would allow
them to survive.