This week, I continue my written interview with leading patent litigator Jennifer Wu, founder of an exciting new IP litigation boutique, Groombridge, Wu, Baughman & Stone LLP. It is always a pleasure to share with this readership the perspectives of fellow IP litigators, especially when they are poised, as Jennifer and her partners are, to move from strength to strength as they start their new firm. The ever-changing nature of our profession can be both daunting and exciting, but the vision and spirit of IP lawyers like Jennifer help propel our slice of the profession forward.
Now to the remainder of my interview with Jennifer. As usual, I have added some brief commentary to Jennifer’s answers below but have otherwise presented her answers to my questions as she provided them.
Gaston Kroub: How will you integrate your commitment to pro bono and diversity as your new firm grows?
Jennifer Wu: Pro bono and diversity are part of our mission. On pro bono, we are committed to having each of our lawyers meaningfully give back to their communities and build a pro bono practice that is their own. I am a patent lawyer who became a civil rights lawyer by accident because of the rise of anti-Asian violence during the pandemic. After I helped write the Asian American Bar Association of New York’s report on the Rising Tide of Hate and Violence Against Asian Americans in New York During Covid-19 and also its follow-up report, I got calls from elected officials and others asking me to help victims. And the reason they were calling me is because I had been involved in the community and they trusted me. I felt compelled to help as I do now. For example, one week after we started our firm, I spoke at a press conference with the Westchester District Attorney and the Yonkers Police Commission after the sentencing of a hate crime conviction involving one of our pro bono clients who was punched 125 times for being Asian. Hate crime convictions are rare even though hate has no place in our society. At our new firm, we would like to empower each of our lawyers to build a pro bono practice that serves an unfulfilled need, and is meaningful to their own communities, including joining nonprofit boards and thinking of ways to bring innovation to pro bono work.
On diversity, I describe diversity as inviting you to the dance, inclusion as inviting you to dance, and equity as inviting you to play your own playlist. What’s thrilling about our new firm is that diverse lawyers are choosing the playlist. Out of six partners, we are three women (Megan Raymond and Josephine Young in addition to me) and two of the women are women of color. The reason this matters is that diversity in small numbers means that when the partners vote, decisions are still being made largely by nondiverse lawyers. At our firm, the diverse lawyers are making the decisions which feels even better than having your nondiverse allies make decisions that you then support. And we are committed to giving more diverse lawyers that experience of playing your own music and dancing to it with everyone.
GK: As someone who was fortunate to grow up at a Biglaw firm that valued pro bono and was unafraid to pioneer pro bono programs that addressed unfulfilled needs in society at large, Jennifer’s response resonates with me. The truest satisfaction is the satisfaction of giving to others with no expectation of return — and I continue to believe more lawyers would find their careers more rewarding if they followed through on their natural impulses to do pro bono work in a more systematic way. Similarly, I think the example set by Jennifer’s firm of a diverse firm dedicated to high-stakes patent litigation should not be lost on clients and fellow lawyers. Their example should serve as a clarion call to other firms that diversity is not just a buzzword, but instead a way to provide better client service.
GK: What makes a firm like yours attractive to Biglaw refugees — both clients and lawyers — looking for a fresh alternative?
JW: We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our clients and Biglaw lawyers. For clients, we offer the opportunity to consider alternative fee arrangements beyond the billable hour, which is very exciting. Also, all of our clients are in the business of innovation and technology and many of them are startups or began life as startups. So they completely understand our desire to try to build something better than Biglaw. We are also attractive to clients because of our column staffing model which I discussed here.
For Biglaw lawyers, what makes us attractive is the opportunity to be part of a startup. There is incredible energy at our firm that is apparent when you hang out with us, whether it’s in a courtroom, a conference room, or a karaoke room — it’s very invigorating. Also, I often say that, for me, fear and love are the same feeling: that feeling of butterflies when you walk to the podium to deliver an argument is both fear and love at the same time. At our new law firm, I have that feeling every day because we’re always learning something new.
We also offer the ability to do remote work, which has changed my life as the parent of three children. When the pandemic began, my children were 3, 4, and 6 years old, and I would see them primarily in the evenings and on weekends. That changed 180 degrees in the pandemic; while juggling childcare and work from home was challenging, I appreciate the time that we were given to be together just as much as they appreciated popping up in the backgrounds of my Zoom meetings. Since last year, I have been back in the office at least three days a week, but I continue to appreciate the importance of giving lawyers the flexibility to work from home and making their own decisions about when and where it is most efficient for them to do work. Especially for working parents, if we can give them back a minute of their day by not having to commute to the office, I think that’s a positive step forward.
GK: It is hard to think of a better advertisement for her new firm than Jennifer’s response. Whether you are a business owner or employee, we all want to work at places that have a spirit of curiosity and fun, in addition to an ironclad commitment to delivering the best possible work for clients. And for clients, the advantages of working with happy and well-adjusted lawyers can’t be overstated. Hopefully, we continue as a profession to gauge the adjustments foisted upon us all by the pandemic, so as to create the best working environments possible for ourselves and our colleagues.
My thanks to Jennifer for the insights, which I am sure this readership will find enriching and refreshing, as I have. I wish her and her partners the best of luck with the new firm and have no doubt that we will hear of their successful efforts on behalf of Groombridge Wu clients in the coming year. I am always open to conducting interviews of this type with other IP thought leaders, so feel free to reach out if you have a compelling perspective to offer.
Gaston Kroub lives in Brooklyn and is a founding partner of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique, and Markman Advisors LLC, a leading consultancy on patent issues for the investment community. Gaston’s practice focuses on intellectual property litigation and related counseling, with a strong focus on patent matters. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @gkroub.