Fish & Richardson law firm plans to expand in Minneapolis

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 17, 2014 - 9:32 PM

Fish & Richardson will shift administrative jobs from other locations to add 80 workers.

Fish & Richardson, the storied national law firm that counts Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers among its early clients, announced Tuesday a significant expansion of its 20-year presence in Minnesota.

The firm, with more than 400 attorneys in 12 locations and a specialty in intellectual property law and litigation, said it will consolidate “core” administrative functions in its Minneapolis office.

The cost-saving move will bring 80 mostly high-paying professional jobs to the Twin Cities and reduce overall administrative costs for the firm by $3 million a year.

Those 80 nonlawyer jobs will supplement 50 administrative jobs already in Minneapolis in addition to the 36 Fish & Richardson attorneys who operate on all or parts of five floors in the RBC Plaza building at S. 6th Street and Nicollet Mall.

Minneapolis beat out competing locations in Texas, Massachusetts, Georgia and California, said Michael Langley, CEO of Greater MSP, the regional economic development organization that helped Fish & Richardson analyze the economic implications of the move.

The new jobs in Minneapolis will be in accounting and finance as well as IT and patent practice systems. Fish & Richardson already has consolidated its human resources and part of its patent practice support group in Minneapolis.

“We know and really like this market,” said Rick Anderson, Fish & Richardson’s chief operating officer and a principal in the Minneapolis office. “We think this will be a very powerful opportunity for us to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase our consistency and quality of service.”

The move seemingly increases the importance of the Minneapolis office in the Fish & Richardson network. The managing partner in Minneapolis, Ann Cathcart Chaplin, also heads the firm’s litigation practice group and sits on Fish & Richardson’s seven-person management committee.

When the new jobs are transferred from various Fish & Richardson offices, the administrative hub in Minneapolis will total about 130 people. The consolidation, which is projected to cost $4 million, is scheduled for completion by March 31, 2015.

Anderson said the firm has sufficient space already under lease to absorb the new positions, which made the Minneapolis option economically more viable that the others. A skilled Minnesota workforce, “top-notch” educational institutions and broad cultural opportunities also ranked in the state’s favor, the firm said.

“This is part of our strategic plan to provide better value by improving our infrastructure,” Anderson said. “Our clients are under pressure to manage costs and that is a significant part of our effort.”

Legal consultant Kent Zimmerman of the Zeughauser Group said more large firms are consolidating their administrative duties to achieve cost efficiencies.

“For firms that have done this, their interest is in innovating and cutting out unnecessary costs that some other firms would pass on to clients,” Zimmerman said.

Until 2008 and the start of the Great Recession, law firms had enjoyed year-over-year growth in revenue for 17 straight years, Zimmerman said. But then the business model was forced to change because increased costs couldn’t simply be passed along to clients. Consolidating back-office functions is one way to control expenses.

“Fish & Richardson have been in Minneapolis a long time, and they feel good about being there. They can create a service hub without taking on a big capital expense,” Zimmerman said.

Most of the transplanted jobs will come from Fish & Richardson’s Boston location, where the firm began practicing patent law in 1878.

Vacancies caused by employees who decide not to relocate will be filled locally in Minneapolis, Anderson said.

Langley said the average salary for the jobs is $71,000 a year.

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