Litigation boutique Reichman Jorgensen has made a notable impression on the legal community and has done so very quickly. Formed in 2018 upon the departure of Silicon Valley-based trial figurehead Courtland Reichman from McKool Smith in order to launch this venture, the firm has already notched itself a maverick image on the legal landscape. Despite a network of offices spanning four cities (Silicon Valley, CA; Washington, DC, Atlanta and New York), the firm is still a compact group, with only nine partners at present. It is also a majority woman-owned firm, with only two male partners, and, most notably, it has focused on fostering a trial-forward agenda. The firm has particularly forged an identity in the intellectual property capacity, scoring a January 2020 jury trial win with a $236 million verdict for a client in a patent case. This impressive win was a contributing factor to the firm also taking home the “Silicon Valley Firm of the Year” and Reichman the “Silicon Valley Attorney of the Year” award the same gala. Courtland speaks to Benchmark editor Michael Rafalowich about this case, the firm’s unique agenda, the forces behind its genesis and the methodology for its future.
Congratulations on the firm’s success. Reichman Jorgensen is not even two years old and the firm has already made a considerable impression on the litigation community. Can you provide insight into the firm’s genesis in 2018?
The firm’s genesis really was over two decades of practicing law, exploring how dozens of firms operate, and thinking about how things could be done differently. The idea was to keep those aspects of trial practice that have worked well through the test of time – after all, we still have to make arguments to juries and judges, where credibility, persuasion, and precedent remain critical. But beyond those things, we have allowed ourselves the freedom to reimagine nearly everything else about the practice of law. The practice seems to have moved toward serving the financial and other needs of lawyers as opposed to putting clients’ needs first. This has seeped into so many law firm systems and ways of practicing it is hard to untangle without wiping the slate clean and starting over. Our clients come first— that is our guiding star.
The starkest example is in the billable hour, which we have eliminated in lieu of arrangements that better serve client needs and align interests. But the client-first approach affects all aspects of how we practice, from providing blunt, straightforward advice, to our integrity and transparency, and our commitment to recruiting the most credentialed, diverse lawyers in the marketplace. You can even see our client-first approach in our new case management systems, continuous training and feedback, simplified billing practices, cutting edge ESI technology and more.
Our origin is also rooted in understanding the importance of finding joy in practicing law, something all too missing these days. Most of us went to law school to have a challenging, engaging, and fun career practicing law and making a difference in our communities. We wanted to build a firm that gave us the flexibility to represent any client in need of a trial lawyer, even if they cannot afford one.
Reichman Jorgensen prides itself as one of the nation’s most elite trial firms. How is this trial specialization seeped into the fiber of the firm?
Trial practice is seeped into everything we do, focus on, and learn about each and every day at the firm. There is a saying that “you are what you do” and that “the mind is everything. What you think you become.” Every day, we set about to solve clients’ problems through use of the court process and thinking about how to navigate that process as trial lawyers. For example, discovery is not an end to itself – it is supposed to be a “pretrial” process to gather the information necessary to try a case. We focus on what is necessary for an effective trial, always. We have instituted weekly trainings where we delve deeply into the persuasive aspects of the trial practice that are not widely taught through formal education or continuing legal education. We bring in the country’s leading trial lawyers, judges, psychologists, and trial consultants to teach and discuss various aspects of persuasion. We also find opportunities for our young lawyers to get up in court and before juries right away – there is no better training than by doing.
The firm is majority woman-owned firm. Was this by coincidence or design?
A little of both. When forming the firm, we looked for the most talented trial lawyers who shared common values and aspirations for what the practice of law could be. Half the population is women, so it’s hardly a surprise that slightly more than half of our partnership is women. The real question is why isn’t this more widely true?
The firm has grown quickly and attracted such strong lateral talent over a short period of time. From your perspective, what makes the firm so attractive in the marketplace?
We have been flattered by the reaction to our firm in the talent marketplace. My sense is that it is a combination of things, not the least of which is we are handling complex, high-profile cases and have eliminated the billable hour. The feedback we’ve received is that we enjoy practicing law and with each other, and our relentless desire to practice law in the highest traditions of the bar is something attorneys are hungry for. We value individual talent, and have been told that a real difference is our celebration of diversity of thought and perspective. We emphasize continuous mentoring and training – in fact, all of our attorneys have a dedicated coach to assist in building their practice and profile. We recruit the very top legal minds – from the best law schools and federal clerkships all over the country and the Supreme Court. Without the billable hour, efficiency and the quality of ideas are key, so we pay above the top of the market and our expectations are just as high.
In January, you won a $236 million patent infringement verdict for your client Densify (which helped secure the firm’s “Silicon Valley Firm of the Year” award). What makes you most proud about the win?
What resonates most with me is that we were able to help our client right a wrong that could only be solved in court. It was the type of case that we all went to law school for – representing the little guy who can’t win in the marketplace if the only question is who has more money. Owning a patent is the great equalizer. It allows smaller companies to compete with even the world’s largest based on the strength of their ideas. If patents are not respected, then the only recourse is through the courts, and it was a pleasure to work with the jury to understand the technology and what happened to our client. I must add that a real highlight of the trial was watching our associates examine witnesses and argue motions for the first time. It broadened their skillsets in ways difficult to measure, and brought a sense of energy to an otherwise dry subject matter. The jury sure seemed to enjoy it.
Reichman Jorgensen’s unique billing model has received a lot of attention in the legal industry. Discuss the impact that abandoning the billable hour has had on your practice?
It has been transformative. We are aligned with our clients and are serving them in much more of a counselor-advisor role than merely a service provider. So often the billable hour creates a divide between clients and outside lawyers, creating skepticism and cynicism about the lawyers. That disappeared when we eliminated the billable hour. Also, clients feel free to call us anytime on the cases we’re handling or to act as sounding boards for new issues or cases. We are truly working with our clients as partners to solve their problems.
The firm qualifies as a “litigation boutique” based on its size, yet the firm has a broad national reach with four offices across the nation. What is the methodology behind this positioning?
It started because we had clients all over the country, and to serve them we opened offices in Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C., New York, and Atlanta. We also care more about talent than we do brick and mortar. This is a service profession, and what matters most is the talent and integrity of our lawyers. This extends to remote working, which we luckily set ourselves up for before it unfortunately became a necessity with the pandemic. We would rather have the most talented lawyers wherever they happen to be than a less talented lawyer who happens to live in one particular city. Our clients need top legal minds for their cases, so we follow the talent.
What’s up next from Reichman Jorgensen? Do you have expansion goals for the future or are comfortable at your current size?
Our mission is straightforward – serve our clients, serve our communities, act as officers of the court in the highest traditions of the bar, and find joy and challenges in being trial lawyers. We do not think in terms of firm size. We have grown to serve our clients, and will continue to do so as long as that growth serves our overall mission.
Published October 2020