Townsend and Townsend and Crew made it official today: Maureen Sheehy is taking the reins from popular chairman Jim Gilliland after a nine-year run. I first reported the news (free reg. req.) last year. It’s a difficult time for patent boutiques like Townsend, even though the firm turned in good financial results (free reg. req.) last year. I called up Sheehy, a litigator who joined the firm six years ago, to find out how she’s going to steer the 200-lawyer IP firm. (Her answers were edited for length.)
Q: Big-ticket patent litigation has been migrating to big general practice firms and away from IP firms like Townsend. How do you plan to deal with the problem?
Sheehy: There is a competition no doubt in the market place. I don’t think we as an IP specialty firm are in any more difficult situation than anyone else. Being a smaller firm, it gives us flexibility in how we approach and price things.
Q: Patent prosecution is a difficult practice. It creates conflicts and is not high margin work. Many big firms have gotten rid of it. Will Townsend continue to keep its prosecution practice?
Sheehy: We’re actually seeing an uptick in that work and I think that has to do with our great depth and expertise….I continue to see [the patent prosecution practice] as a growth path.
Q: Some Townsend partners have been pushing for merger. Where do you stand on that? Are you open to a merger?
Sheehy: The new management team that’s in place is excited about the future. We think that the firm has very strong prospects. The economy has been a challenge for all law firms but we’ve continued to show signs of growth.
Q: You haven’t answered the question. Are you considering a merger or would you consider a merger?
Sheehy: I think all law firm leaders are thinking about ways to grow their law firms, but that’s not an area we’re focusing on right now. Our focus right now is growing the practice and serving our clients well as an independent firm.
Q: What are some of your priorities as the new chair of Townsend?
Sheehy: We look forward to growing the firm on the east coast. We’ve had lots of opportunities with our new DC office. We are also looking at ways to better serve our clients in Asia.
Q: Does that mean you’d be opening a new office there?
Sheehy: That’s something that we’re looking at. We already have one in Tokyo.
To see the press release as well as the management committee shakeups, click here.