San Diego Business Journal

The recent exodus of attorneys from the San Diego office of an intellectual property (IP) law firm in to the new, local department of a bigger firm is an indication that more law firms specializing in the IP field are expanding here, two law professors said.

More attorneys have left the San Diego office of intellectual property law firm Lyon & Lyon in the past several weeks for the local office of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, officials of both firms said.

"The lawyers have been coming in twos and threes for the last few weeks," said Nancy Davis, a spokeswoman for Brobeck said "We're moving to bigger quarters, too."

In February, six attorneys from Lyon left to join Brobeck and 10 from the firm have joined this month.

Robert Dickerson, managing partner for Lyon, said several of the newly vacant positions at his firm have already been filled. There are 15 lawyers currently in the San Diego office of Lyon.

"We get a tremendous number of resumes on an ongoing basis and we are continuing to meet people," Dickerson said. "The gratifying thing is that applicants for the San Diego office are seeing the positive things that are transpiring there and are eager to come on board."

There's been an increase in intellectual property law firms in San Diego in the past several years and the trend seems to be accelerating, said Raymond Ku, an associate professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.

"Given the Internet, biotechnology and telecommunications players here, there is the hope San Diego will become one of the leading cities for information technology as well as biotech," Ku said.

"Currently, we have an estimated 3,000 technology companies, many of them start-ups, in San Diego County and we have the second-highest concentration of bioscience firms in the country behind the Boston area."

Ku said patent attorneys are paid between $200 and $600 an hour, depending on their experience.

The demand for intellectual property attorneys has led to an increase in law school enrollees with advanced degrees in science, said Robert Bohrer, a professor at California Western School of Law in San Diego.

"The intellectual property law growth curve has been steep and steady here," Bohrer said. "The IP groups have been expanding and others have been relocating here for some time."

Davis of Brobeck said her firm is moving into a newly built, 72,300-square-foot office building it owns at 12390 El Camino Real in the Del Mar Heights area. It will be subleasing the space it currently occupies on the 12th and 13th floors of the 550 W. C St. building, she said.

"We had to take some temporary space at Symphony Towers (Downtown) because we were jammed up jelly tight over here," Davis said.

Lyon is a firm that specializes exclusively in intellectual property law, Dickerson said. It has 130 attorneys in six offices located in California, New York and Washington D.C., he added.

Brobeck, which employs 73 attorneys in its San Diego office, is involved in mergers and acquisitions, venture financing, initial public offerings and civil litigation as well as intellectual property, Davis said. It operates nine offices with 650 attorneys across the United States.

"In high tech and biotech there is a lot of work out there now. It isn't just the initial work, it's the litigation that comes out of patent infringement suits," said Abi Barrow, director of programs for UCSD Connect.

"Brobeck has been planning a new building for a long time and they have a very strong high tech and biotech practice down here, so it's purely coincidental all the guys left Lyon & Lyon to join Brobeck just as Brobeck is moving into a new building."

UCSD Connect is an association that helps early stage high tech and biotech companies, she said.

"All of our programs to help start ups are growing dramatically at the moment because there is so much early stage development going on for high tech and biotech," Barrow said.