Troy A. Groetken, a shareholder at McAndrews, Held & Malloy, practices in such areas as global intellectual property portfolio analysis, counseling & management; complex chemical, small-molecule pharmaceutical, and biotechnological patent prosecution; IP acquisition, divestiture, and licensing; clearance, freedom to operate & invalidity opinions; trademark prosecution; antitrust; and IP landscaping.
How has the practice of law changed from when you first got into it?
The practice of IP law has changed significantly due to a number of major Supreme Court and Federal Circuit rulings (e.g., Markman, Festo, KSR, MedImmune, Bilski, among others) and various Rules changes at the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the European Patent Office. As a result, patent law has become quite complex on a global scale.
Further, the learning curve for new patent attorneys has become steeper and many firms in light of the current economy are asking those attorneys to accelerate their education post-law school. Also, at some large firms, you see less mentoring and training of younger attorneys by income-level and/or equity level partners. As a result, it will be interesting to see how younger attorneys develop their particular skill sets and the alternative avenues they may employ to garner different insights and experiences.
I believe that the potential exists for a greater dissatisfaction with the “practice of law” by younger attorneys over the next few years since the focus will become more and more on the “business of law.” To address this, McAndrews, Held & Malloy, for example, is developing new ways to more efficiently and effectively train younger attorneys not only in the aspects of patent law, but also as future equity partners. It would also be refreshing to see law schools offer more coursework regarding the operation of a law firm so that younger attorneys can more quickly grasp the business aspects of the practice of law.
What advice do you have for law students?
After the first year of law school I would advise law students to take coursework in areas that directly interest them or in which they may have a passion. Additionally, I would strongly encourage law students to seek clerkships and other legal experiential training, again in areas that interest them (hopefully long-term). The practice of law can be very challenging, yes, but also very rewarding. Rather than just a job in the legal community, I would encourage law students to seek careers in which they share their passion and fulfill their desire to help others with their particular learned skills.
What are the challenges of maintaining a work-life balance?
The demands of the ever-present billable hour can definitely challenge a work-life balance. I greatly respect and enjoy working with attorneys (younger and older) who have learned that a legal career needs balance with family life, community involvement and other hobbies/activities. Such attorneys are happier, achieve better focus, have more well-rounded experiences to bring to their legal skill set and, in general, interact better with clients. Personally, I have found that the way to try and achieve a balance is to be aware that a legal career can be very demanding, but you can best meet the challenges by setting realistic goals for yourself both at the job and at home. Above all else, simply accept that things will happen that may or may not be within your control. Remain calm, have a good sense of humor, turn to your colleagues for help, and ENJOY the practice of law.