Depth Of Experience And Expertise: Keys To Success For A Life Sciences Practice

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 00:00

Editor: Would each of you tell our readers something about your professional experience?

Braender: I have been practicing with the legacy firm Pitney Hardin for over 23 years. I joined the firm directly from law school, at a time when it consisted of about 75 lawyers in a single office. Today we have approximately 400 attorneys at nine offices along the Eastern Seaboard. I am a corporate lawyer, and over the years I have developed an expertise in life sciences, representing pharmaceuticals, biotech and medical device companies and healthcare institutions in commercial transactions.

Morrison: I am a trial lawyer in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, and I have been in practice for over 30 years. My entry into the life sciences field was defending against a claim of intra-uterus mercury poisoning for a paint company, which went to verdict.

Editor: Please tell us about your practices. How have they evolved over the course of your careers?

Braender: I started working with private and public companies in various industries with respect to a variety of commercial transactions and general corporate counseling. In time, my practice evolved into one with an international transactional dimension. Today, most of my practice involves representing large life sciences and chemical companies in complex multinational commercial transactions.

Morrison: Much of my early work involved defending practitioners in the medical malpractice area. That evolved into highly technical products work, including defending products liability cases for Wyeth and Purdue Pharma - Oxycontin - and, when Oxycontin was launched, I tried a trade secrets case between Purdue Pharma and Bristol. I have been fortunate in that my trial skills have enabled me to support the firm's IP practitioners in addressing a series of very important IP rights in this area.

Editor: Please give us an overview of Day Pitney's Life Sciences Practice Group. For starters, how did the practice originate and evolve at the two predecessor firms?

Braender: When I started practicing, there was no practice area called life sciences. New Jersey is home to a large number of biotech and pharmaceutical companies, however, and Pitney Hardin was well positioned to develop the expertise necessary to establish a life sciences practice.

In addition, we developed a large IP group in our New York office with significant patent expertise. This evolved into considerable experience with respect to strategic alliances, the licensing of IP rights, and patent prosecution and litigation.

Morrison: As Lori indicates, we did not call this a life sciences practice 20 years ago. The lawyers engaged in toxic tort litigation with respect to pharmaceutical products were developing some very special skills, however. Clients with the most serious problems began to come to us, and that provided us with experience which led to even more experience in this area.

Editor: How did the two predecessor firm practices complement each other?

Braender: Day Pitney has nine offices from Boston to Washington, DC, and we have created an interdisciplinary life sciences practice with 35 attorneys who represent a full spectrum of biotech, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, research institutions and healthcare providers. The merger has enabled us to offer these clients an extraordinary depth of expertise across all of the disciplines that impact the life sciences industry. This includes patent and trademark prosecution and litigation, regulatory and government investigations counseling, and transactional and licensing expertise that is both domestic and international, just to name a few.

Morrison: Clients are interested in depth of experience and expertise. The real synergies I have seen in the combination of the two firms relate to the enhancement of these qualities. Day Berry & Howard did not have a patent prosecution capability before the merger, for example, and it is a very important component in a full-service life sciences practice. The combined practice is stronger than either predecessor firm's stand-alone practice.

Editor: Is the practice concentrated in one or two offices or does it extend across the firm?

Braender: The practice is spread across the entire firm, although we have a concentration of transactional expertise in our New York and New Jersey offices and particularly strong IP capability in Boston and New York.

Editor: Please tell us about the practitioners. What areas of expertise do they bring to the practice?

Braender: We are fortunate in having a significant number of attorneys who are focused on life sciences, and we are able to draw upon other practices on an as-needed basis. Our IP lawyers tend to have science and engineering backgrounds. Many of our corporate lawyers have such backgrounds as well, and many have MBAs. It takes a rather diverse group of people to service a life sciences practice effectively, and we do possess sufficient depth to do so.

Morrison: Several years ago I tried a patent case for a Japanese client. The team consisted of myself, a trial lawyer, a lawyer admitted before the Patent Office and another litigator. The patent attorney possessed the right background to be comfortable with the science and technology involved, which is increasingly important in these cases.

Bench strength is essential in this field. If your team does not include someone capable of learning the science and technology, you are going to lack credibility with the client. For that reason, we are always on the lookout for someone with, say, the ability to help in a cross-examination of an expert witness with a Ph.D. from MIT.

Editor: Who are the clients? Is your knowledge of the industry important to obtaining and maintaining client relationships?

Braender: Our life sciences clients are very diverse, ranging from private start-up medical technology enterprises, to medical institutions with long and distinguished pedigrees to foreign and multinational pharmaceutical companies. Our longstanding relationships with a number of these clients have been instrumental in the development and growth of our life sciences practice group. These relationships have enabled us to acquire a knowledge and understanding of the industry and develop a great deal of competence in dealing with the issues and trends that face the industry. They have also enabled us to staff the matters on which we work with young attorneys who develop valuable expertise and experience in representing life science clients in many different disciplines.

Morrison: Let me add to Lori's list of clients the biotech companies that we represent - some of which occupy very narrow and unique niches in this area. We also represent insurance companies in their life science matters, in particular in the disability area.

Knowing a particular industry provides you with an invaluable context in dealing with the clients that operate in that industry. It is extremely difficult for a firm to come into a particular industry without prior exposure and experience and sound as if they know what they are talking about. And knowing the client's business and people - one of the principal benefits of a long-standing relationship - provides them with a certain confidence in your advice. The combination - a history with respect to the industry and a history with a particular client - is unbeatable in getting the right results for the client and in advancing the client's agenda.

Editor: Please tell us about the kinds of service they request of you.

Braender: As a corporate attorney, I am engaged in a wide range of activities for our life sciences clients. This includes product commercialization, collaboration agreements, licensing, M&A work and counseling on the extensive regulatory issues that arise in marketing products and establishing new businesses. My work touches on all aspects of a client's business and covers everything from general counseling on product development to the acquisition of another company or some other company's product line. Our IP attorneys handle an enormous volume of work for these clients, both on licensing issues and counseling in patent and trademark prosecution and litigation issues. In transactional matters, we rely on our attorneys in tax, labor and employment, employee benefits, and financial services to provide a full complement of services.

We also have a 50-state and international network of legal and non-legal advisors in a variety of fields. The point at which life sciences meets public policy is particularly important, and we are in a position to bring expertise from that area to bear on issues that arise here and across the globe.

Morrison: In the litigation area clients come to us when they are thinking about enforcing their rights against someone else or when they have been sued themselves. Increasingly, however, clients will come to us for advice on how to respond to a threat. This is particularly true in the IP area. I am also asked about the public perception of a client engaged in a dispute, and, in this particular discussion, it is essential to have some understanding of the client's image in the marketplace and with the investing public. These things are of enormous concern to the client, and it is simply not enough to confine your advice to courtroom tactics. Clients are becoming more and more sophisticated about avoiding litigation and, indeed, about avoiding being placed in a position where they can be punished for things that are well intended.

Editor: Are there any particular trends in the life sciences area today?

Braender: The life sciences industry has grown dramatically in the last few years. The regulatory demands on the industry have become much greater, and I think that is a distinctive trend. Collaboration and worldwide licensing trends will continue to grow. Our life sciences practice group is well positioned to strategize with our clients in anticipating and reacting to these trends, and in being proactive to meet their legal needs.

Morrison: Many of these trends have IP and unfair competition implications. Our IP and litigation attorneys who specialize in patent litigation and competition claims are very capable of responding to these trends.

Editor: How do you go about growing the practice?

Braender: We have a strong belief in growth from within. We have a real incentive in bringing bright young attorneys into the practice and helping them gain expertise. We are always on the lookout for the right lateral hires as well.

Morrison: When one of the client's general counsel tells one of his counterparts that he had a terrific experience with your firm, you are on track for growth.

Editor: Speaking of the future, where would you like this practice to be in, say, five years?

Braender: We are in a very good position to grow our life science practice with the addition of new offices and attorneys resulting from the merger. The reputation of both legacy firms is excellent - based on both the results we obtain and our knowledge of our clients' businesses - and we anticipate building on that reputation. Our expertise and experience is considerable, and I have every expectation that our practice will continue to grow and flourish.

Morrison: We work very hard, and that has only served to enhance our stature and the strength of our relationships. In five years I trust we will be one of the very few go-to firms in the life sciences area. I think all of the pieces are now in place to get us there.

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